Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Grim Secrets of All Saints Park

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Grim Secrets of All Saints Park

Article excerpt

At first glance, All Saints Park looks a lot like any other green space in Manchester.

Set on Oxford Road, the little oasis is often populated with students from the neighbouring university, reading, sunbathing, or just cutting through the grass on the way to the next lecture.

But few people know about the grim truth about All Saints Park, about its incredible history - and the bodies that lie just beneath their feet.

Before it was a student hangout, All Saints Park was a cemetery. In total, there are an estimated 16,000 bodies buried underfoot.

The burial ground opened in April 1820 to cater for the parishioners of All Saints Church, just off Oxford Road.

The first interment was 21-year-old Fanny Knowles, who lived on London Road. In the first year, burials were slow with only 55 interments. But by 1851 the number had increased to more than 600.

Michala Hulme, lecturer in history at Manchester Metropolitan University, who has investigated the site said: "On 31 March 1856, All Saints Burial Ground was partly closed under direction of the new Burial Acts.

"By the end of the nineteenth century the burial ground was in a state of disrepair and neglect with sunken graves, broken headstones, flooding and debris from Oxford Road scattered across the ground.

"At the start of the following century, calls were made to the council to find an alternate use for the burial ground. Seen as a valuable open space in a built-up city, it was proposed that it should be converted into a children's park.

"After 25 years of negotiations, finally, on 27 May 1935, the All Saints playground officially opened.

"It was described as one of the 'brightest places in Manchester, with 30,000 children enjoying the park in the first six weeks'. The park was later transformed into a garden and now forms part of Manchester Metropolitan University's campus."

This fascinating history will be explored in a new exhibition, Encountering the Dead in All Saints Park.

The project, which will be erected in the park from December 8, will include two sound installations and a visual installation which references 500 of the people named in the burial records.

In addition, an online exhibition will detail the history of the park as a burial ground, including historic images of the park and adjoining church. …

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