Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Leeds (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SE 26739 39045


A cemetery designed by the Leeds architect, George Corson, assisted by the landscape gardener, William Gay of Bradford, opened in 1875.


In 1874 Headingley-cum-Burley Burial Board purchased land from the trustees of the will of Mrs H M Eddison at a cost of £2000 to provide for the burial needs of the expanding population of the suburbs of Headingley and Far Headingley. Located north-west of the town on the Leeds and Otley turnpike, the land selected was that part of an existing woodland called Lawns Wood just outside the municipal boundary (OS 1851). George Corson (1830-1910) designed the buildings and layout of the cemetery, assisted by the landscape gardener, William Gay (1814-93), designer of Undercliffe Cemetery, Bradford (qv). Corson, who was one of the most prominent architects in Leeds, was the first president of the Leeds Architectural Society (founded 1876) and was re-elected as president of the renamed Leeds and Yorkshire Architectural Society in 1897-9. His design for the cemetery was intended to be 'simple and unpretending [sic] and of a character to harmonize with the surrounding scenery' (quoted in Leeds Historic Parks Inventory, 1996). It retained a border of trees around the cemetery and selected the finest tree specimens 'as permanent ornaments' (ibid). The cemetery opened in 1875 and, on 31 December of that year, the Church of England portion was consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon. The first burial took place on 23 January 1876. Intended as a local concern, a higher rate was charged to those applying from outside the districts of Headingley and Burley (Hinton MS notes, 2002).

The crematorium opened in 1905 at a cost of £3000 and was the first in Great Britain to use a gas cremator, initially supervised by French engineers who had evolved the method. Following the official opening of the crematorium, it was opened for public viewing at a cost of 3d (Hinton MS notes, 2002). The first cremation took place on 4 January 1905. Further extensions to the cemetery were made in the C20, with land purchased from W F Wormald in April 1908; land purchased from Sir H Beckett-Bacon in December 1919; and land purchased from J R Sherwood in April 1965 (Leeds Historic Parks Inventory, 1996). The cemetery remains open for burials and the interment of ashes and is currently (2002) managed by Leeds City Council, who purchased the cemetery from the Burial Board in 1972.


LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Lawnswood Cemetery is situated c 6km north-west of Leeds city centre. The section of the cemetery here registered, which occupies a roughly square site of c 6.25ha on land rising gently to the north and west, is defined to the east by a stone boundary wall on the A660, Otley Road. On all other sides the site here registered is surrounded by later extensions to the cemetery grounds. The south, west, and north boundaries encompass the first phase of the cemetery and part of an inter-war extension of the cemetery which includes the columbarium and its setting. The south boundary commences 75m south of the main entrance, on the boundary wall adjacent to the site of public toilets (now demolished), and runs west for 30m to join the western edge of the cemetery carriageway called Oak Drive. The boundary continues for c 270m following the curve of Oak Drive to the south-west, west, and north-west through Rock Garden Walk and Upper Oak Drive to reach the Memorial Flower Garden (outside the area here registered). The west boundary proceeds for 70m north, north-west and west following the curve of Memorial Flower Garden Drive, to reach New Adel Lane Avenue, and continues north for 130m to reach a wall and hedge, which forms the boundary to a stonemason's yard situated immediately to the west. The boundary follows the curve of the wall for 30m and continues along a footpath leading 15m north to reach a drive, situated in the southern part of the cemetery extension of 1910 (outside the area here registered). The northern boundary of the section of the cemetery here registered continues east from this point for 230m, following the southern edge of the drive, to reach the eastern boundary wall on Otley Road.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES Lawnswood Cemetery lies between Lawnswood, an area of mixed residential use and sports grounds, to the south, and Adel, a predominantly residential area, to the north. The main entrance stands close to the centre of the eastern boundary on Otley Road. A short recessed forecourt leads to a central carriage entrance and a pair of cast-iron gates, with two pedestrian entrances to either side, immediately north and south, each with a single cast-iron gate. The four substantial square stone gate piers, with pyramidal caps, are decorated with a simple square fret motif. Beyond these, to either side, low boundary walls surmounted by railings link to another stone pier of the same design which connects to the stone wall forming the boundary along Otley Road. Immediately north of the entrance stands the main cemetery lodge (c 1876, listed grade II), designed by George Corson in Vernacular Revival style to incorporate a board room, retiring room, 'dead house', and outbuildings. The lodge was extensively reordered in 1907, possibly by W S Braithwaite.

