Help save my sister from ‘forgotten’ Leeds graveyard

Christine Bairstow. PIC: James Hardisty
Christine Bairstow. PIC: James Hardisty
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A desperate pensioner has applied for the body of her baby twin sister to be exhumed from a former cemetery in Woodhouse after years of anguish over university students showing a “lack of respect” at the burial place.

Matters have finally come to a head for 72-year-old Christine Bairstow, who has battled for years to stop University of Leeds students treating the nearby former Woodhouse Cemetery - now called St George’s Field - “like a back garden”.

St George's Field, previously Woodhouse Cemetery.

St George's Field, previously Woodhouse Cemetery.

She told the YEP she has witnessed students play football and have parties over where people are buried and even saw a couple having sex just 12 inches from where her sister Pauline lies.

Her sister Pauline was just six months old when she died of gastroenteritis on June 10, 1946 and was buried in the cemetery before it was taken over by the University of Leeds in 1965 and landscaped to provide an open space.

Read more: The picturesque Leeds beauty spot is final resting place for 100,000 people.

Christine, of Kirkstall, said her father was devastated when he discovered the take-over, which saw nearly all of the headstones removed, and his dying wish was to have his baby daughter’s body exhumed.

She said: “He told me to try to get her moved before he died. Our parents and family never got over losing Pauline.

“I really didn’t want to remove her because I don’t believe in exhuming bodies but I’ve had enough, I’m sick of it. It’s looking more and more like a park or a field. The way that these students and other people are treating the cemetery - it hasn’t got any better at all.”

Read more: Relatives’ plea to ‘remember and respect history’ at ‘forgotten’ Leeds cemetery.

Christine wants to re-bury Pauline in Otley Cemetery where her husband Neville is buried. She has now written to the University to formally request the exhumation and has been sent an application form to request the necessary licence from the Ministry of Justice.

She added: “I’m 72 years old and I don’t know how much time I have left but this is the one thing I want most in the world. It will keep her safe.”

A University spokesperson said: “The University encourages visitors, including students, to use the field in a respectful manner. There are clear signs around the field and we brief students living in the nearby accommodation about respecting the space, and make them aware of its history.

“Mrs Bairstow is a regular visitor to the University and we have offered support over the years, including planting a tree for her sister, erecting a memorial plaque, and most recently, outlining the Ministry of Justice licencing process.”