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Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft
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Local Inquiry

The Vicar of Wilsden in Opposition

On Wednesday an inquiry was held at the Bingley Town Hall … into an application by the Bingley District Council for powers to borrow £1,300 for the provision of a public cemetery at Wilsden after the war. … Mr. Platts, for the District Council, said that for some years there been a shortage of burial-ground accommodation at Wilsden, and the District Council proposed to acquire from Mr. S.H. Wood a site of 10,267 square yards, at the price of 11d. per yard, to provide the needed accommodation. At present there was only the parish churchyard at Wilsden available for burials. There were three burial-grounds attached to Nonconformist churches, but they were filled up, and at the time the District Council made their application to the Local Government Board there was practically no burial accommodation available for Wilsden. … The population of Wilsden was about 3,000, and the average number of burials in a year was 38. There was only one dwelling house within the prescribed distance, a cottage, and the tenant had consented to the proposed cemetery.

Evidence in Support

Dr. Angus stated that the site was suitable for the purpose of a cemetery, and there was no danger of the pollution of water supplies. … He estimated the cemetery would provide for the needs of Wilsden for 100 years, unless there was a large increase in population. … Mr. Butterfield sad that the committee appointed to select a site were unanimous in recommending the one now brought forward.

Opposition from Landowners

Mr. Harrison said he opposed the application on behalf of the executors of the late Sir F.S. Powell, and also on behalf of Mr W. Ferrand, St. Ives, Bingley, large property-owners in the Wilsden district, on the grounds that the cost would affect the rates and because there was sufficient accommodation existing to meet requirements for some years. Referring to the Nonconformist burial-grounds, he said a good number of the graves were only partly filled and could yet be used.

The Vicar’s Position

The Rev. H Roper said he objected to the application because such an expense was inopportune at a time when public bodies and individuals were alike exhorted to practice economy. They were heavily burdened with rates now, and if a cemetery was made it would mean an addition to the rates. Another ground for his opposition was that there was not now, nor would there be for several years after the war, need for additional burial-ground accommodation. In the Nonconformist burial grounds there were a great many vacant places for the relatives of those already lying there. … The Vicar said that for some years the population had been practically stationary, and there was sufficient accommodation for 20-30 years to come.

A Challenge

… The Rev. F.C. Rollins said that the Nonconformists were very much in the majority in Wilsden, and they would strongly object to being forced to take their dead to the church ground, and their opinion out to be considered. The agitation for a cemetery had been going on for thirty years, and both nonconformist churches and the Church had been strongly in favour of it. The proposed site was convenient and easily accessible. He had been four years at Wilsden, and though he might meet people whom the Vicar did not, he had yet to meet anybody who opposed to the scheme for a cemetery. Nonconformist contributions were made to the churchyard extension, but they did not mean that it was to put off the provision of a cemetery., They had given out of goodwill to the church, and had it been known that their gifts would be used as an argument against a cemetery they would not have been made.

At the close of the proceedings the inspector inspected the proposed site and also the parish churchyard.

- Keighley News, 15th December 1917



Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)

6th December – In the harbour of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the SS Mont Blanc, a French cargo ship carrying high explosives and munitions, collided with a Norwegian ship. A fire aboard the SS Mont Blanc ignited her cargo, which caused an explosion (the biggest pre-nuclear man-made explosion ever seen) that annihilated everything within half-a-mile of the blast – an area of over 400 acres that included the Richmond district of Halifax. Almost two-thousand people were killed and upwards of nine-thousand were injured – 1 in 5 of the city’s population - as a consequence of the explosion, either directly, or by flying debris, collapsing buildings, fires, or as a result of a tsunami created by the blast. The damage to the city was so severe that the final person killed in the explosion was not recovered until 1919. The disaster was further compounded by a blizzard that raged across Canada, preventing emergency relief efforts from Canada and North America getting through.

preview      The image to the left, taken on the 8th December 1917, shows the extent of the damage to the shore at Halifax. The remains of the Norwegian ship can be seen on the far shore. Image via Wikimedia Commons

