One of two cemeteries in Padiham, the 4 acre St John’s Road Cemetery is owned and managed by Burnley Council.
At the beginning of the C19 most burials took place in St. Leonard’s churchyard although there were a number of non-conformist burial grounds. By the 1850’s the graveyard had become overfull and in 1852 Mr. Starkie of Huntroyde Hall offered 2 acres of land as a public cemetery. This was to become Blackburn Road Cemetery. On 1st June 1855 all the Church graveyards were officially closed although burial in unfilled family vaults was allowed. This new public cemetery was cause of consternation for non-conformists as services had to be conducted to Church of England rites and fees paid to the incumbent. When the vestry attempted to levy an extra rate on the whole parish to pay for enclosing and laying out the cemetery a public meeting was held (October 1856) and it was resolved that a separate piece of land for non-conformist burials be acquired.
A plot of 2 acres was available in, what was then, Hapton from Charles Towneley’s Estate. £470 was raised by public subscription and the Burial Board in London approved the cemetery in January 1857. A local Burial Board was formed comprising two representatives of each of the dissenting places of worship and three ratepayers. It was reported that ‘the estimate for enclosing and draining, chapel, dwelling-house, etc. is about £700’. No information about the designer/builder of the cemetery is known but the first burial was that of Ann Law on the 23rd February 1857.
The two acre original cemetery site showing the mortuary chapel (later to become the cemetery house) at its entrance on what was then Green Lane.
In April 1891 the remaining members of the Burial Board wrote to Padiham and Hapton Local Board asking them to take over the ownership and management of the cemetery. The transfer was completed in August 1893 when 2,778 interments had taken place. In June 1891 the Local Board had written to Lord Abingdon about buying 1 to 4 acres of Towneley Estate land adjacent to the cemetery. In 1902 the remaining vacant land at the cemetery was laid out for use and in 1908 Padiham Urban District Council received Parliamentary approval for Cemetery lands and began discussions with Lord Abingdon to acquire the land adjoining the cemetery. Formal approval for an extension of 4 acres was not given until 3rd January 1924 and in 1933 when approval was given for a small section of this land to be used as Catholic burial grounds only 2 acres of the extension had been laid out. The remaining 2 acres are still undeveloped.
The current layout of the 4 acre cemetery
David Helm one of the original Trustees of the Burial Board was appointed as registrar in 1873 and held the post until his death in 1917 when his son Walter became registrar. In turn, his son George followed from 1942 to 1967. The Cemetery House was occupied by the Helm family until the death of Walter's widow in 1955. It was later demolished and the site has now been developed for a private house.