PRINCIPAL BUILDINGS The cemetery chapels and colonnade (1870-6, listed grade II), designed by George Corson, stand in a roughly central position in the section of the cemetery here registered, 110m west-north-west of the main entrance. Built of coursed squared gritstone, in Greek Revival style, the buildings comprise an Anglican chapel to the north linked by an open cloister of three arches, with columns of polished Aberdeen granite, to a Nonconformist chapel to the south, set at right angles. An octagonal turret with louvred belfry and tiled spired roof, at the south-east corner of the Anglican chapel, provides a striking focal element in the group of buildings. The crematorium (1905) by W S Braithwaite, in similar style, is attached to the southern end of the chapel group. At the north-west corner of the building a tall square tower with an octagonal 'belfry' stage houses the chimney flue.

The columbarium (1933, listed grade II), by Col A E Kirk and completed by Messrs Kirk and Tomlinson of Leeds, is situated 150m south-west of the main entrance. The tall, single-storey building in Classical style, of red brick and Portland stone with pantile roof and marble detailing, has a war memorial and tiers of niches containing cinerary urns and memorial plaques. From the central chapel a portico is continued as L-shaped colonnaded wings enclosing a paved area with low walls, facing north-east.

OTHER LAND The section of the cemetery here listed includes two phases of development. The first phase, opened in 1875, comprises the layout of a cemetery established within the woodland framework of Lawns Wood. The second phase (c 1933) forms part of that phase of the cemetery developed in the inter-war period, consisting of the columbarium and its setting, also established within the original framework of Lawns Wood but having a more formal, open character in contrast to the Victorian design.

The main carriage drive curves west and north-west, passing the lodge immediately north of the main entrance, through an area of grass and island beds filled (2002) with seasonal bedding plantings. Some 10m west of the entrance a tree-lined route, known as Oak Drive, leads south off the carriage drive and 15m west of the entrance a route leads north off the carriage drive towards the cemetery offices. The structural backcloth of mature trees, reinforced by more recent structural and seasonal tree and shrub planting (late-C20) provides this part of the cemetery with a woodland character, obscuring the destination of these routes and screening the view towards the main cemetery buildings. The main carriage drive divides 30m west of the entrance, the right-hand route marking the carriage drive of the original layout. This proceeds a further 80m to arrive at the wide forecourt of the crematorium and chapels and the circular forecourt of the waiting rooms, a large symmetrical stone building situated 120m north-west of the main entrance. A fine specimen of Cedrus deodara forms a focal feature adjacent to the forecourt of the range of cemetery buildings.

Proceeding from the forecourt towards the cloister linking the two cemetery chapels, immediately west of the cloister Cupressus specimens have been planted in a semicircular row, obscuring the view west beyond the arches. Originally the principal carriage route linked through the arches, proceeding as a main pedestrian and possibly carriage route to the west; this defined the boundary between consecrated ground to the north and unconsecrated to the south. From the line of Cupressus, 125m west-north-west of the main cemetery entrance, that original route proceeds west, a wide, straight tarmac route lined by a fine range of monuments and headstones, of varying style, complete with grave surrounds. Some 195m west-north-west of the main entrance, a path intersection is created by a cross-route, on the south-west corner of which stands the fine memorial and grave of Sam Wilson (E Caldwell Spruce 1918, listed grade II), in black marble surmounted by a tall angel in bronze. Sam Wilson (1851-1918) was a local public benefactor and chairman of Joshua Wilson and Sons, worsted clothing manufacturers in Leeds. The framework of the mature oak, holly, and yew, incorporated from the original Lawns Wood, combines with more recent evergreen and deciduous structural plantings to create a character of enclosure along the route, channelling a middle-distance view to the west towards the Lawn Garden section of the cemetery (outside the area here registered).

From the path intersection, a curving route proceeds north for 30m, where an old linear tarmac path, now moss covered, leads off east, back towards the former Anglican chapel, lined by monuments and headstones and enclosed by overhanging trees and surrounding evergreen shrubs and trees. The curving path continues north, north-west then west, lined by monuments and headstones and intact grave surrounds, the red-brick buildings of a stonemasons' yard being visible to the north-west, divided off from the section of the cemetery here registered. A short length of path leads north off the curving path. This links to the western end of the long linear route which forms the northern boundary of the section of the cemetery here registered. Proceeding east along this route, there is a strong contrast between, to the south, the well-wooded informal layout of the original cemetery and the more open geometric grid plan of the extension to the north made in 1910 (outside the area here registered).

