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Yorkshire churchyards digitally mapped

21 February 2020

‘The plan is for a systematic roll-out across England’

Atlantic Geomatics (UK) Ltd

A screen shot from the Burial Ground Management System

A screen shot from the Burial Ground Management System

TWO churchyards near Huddersfield have been “digitally mapped” so that genealogists, historians, and interested parties can find and view thousands of burial sites, registers, and information in one place, online.

The PCCs of All Hallows’, Kirkburton, and Emmanuel Church, Shelley, received a share of £6100 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in March 2018 to pilot the Burial Ground Management System. The project was initiated by the Church Buildings Council in 2017, to promote interest and learning, and to help to conserve churchyards around the country.

All Hallows’ churchyard dates from the 17th century, but was extended in the 19th century. The churchyard of Emmanuel Church is Victorian. The Vicar, the Revd Amanda Grant, said on Tuesday: “The PCCs both agreed the project would be a great community asset. Much mapping and detailed historical work had already been done at All Hallows’ by John Wakley, and there was much interest from genealogists locally and internationally.

“This project builds on John’s hard work, who passed away just over a year ago.”

The online mapping system has been created by Atlantic Geomatics (UK). Volunteers from the two churches and local-history groups were trained to take high-quality photographs of approximately 6000 memorials in the churchyards. The burial registers were scanned, the text was transcribed on to the portal, and the information was linked directly to the images and memorial location on the map.

Sylvia Johnson, who chairs the project, said: “It has been a fascinating period, and very rewarding to see how the volunteers have worked with Atlantic Geomatics: putting in so much hard work and effort in all weathers. . . The team deserve an enormous thank you.”

The public can view the pilot for free from next week. Visitors to both churches, including school groups, will be able to attend talks, guided trails, and exhibitions.

Ms Grant said: “It became clear that the project would benefit the local schools as part of their curriculum. . . It also gained interest by the history societies in both parishes, with the social and economic and past infant mortality being of particular interest.”

A spokesman for Atlantic Geomatics, Tim Viney, said on Tuesday: “The plan is for a systematic roll-out across England.

“The first step is to create an accurate and up-to-date map, after which images, registers, and text will be added to provide the added value to the map. Each map will be dynamic and maintained by each parish or church, adding new records, memorials, and images as appropriate.”

Mr Viney estimates that it would take four to five years to map every churchyard in the UK. He is in talks with the Church Buildings Council about how this would be funded, but it is likely that there would be a fee for churches to use the system, as well as a charge for public access.

Any churchyard can be mapped with the help of trained volunteers, he said, but to rely completely on volunteers may delay the roll-out.

Once logged in to the site, users will be able to view burial records, add records, upload images of a memorial, search for a deceased person, view and manage reserved and available plots, measure lengths and areas, and export and analyse reports and data (for example, the number of burials between 2005 and 2010). The site will also allow users to generate a burial-record fact-sheet listing person information, the memorial image, burial register extract, and location map.

The C of E’s head of strategy for church buildings, Dr Joseph Elders, said: “Many more churches could benefit from this kind of project across the country, protecting and enjoying the wonderful historic and natural environment of our churches for the benefit of all.”

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