9th December – In a valley just north of Jerusalem, two British soldiers, Privates Church and Andrewes, were foraging for breakfast when they were approached by a group in a motley collection of civilian clothes and Turkish army uniforms, carrying a large white flag. Amongst this group was the mayor of the city, priests, rabbis and imams; they were looking for someone to surrender the city to. The Turkish army, with its German officers, had evacuated and retreated to the north-east. The two soldiers took the city dignitaries to their sergeant, who eventually found a General to accept the keys to the city. Two days later, General Allenby, commanding the Allied forces, entered Jerusalem. Obeying very specific orders from London, Allenby showed humility before the Holy places, no Allied flags were flown above the city, and Indian Muslim troops were dispatched to guard the Dome of the Rock to avoid offending Muslim tradition. The capture of Jerusalem caught the imagination of the Allied world – Church bells were rung in Rome and in London’s Catholic churches. Jews worldwide sensed a new dawn for their own national aspirations. Arabs too were excited: the name Allenby bore a close calligraphic resemblance to the Arabic word for prophet, Al Neby.


Gilbert, M. First World War

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)


Soldiers’ Comforts Fund

During November contributions and donations to the amount £95 12s. 10½d. [over £4000 in modern money] – including £50 5s. 4½d. from a house-to-house collection – have been obtained in Wilsden for the local Soldiers and Sailors’ Comforts and Christmas Parcels Fund. The committee intend to send off next week the Christmas parcels and postal orders. There are 65 men in training, 81 in France, 26 at Salonika, Malta, Egypt &c., 13 in hospital 3 prisoners of war, 4 discharged after service now unfit; 15 have fallen in action and one is missing. The committee propose to send a parcel to the value 15s. to those in France, a postal order value 15s. to those at Salonika &c., a 10s. postal order to those in hospital in England and those discharged, a 7s. 6d. postal order to those in training; to suitably remember the widows of those fallen in action; and to send a Christmas parcel through the Red Cross Society to the prisoners of war.

The committee have forwarded to the Morton Banks Military Hospital for the wounded soldiers during November forty-three fresh eggs and 10,000 cigarettes.

- Keighley News, 1st December 1917  

29th November – The Daily Telegraph publishes a letter from Lord Lansdowne, a former British Foreign Secretary, in which he wrote: “We are not going to lose this war, but its prolongation will spell ruin to the civilised world, and an infinite addition to the load of human suffering which already weighs upon it”. If negotiations were begun at once, they could bring the war to an end by means of a “lasting and honourable peace” in the New Year. The popular press denounced any attempt to sit and talk with the Germans, but Lansdowne was surprised, he wrote to his daughter, “at the number of letters written to me by officers at the front to say that they welcome the letter”.

Gilbert, M. First World War

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)

Joseph Fieldhouse

Pte. Fieldhouse, Joseph      40817    2nd/5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment.

Joseph was the eldest child of Mary and Walter Fieldhouse, a mule spinner in a textile mill. He had one brother, Albert, and three sisters, Louisa, Alice and Florrie. The family lived at 1 Kings Court, Ling Bob.

Both brothers enlisted, although into different regiments. Joseph initially enlisted in the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment and was given No. 19866, but he later transferred into the South Staffordshire Regiment.

In November 1917, General Julian Byng launched the Battle of Cambrai. For the first time a large number of tanks was used and they were very successful in breaching the heavily fortified Hindenburg Line. The Cavalry, however, failed to take full advantage of the situation and the element of surprise was lost.

By 21 November Byng ordered the Infantry to consolidate its position and all impetus was ended, offensive operations were closed down on 27 November. Three days later the German Army struck back.

Joseph was killed in the German counter-offensive on 1 Dec 1917 aged 24  He was buried at Orival Wood Cemetery, Flesquieres 5 km south-west of Cambrai, Grave No.  II. C. 17

 Albert, his brother, had died of wounds received in the Battle of the Somme 17 months earlier. His name also appears on Wilsden cenotaph.