It was a chilly winter morning when I last visited Agecroft Cemetery. We wrapped up and walked along the River Irwell carrying a flask and biscuits in a rucksack and sat on a sheltered bench in weak sunlight looking over the gravestones. A few other people were here tending to graves and, as always, the cemetery felt soothingly calm.
Agecroft Cemetery is Salford’s newest cemetery. Designed by Manchester Architects Sharp and Foster and built by Gerrard’s of Swinton, the cemetery was opened in 1903. More than 53,700 interments have been carried out within the cemetery’s 45 acres.
The cemetery has splendid ornate entrance gates on Langley Road. Inside there are neatly arranged roads and rows of gravestones. The buildings were all designed by Sharp and Foster; the crematorium building was converted from a Non-Conformist burial chapel in 1957 and there was also once a Roman Catholic chapel within the cemetery. It is hoped to save the disused chapel with a clock tower and many stunning features that was abandoned in the 1980s and can be seen in the photograph. Work is being carried out to protect this derelict gothic-revival chapel from the weather and there are plans to seek funding to restore it. The group’s website has more information on the history of the cemetery.
Later I explored the graveyard, reading inscriptions on stones that took my eye. I like to visit Salford’s cemeteries at this time of year as many of the graves have seasonal decorations and I find this makes the graveyard feel part of the spirit and movement of the seasons. The cemetery has plenty of interesting burials, including Commonwealth war graves. A stone memorial to the crew of a Lancaster bomber carrying a full bomb load that crashed nearby in 1944 is near the entrance. All seven members of the crew and two civilians on the ground died in the crash. Reports at the time said that around 80 people were injured.
The Stockport air disaster of 1967 killed 72 of the 84 people on board. The passenger aircraft full of holidaymakers returning from Palma de Mallorca crashed near the centre of Stockport, just a short distance from Manchester Airport. Astonishingly no one was killed on the ground. Arthur and Elsie Kemp from Salford, who sadly died in the plane crash, are buried together at Agecroft Cemetery.