In the north-east corner of the section of the cemetery here registered, 120m north of the main entrance, stands the gravestone of George Corson (1910, listed grade II), the architect responsible for the concept and layout of the original cemetery. From here a short length of serpentine path leads south to a wide serpentine route lined with angled clay kerbs with attached memorial plaques. Here the character is that of a woodland glade, there being no grave stones, the enclosure being created by the mature tree framework enhanced by structural planting of yew, rhododendron, and laurel. Proceeding south the route links back to the entrance area, rejoining the main carriage drive. Along the main carriage drive, a short path, lined by specimen trees including cherries, leads west to a rondpoint situated some 75m west of the main entrance. From here serpentine paths lead west into the unconsecrated section of the Victorian part of the cemetery. Close to the intersection of two such serpentine paths, 210m west of the main entrance, are the fine memorials and graves of Arthur Currer Briggs (William Hamo Thornycroft 1908, listed grade II) and Ethel Preston (1911, listed grade II), in Italian marble with a life-size statue standing under a classical porch.

Returning to the rondpoint, 75m west of the main entrance, a wide straight route leads south-west to the central chapel of the columbarium forming a central axis for this area of the cemetery. The route proceeds south-west over a small brick and stone bridge, crossing a short section of the stream that originally ran through the Lawns Wood. The banks of the stream are retained by rocks with holly, woodland shrubs, and herbaceous species growing nearby. As the route proceeds there is a change of character from the enclosure and informal character of the wooded Victorian section to the formal character of the setting for the columbarium. Clipped hedges in the shape of an arc frame the open area north-east of the columbarium, this containing two fine copper beech specimens. The formal character is reinforced by the wide level areas of lawn with central magnolia specimens. Paths lead all round the columbarium, giving access to the many memorial wall plaques, and both stepped and ramped access has been made (late-C20) to give access to the colonnaded wings and the central chapel.

South of the columbarium, a short flight of stone steps links to a gravel path which leads south-west through an area known as the Woodland Glade. Here, glimpsed views of the rear of the columbarium are made possible through trees including birch, copper beech, and weeping willow. Memorials in this area are unobtrusive with small plaques on rocks or trees. This route continues south to Oak Drive. Returning east along Oak Drive to the main entrance, the route passes monumental showrooms, a cafe, and a flower shop (late-C20).


The Gardens of Remembrance & The Leeds Crematorium, Lawns Wood, leaflet, (Headingley-cum-Burley Burial Board, 1962) Leeds Historic Parks Inventory & Evaluation, (Leeds Metropolitan University 1996)

Maps OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1847, published 1851 OS 25" to 1 mile: 2nd edition published 1908 1921 edition 1935 edition

Archival items Brenda Hinton, MS Research notes, (2002) [Copy on EH file]

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION Lawnswood Cemetery is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Lawnswood Cemetery is a good example of a High Victorian public cemetery (1875-76) and an early-C20 garden of remembrance for a provincial city. * The cemetery was designed by the notable Leeds architect George Corson and William Gay, a notable cemetery designer. * The flowing Picturesque layout of the cemetery unusually encloses areas of woodland within the path system as a key design feature, these being at the heart of the burial areas. * The cemetery is dominated by a group of two chapels linked by a colonnade and an early crematorium (1905) attached to one of the chapels. * A monumental columbarium (1933, designed by AE Kirk) forms a secondary focal point set in its own memorial gardens. These contrast with the cemetery layout, being more open and based on an axial spinal path, but are linked stylistically as they are set in woodland. * For its variety of C19 monuments including many C19 Leeds worthies, particularly the late C19 and early-C20 monuments in an artistically notable variety of styles. The taller examples are grouped within and around the edges of the paths. * The cemetery layout, its planting and structures survive intact, largely in good condition, except for the chapel.

Description written: June 2002 Amended: July 2002 Register Inspector: JS Edited: December 2009

This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 11 July 2017.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:
Parks and Gardens


War Memorials Online, accessed 11 July 2017 from
War Memorials Register, accessed 11 July 2017 from


This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.

End of official listing

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