Although there had been a small number of interments of cremated remains (“ashes”) in the 1930s and 1940s, it was not until the 1950s that cremation started to become more frequent. (Stockport Crematorium opened in 1934, but Macclesfield Crematorium did not start operating until 1960.) And in the early 1950s there was beginning to be a shortage of burial space in St John’s churchyard – there were still remains of air-raid shelters on the the western end of the church land. The Columbarium was opened in 1958 and dedicated by the Bishop of Chester in 1961 read more.
Work began on the enlargement and improvement of the Columbarium area at St John’s Churchyard, after we had received the necessary permissions from the Chancellor of Chester Diocese. Here are Allen and Jon Stringer keeping cheerful in spite of the rain!
Work progressed well at the Columbarium, despite the adverse weather conditions. Two new walls were built using stone reclaimed from a former central block, which had become unsafe and was taken down last year following emergency permission to do so (granted for health and safety reasons). In accordance with the terms of the Chancellor’s faculty, two memorials were incorporated into the wall which stands behind the Revd. George Palmer’s grave, just outside the Columbarium area. These two memorials were originally located much higher up on either side of the sanctuary within the former parish church of St John’s and they commemorate the lives of Revd. George Palmer, the first Vicar of Bollington from 1839 to 1852, and his son Herbert, who outlived his father by 54 years. It is good to see these memorials now appropriately placed adjacent to the Palmer family grave, which has also been refurbished as part of the agreed improvements to this area.
According to the local history book written by Nigel Watson in 1984 (to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of St John’s Church), Revd George Palmer came from Middlesex (like our present Vicar!) and he lived at Bollington Cross until the first Vicarage was built in 1846. His first official function was to open (the old) St John’s School. He was responsible for paying off the debts on the school (£800) and church (£200) and also for building Bollington Cross School. Despite personal sadness at the early deaths of two of his children, Revd Palmer devoted himself to serving the people of Bollington, especially after Bollington became a parish in its own right in 1842 (having previously been part of Prestbury parish). Our parish records show that, beginning 14 August 1839, there were 560 burials carried out here over the first 12 years of Revd Palmer’s incumbency, the last burial recorded against his signature being on 18 July 1851 for a five day old baby Elizabeth Wright RIP. Latterly, it seems that pressure of work and anxiety about the financial burdens of the church undermined his own health. He went to stay in Southport for a time, in an effort to regain his physical strength, but died there at only 38 years old.
Many of you have been kind enough to contribute to the cost of creating more space within the Columbarium to try to meets the present and future needs of our community. We now have a newly configured area for interring cremated remains loosely into a Garden of Remembrance, which will have as a central focus a variety of rose appropriately called “Peace”. In this new grassed section, ashes will simply be placed not in caskets but directly into the soil, and the names and dates of the deceased will be engraved on stone plaques fixed to the new Rose Garden wall. Under the agreed regulations, there won’t be any markers on the lawned area itself (as happens also at Macclesfield Cemetery Garden of Remembrance) so that this special area for interments will be able to accommodate far more interments in future than would be possible otherwise. Of course, especially once it is in use, we would ask visitors to respect this grassed area particularly as a sacred space, just as we hope local people do respect the whole Churchyard as consecrated ground, especially those who bring their dogs with them when visiting the resting places of family members.
We are most grateful to Allen and Jon Stringer who have taken such care in removing the previously collapsing walls and building new walls around the west end of the Columbarium, as well as restoring the adjacent delapidated graves of two former Vicars. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the cost of these works. Since our appeal began in 2009, we had raised the magnificent sum of £11,039.00 by March 2013 towards the total cost of £15,000.00 (which includes the Diocesan Chancellor’s fee for granting us the necessary faculties to carry out these improvements). More than £3,000.00 would stll be needed to make up the shortfall and to balance the books.
It was also a great delight to see the beautiful new boundary railings, created by our friend Jim Hardy and kindly donated by him in loving memory of his daughter Patricia Clewley, whose cremated remains were placed in the Columbarium in January 2012.
A special service of Blessing and Thanksgiving for the new works at the Columbarium was held at 2.30pm on Sunday 19 May 2013 (Pentecost Sunday). We were blessed with clement weather as we gathered in the extended Columbarium area.
After joining together to sing “O God our help in ages past”, Veronica led us in prayer:
“We are gathered here to give thanks for the craftsmanship which has made possible the enlargement and adornment of this place we call the Columbarium. It is indeed like a dovecote where the Spirit of God, like a dove, hovers over the water of our tears and brings new courage to those who mourn the loss of loved ones. We give thanks for all those whose donations, whether of time, skill or money, have enabled these works to be carried out. We ask that God may continue to bless this Columbarium and Rose Garden, open to all as somewhere that offers refuge from the storms of grief, a place in which mourners may find healing, peace and hope, and which is respected as a sacred memorial to those we love who are now safe in God’s care in heaven.”
Special thanks were expressed through gifts of roses and local beer to Allen & Jon Stringer, Michael Burdekin, Jim Hardy and William Warrington for all their work, and to Tom Gaskell our former Sexton for many years who also attended this service. (He was easily able to enter the area via the improved level access path.) Pentecostal red roses were handed out to everyone present.
The first cremated remains are placed in the Memorial Rose Garden. Read more here.