Local Historian Writes to Pope to Protest Over ‘Abandoned’ Eccles Catholic Graveyard

A local historian is writing to the Pope to protest over an ‘abandoned’ Roman Catholic graveyard which he says has become a ‘drugs den’.

The overgrown cemetery – known as Barton Upon Irwell Roman Catholic Graveyard – in the Peel Green area of Eccles has not been used for a burial since 1940.

Craig Ellis, who lives just over the boundary in Stretford, has studied the history of the area and says he has discovered that in fact, no-one owns the graveyard.

The 52-year-old IT consultant said: “I’ve been investigating to find out who owns this cemetery for months.”

He said the small 30-metre by 30-metre cemetery was formerly owned by the de Trafford family who were big landowners around Peel Green for hundreds of years.

But when the family offloaded the burial ground to the Catholic church the necessary paperwork for ownership to be secured was never completed, meaning that the graveyard is now owned by no one.

Salford city council has confirmed that the site is not their responsibility. A spokesperson said: “It’s a Roman Catholic site and it is the responsibility of the diocese so not something we can comment on.”

However, a spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool said: “Eccles isn’t in our archdiocese patch, so I spoke to the Salford diocese, as I thought it might be one of theirs, but they confirmed that it isn’t.

“We have now checked the land and it is unregistered, so it definitely doesn’t belong to us.”

Mr Ellis said he is concerned the graveyard is being used as a drug den and is a possible source of danger to local residents.

“There are overgrown trees and the perimeter wall, which is eight feet high, doesn’t seem safe, with the roots pushing the brickwork out,” he said. “It could easily fall onto a passing pedestrian [on Peel Green Road].

“I’m astonished that no one seems to want to take responsibility for this graveyard. There are priests and entire families buried there. It’s very sad.

“I’ve exhausted every avenue I can to try to get something done, and the only person I can think of who might be able to step in is Pope Francis, so I am writing to him.”

But he added that a ‘successful outcome’ would be for Salford city council ‘to secure the site, replace the main gate with a metal fence and then the authority could work out how the land and trees can be maintained’.

Responding to this, Coun Barbara Bentham, lead member for environment and community safety, said: “We will raise the issue of maintenance of this graveyard with the Roman Catholic Diocese which remains legally responsible for it.

“Salford city council has no legal authority to bar access to this public cemetery or to carry out work on this land but we will raise concerns about illegal activities with Greater Manchester Police for investigation.

“Our building control officer inspected the perimeter wall again on March 21 and is satisfied that it was not in a dangerous condition at that time.”


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