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Reddish Vale Country Park

Willow Grove Cemetery 

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Reddish Vale Country Park

Willow Grove Cemetery

willow grove cemetery

Willow Grove was once a thriving concern that had two chapels, greenhouses, workshops and a lodge where people could register deaths.

All of these have long since disappeared including the original grand entrance to the cemetery and its gates. Willow Grove boasted that - there are few, if any, cemeteries in the North of England where finer views may be obtained on a clear day, or more chaste memorials seen than that of " Willow Grove", so freely visited at all seasons of the year. Sadly today this is not so.

Around the second half of the 20th century income from the cemetery started to decline and the owners of the cemetery looked at alternative methods of raising revenue, part of the site was old for housing the grand walkway to the entrance of the cemetery was lost and this only delayed the financial issues, the site declined even further and in the 70s the site was sold to Stockport council. As the cemetery declined over the years many of the memorials were vandalised, paths became overgrown and weeds established themselves.

 

The deterioration of this cemetery was highlighted early 2003 during the implantation of health and safety inspections of cemeteries in Stockport. The Gravestone Action Group - Friends of Stockport Cemeteries came into existence in August 2003. The group have been working closely with the council since early 2004 to establish improvements in all cemeteries and closed churchyards in Stockport.

  A restoration and development plan was developed to make long lasting improvements at Willow Grove. This was take up to the Tame Valley Area Committee by the group requesting them for help with the restoration and this was granted. The group decided to concentrate on the cemetery boundaries, first to try and deter vandalism, fencing had dissappeared and the gates were inadequate.

  Work began, fencing was put back in place by the council, the next task was the gates. Members wanted to replace the gates with copies of the original design. After much searching by members pictures were found. These gates were grand but would help vandals gain access to the cemetery not deter them. The group had to throw sentiment out of the window and be realistic so a new design was drawn and constructed to deter vandals gaining entry.

  The placement of these gates at Willow Grove marks the begining for the cemetery and other buriel grounds in Stockport. The lost and forgtten cemeteries  in Stockport now have friends.

Willow Grove Cemetery contains many interesting graves, below are just a few.

James Gaskell, aged 37 years. Who lost his life while saving a child from being run over by an electric tramcar in Great Portwood Street, Stockport, on April 11th 1906.

This stone was erected by public subscription in admiration of the act of heroism and true brotherhood.

Nation and Phoenix Boswell

Click to enlarge.

Joseph Lister, V.C

Sergeant 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.

Citation reads;

On the 9th October 1917 at a place east of Ypres, Belgium, seeing that machine gun fire, coming from the direction of two pillboxes was holding up the advance of his company, Sergeant Lister ran ahead of his men and found the gun firing from a shellhole in front of the pillbox. He shot two of the gunners causing the rest to surrender. Entering the pillbox he ordered the rest of the occupants to surrender. They all complied with the exception of one man whom Sergeant Lister shot. This caused about 100 other, further at the rear, to come forward from the shelter of the shellholes and surrender.

2nd Lieut Tom Casson, M.C. 6th Cheshire Regt.

Who was accidentally killed during bomb practice at Oswestry, May 17th 1917. After service in Egypt, Gallipoli, Belgium and France, aged 21 years.

Thomas Casson was born in Rochdale on 4 January 1896 but the family later moved to Stockport. Thomas attended Stockport Grammar school, when he left school he worked for the Co-operative Wholesale Society, in Manchester.

On 29 August 1914,  he joined the 1/6th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, as a private. He saw action at Gallipoli and was wounded in the shoulder on 9th June 1915. He was admitted to Citadel Hospital in Cairo and on the 3rd of July invalided home on the hospital ship Leitia. On the 30th of September he applied for a commission, which he obtained in November 1915. He joined the Cheshires on active service in May 1916 and on the 19th July took part in a raid on the enemy trench for which he was awarded  the Military Cross. The raid is described in the Battalion's history.

 

"On July 19th, the Battalion in conjunction with the troops on each flank took part in an operation, which formed part of a bigger objective undertaken by the XI Corps. The raiding party was commanded by Captain R. Kirk, the left half being entrusted to 2nd Lieut. Casson."

willow grove cemetery willow grove cemetery, Joseph Lister, V.C willow grove cemetery, 2nd Lieut Tom Casson, M.C. 6th Cheshire Regt. willow grove cemetery, 2nd Lieut, Joseph Lingard Kirk.

A report on the operation states that a pipe mine was blown up in Red Dragon Crater with success. Immediately after this the left raiding party, making a line between two smaller craters arrived at the third crater. On arrival they found that the crater had been consolidated by the enemy on the rear lip, and was occupied bu about 12 to 15 of the enemy. There were also about 5 dugouts under the lip, and the crater was connected to the enemy front line by two saps going left and right. This party under 2nd Lieut Casson, at once occupied the saps and crater, killing about 4 or 5 of the enemy as they entered, by revolver and rifle fire, the bombers working their way round the dugouts, which were bombed plentifully. Two of the enemy came out of the last dugout and gave themselves up. Time did not permit of this party's doing more, owing to heavy fire from hostile trench mortars and rifles. It therefore returned with two prisoners, having sustained but very slight casualties. It is estimated that about 12 of the enemy were killed.

