Hidden in the campus of the University of Leeds is a pretty park with some interesting furniture left over from its previous life. St George’s Fields, now a place for students to relax, used to be a cemetery for the well to do of Leeds.
Originally opened in 1835, this little park hidden behind the old cemetery walls and campus buildings, still retains some of the old gravestones. The plaque outside declares the following:
Alarmed by the insanitary and overcrowded state of the Parish Church graveyard and body snatching, the Leeds elite bought £25 shares in the Leeds General Cemetery Company. It acquired St. George’s fields and created this fine private cemetery, where many Leeds worthies lie.
The cemetery also went by the name Woodhouse Cemetery and some of the remaining monuments including the chapel and lodge are now grade II listed.
The Leeds ‘worthies’ who were buried in the cemetery include local artist John Atkinson Grimshaw and Pablo Fanque, the first black circus proprietor in Britain. Fanque, strangely enough, is probably best known for being mentioned in the song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! by the Beatles.
The park is now known as St George’s Fields once more since the cemetery’s closure in 1969, although in a way it is still a place for Leeds ‘worthies’ to lie, as bright students lounge about on the grass.
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