Rochdale’s Quaker Burial Ground – the final resting place of 19th Century statesman and radical reformer John Bright – is to undergo a £50,000 restoration.
The works to improve the ancient grounds will restore some of the Victorian features such as railings, gates, footpaths and walls lost over decades of redevelopment and demolitions in the area.

The ‘sensitive’ restoration of the Ball Street graveyard will be in keeping with Quaker traditions of only allowing modest memorials to the deceased.

Leading the project is council leader Richard Farnell, who wants a fitting final resting place for one of history’s greatest radicals, which even today attracts visitors from around the world.

Councillor Farnell said: “John Bright was born and died in Rochdale. He was arguably one of the greatest statesmen of the 19th Century and known around the globe.

“The Liberal MP led the campaign to defeat the Corn Laws, which kept the price of basic foodstuffs for the poor artificially high and was a huge political battle at the time. He campaigned for free trade and against slavery and was a cabinet minister three times over.

“Over 10,000 people attended his funeral and burial at the Society of Friends (Quaker) Burial Ground in 1889. But in the 127 years that have since passed it has been sadly neglected. It’s even been used by flytippers as a dumping site.

“Many of the graves are overgrown, walls have been taken down and replaced with ugly industrial barriers, ancient footpaths have been taken up and hedges left to grow wild.

The restoration, in keeping with Quaker values, will include the sympathetic restoration of the basic gravestones and improvements to the burial grounds. New seating will be installed; modern fencing and metal barriers will be replaced with gates and railings in keeping with the area’s Victorian heritage and walls and pathways will be restored.

An information board about John Bright which has been defaced will be replaced.

Councillor Farnell added: “Historical figures don’t come any bigger than John Bright. Whenever he spoke, thousands would come to listen to the greatest orator of his age. He coined the phrase ‘flogging a dead horse’ and was the first to describe Westminster as the ‘Mother of Parliaments.”

“He is the only politician to have two statues in the Palace of Westminster and his bust is sited at the entrance to the White House. When President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, he had a letter from Bright in his pocket.

“It is important that the town of his birth remembers him in a lasting and dignified way. John Bright is an important part of Rochdale’s heritage and we should ensure his burial place is properly maintained and respected. His grave is visited by scores of people from countries as afar as America and Australia.”

Work is expected to start in the next few months, with the costs being covered by developer contributions.


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