 

On the whole the operation was a great success and all ranks behaved splendidly. The hostile retaliation was fairly heavy on the front lines, saps and suport line, which had been knocked about considerably in places.

 

In October 1916, Thomas suffered from trench fever and was invalided home. He was admitted to 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester on 7th October. An Army Medical Board on the 24th October recorded that "About September 20th 1916, he was taken ill with fever, pains especially in the legs, headaches and general illness, but he continued on duty, since then, three relapse have occured. He is now free from pain and presents no sign of disease but headache persists and he is enfeebled." A further review by the Board, on 6th December, noted "since his last board he has had relapse of pyrexia which lasted from November 8th to November 15th. He is now convalescent but says he feels weak and his limbs ache and he has much insomnia."

 

A final review Board pronounced him fit for duty on January 15th 1917 and later in the month he was appointed to the Brigade Bombing School at Oswestry. In March he was part of the firing party at the funeral of Fred Utley who had been wounded in the raid for which Thomas was awarded the M.C.

 

On the 17th May, a faulty grenade prematurely exploded killing Thomas. He was buried with full military honours, the funeral being well attended by ex-colleagues, family and comrades. Three volleys were fired at his graveside and the Last Post was sounded.

 

 

 

2nd Lieut, Joseph Lingard Kirk.

1/10th Batt Manchester Regt. Who was wounded at Gallipoli on August 7th 1915, and accidentally killed on Salisbury Plain on February 10th 1916, and interred here February 14th 1916, aged 23 years.

Joseph was the younger of the two Kirk brothers, his brother Thomas was killed on the 4th of June 1915 also whilst serving with the 1/10th Battalion. Their parents George and Jane who originated from Chapel-en-le-Frith but had emigrated to Seattle in America, where both boys were born. By 1901, they had returned to Britain and were living at 19 Arkburn Road in the Heaton Lane area of Stockport.

At the time of the Great War, Joseph was working as a salesman for the Northern Manufacturing Co and was living at the family home in Heaton Moor. On the 7th August 1914, just three days after war was declared, Joseph joined the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Joseph's service number was 2106 and his brothers was 2107 showing they both joined up together.

By the middle of the following month they were aboard a ship bound for Egypt where they spent the next seven months.

Towards the end of April, both brothers received commissions as 2nd Lieutenants and were transferred to the 1/10th Battalion. On the 6th of May, the Battalion left the safety of Egypt to go into action at Gallipoli.

Joseph is known to have been wounded on the 7th of August. This was a day later officially designated as the Battle of the Vineyard. As far as can be established, the Battalion was in support on that day and did not take part in the actual attack. The Turks counter-attacked heavily and Joseph was probably wounded by shellfire.

The next day he was admitted to a field hospital on the cliffs overlooking the origional landing beach. A week later he is known to have been at another field hospital - 24th Casualty Clearing Station at Mudros on the nearby Greek Island of Lemnos. From there he was taken to a Red Cross hospital at Cairo. At some point, his condition was suitably stabilised for the long trip and was put aboard the Hospital Ship "Syria" at Port Said for the return to Southhampton. Once back in Britain he was admitted to Codford Military Hospital.

He made good progress and was discharged from hospital on the 3rd of October at which point he was given two months sick leave, before returning to camp near Codford. On the 9th of October, he and two friends went out for a motor cycle run. Joseph and one of his friends collided and both were badly injured. Joseph never regained consciousness and died the next day. His body was brought back to Stockport where he was buried on the 14th of February, following a service at St Paul's Church in Heaton Moor. 

 

willow grove cemetery willow grove cemetery willow grove cemetery, Sir Thomas Thornhill Shann

Sir Thomas Thornhill Shann

This man started from humble beginings and started work at the age of 13 1/2 serving his time in the grey room of a bleaching works attached to a cotton mill.

He started his own business and entered public life, he was a prime mover in the creation of Heaton Moor Park. This was the first recreational park in the area and parts still remain today.

In 1905 he was Lord Mayor of Manchester and he received King Edward the seventh and Queen Alexandra to the opening ceremony of the number nine dock of the Manchester Ship Canal and was knighted by the King together with the Lord Mayor of Salford on the same day.

An obituary said of sir Thomas Thornhill Shann, "he was a breed of men who have made Lancashire the most famous county in England. Starting his life with the advantage of a clear head and sound constitution he needed no outside help.

The many obstacles of a poor boy, he realised, there to be overcome and one after another he overcame them.

At all times he was kind and unaffected, never pretending to be what he was not."

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