A campaign to raise £10,000 to open up a graveyard – a time capsule of Skipton’s Victorian heritage – has been launched.
It is being spearheaded by the newly-formed Friends of Raikes Road Burial Ground, whose ambition is to open the graveyard to the public.
The walled plot, which has been unused for about 140 years, has close connections with one of Britain’s greatest poets.
Buried at the far side of the cemetery are the grandfather and grandmother of author and poet Rudyard Kipling.
The Rev Joseph Kipling and his wife, Frances, were regularly visited by their grandson on his schoolboy holidays to the town.
The burial ground also contains the box tomb of John Tasker, the founder of the Craven Herald, and the gravestone of a hero of the Napoleonic wars who was buried with full military honours, aged 93.
The Friends have been awarded a grant of £1,100 by Craven District Council from the Localism Fund to kickstart the fundraising and make the site safe for the public to visit.
Retired solicitor and Friends chairman Jean Robinson, who is studying the necrology of the site – the unearthing of the stories of the people and gravestones – said: “This is a forgotten corner of Skipton which should be seen as an historic and environmental gem.
“It abounds with the stories of its occupants and gives an excellent insight into the development of Victorian Skipton.
“It’s an exciting educational resource for this period as well.
“We want to open up the ground to the public as it would have been in its Victorian heyday so far as we can and also to enable it to be used as a wildlife haven and for educational purposes.”
The one-acre site was opened as an overspill cemetery for Holy Trinity Parish Church in 1846 and it served the township for 30 years. The last burial in a family grave was in 1908.
Action needed to be taken quickly because the burial ground was under threat from government plans to re-use old cemeteries to address the scarcity of burial space nationwide.
Mrs Robinson, whose great-great-great grandmother was buried at the site, is still seeking more information and photographs for the book she intends to publish and information boards.
Anyone interested in the work of the Friends, or who can help Mrs Robinson, should e-mail les@ skiptontowncouncil.gov.uk.