The campaign to save a burial ground in Swinton takes an amazing twist. Campaigners have established that as reported in the Swinton Journal (now defunct unfortunately), the burial ground at the former Swinton Unitarian Church was grassed over and landscaped for public open space.
However, on the 14th May 1987 an article in the Swinton Journal reveals that the burial ground was even at risk then when proposals were being discussed for the precinct to be extended to include a supermarket.
Mr Franklin Johnson, Chairman of Trustee's of Unitarian Free Churches said in 1987 "the ground was still consecrated and was loathed to see it developed." A copy of the Swinton Journal News article is published on the right.
It has been established following the sale of the burial ground to Salford Council around 1985 for around £3,000 the land was sold we think for the amount in order to allow the church to cover their legal costs.
A covenant was put in place preventing development and Salford Council agreed back in the 1980's that the land would be landscaped and available as public open space.
The burial ground was saved from development in 1987 but in June 2011 the church agreed to release the covenant preventing development for a staggering £125,000 upon request from GVA Grimley agents for owners of the precinct who were already in negotiations with asda supermarkets.
The objections to prevent development in 1987 stay well and truly alive in 2012. Unfortunately, these sentiments are only not shared by the church but by senior politicians, whom many of todays local politicians where politicians back in 1987, namely Councillor Derek Antrobus longstanding councillor for Swinton and ex-reporter of The Swinton Journal.
Several Labour councillors have been highly criticised for their offensive remarks and their total disregard for the families affected by the proposals to have the remains of 313 Swintonians removed from their final resting place.
Recently on interviews with BBC Radio Manchester Online the following was published :-
But local councillor and planning committee member Derek Antrobus said the site, which has 330 graves, had been neglected for more than 30 years.
He added: "When I look at the site which is a patch of grass used by dog walkers and is sandwiched between a shop and two pubs and three car parks I think the proposal of Asda to move the bodies to Swinton Cemetery, where they will be in a proper grave for the first time, will be a considerable improvement."
This is a statement that was made by Councillor Derek Antrobus only a few days ago.
A Salford Council report which has been changed is on record that any reinterrment was to take place at Peel Green cemetery (Eccles), as published by Salford Council.
Michael Moulding's campaign to "Save our Swinton", a campaign to respect the town of Swinton and being Swintonian since its abolition in 1974, made him contact GVA Grimley to remind them those resting are Swintonians and therefore, in the event they are removed should stay in Swinton.
The last burial took place in 1962.
On being told they did not know a Swinton cemetery existed they say, Michael Moulding politely informed them that a cemetery in Swinton is in use on Cemetery Rd and got a guarantee that any remains would be reinteered here in due respect to their identities."
Michael Moulding who is now Deputy Leader of the Community Action Party and stood in the recent 2012 Mayoral elections has been asked to represent some families affected by the proposals to remove their loved ones from their final resting place at the Unitarian Burial Ground in Swinton.
Michael Moulding says "I live in Swinton, lived in Salford for nearly a decade so I was not here to see the gravestones standing. But up to 1984 they were."
"Councillor Derek Antrobus states that in his support for the removal of loved ones of the Unitarian faith he says and I quote "they will be in proper graves for the first time."
"Many families who have relatives have been seriously offended by these remarks and Councillor Antrobus has failed to apologise."
"He says hes a Swintonian because he has lived in the town for a long time, but in fact was born elsewhere, but we factually know he must have known that up to 1984 should he not, that those resting at the Swinton unitarian Burial ground were and have always been in proper graves ?"
"Indeed, the grave of Pte W L Blears, a World War 1 soldier, is an official War Grave as recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Councillor Antrobus is either extremely forgetful, conveniently or not or hes not a very good local historian ?"
Michael Moulding on learning that a War Grave was at risk of exhumation contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commision to inform them which at the time they did not know of the risks posed to this grave ?
"I call on Councillor Antrobus to explain his statement about the fact that those resting at the Unitarian Church have not been in proper graves to exclude the possibility that in fact, because those resting are of the Unitarian faith he is actually discriminating against the religion as they are not resting in a cemetery or other consecrated land by another religion ?"
Michael Moulding continues "And what about the church ? In 1987 they complained about development of the burial ground and rightly so. They said then the land was given over but development was prevented in the form of a covenant. In February of this year I telephoned them about whether the land was covenanted and they were deliberately evasive because I know that covenanted land is protected and its commonsense to protect such important land in this way. I spoke to their president Mr johnson."
"Low and behold they release a covenant that had a residual financial value that protected development of the land for £125,000 ?"
In 2009 Michael Moulding became a Trustee of land managed by the Swinton & District Allotments & Leisure gardeners Assocciation.
Michael Moulding continues "The church failed to tell me about the covenant or any monies changing hands. What they said was that they believe they could not stop development."
"What the Unitarian Free Church did not tell me that they had already released the covenant protecting development for a staggering £125,000 in June 2011. At this time they did not own the land, they only had residual ownership of the covenant. It had no financial value."
"Why in 2012 but not in 1987 ? The values are the same. A covenant is for life unless its changed. only a serious legal case can change it. They sold their congregation and they should be ashamed."
In March 2012, Michael Moulding organised and held a vigil at the burial ground and was thrilled to have invited Dorothy Tildesley author of "Remembrance" "Recollections of a Wartime Childhood in Swinton" where Dorothy is pictured as a young girl in the book. Dorothy attended the vigil as an elderly lady and speaks passionately on Salfordonline about her feelings and sense of sadness of the proposal to destruct a small piece of Swinton's history."
Harry Tildesley, husband of Dorothy Tildesley on the video at the March vigil in disgust at Asda and Salford Council at their proposals to dig up whole family burial plots says "I would do some damage, even at this age, I think its unforgivable."
On the 29th May 2012 GVA Grimley sent letters to known family contacts of the deceased to inform them of the proposals to develop the burial ground where their loved ones lay in peace and the letter says and I quote in reference to the Unitarian Church :-
"A significant payment has been made to the Unitarian Church to obtain their consent to develop and this money is being used to support the Churches chosen charities including the poor and destitute."
Michael Moulding, Deputy Leader of the Community Action Party and community activist in Swinton says "They didnt ask the families of the deceased nor have we seen the poor of Swinton benefitting from their enormous payment ?" END
The campaign to save a Burial Ground in Swinton takes an amazing twist !