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Restoration breathes new life into neglected landmarks across Leeds

Restoring to former glory: Horsforth Cemetery Chapel

Restoring to former glory: Horsforth Cemetery Chapel


By Neil Mudd
New life is being breathed into  Horsforth Cemetery Chapel thanks to an innovative project restoring landmark buildings across Leeds.

The chapel, which was built in 1881, is one of a number of landmarks being restored across the city as part of a three year training programme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Remaking Leeds gives trainees the chance to learn traditional skills that are at risk of being lost and forgotten, such as lime plastering and stone-masonry.

One of those involved is painter and decorator Laura Cunningham-Clarke, (pictured above) who after a two-year course at Leeds College of Building last year, joined the programme in November.

As well as the chapel at Horsforth Cemetery, she has applied her newly acquired skills at Leeds Town Hall and Lotherton Hall near Aberford, Leeds.

Miss Cunningham-Clarke, 26, Beckhill Walk, Meanwood said: “I am interested in the historical features of older buildings. I’m learning that you have to treat them a bit differently.”

Passing on his knowledge and experience alongside her at the chapel is team supervisor Brian Berry, who has worked for Leeds City Council since 1975.

Mr Berry, 56, Ryecroft Close, Bramley, said: “What we’re teaching Laura is how to adapt the skills she learned in a classroom to the actual workplace.”

The programme will see a new group of trainees, mostly made up of 18-24 year-olds who already have a general construction qualification, receive bursaries to complete a Level 2 Heritage Construction Award each year.

The Cemetery Chapel had been out of use for some years and was in a badly neglected condition when the team arrived.

“The building was thick with cobwebs, the paint was flaking off the walls and the roof was leaking,” said Mr Berry.

Two weeks later the damage has been stripped away, a special primer added, and there are two coats of fresh white paint on the walls.

“When I was an apprentice, I was taught specialised advanced craft as part of my course, but now it’s not being taught so much,” said Mr Berry “There’s been a lot of change and that’s why it’s important young people get to learn all the skills they will need.”

Miss Cunningham-Clarke is looking forward to using decorative gold-leaf for the first time when she helps refurbish the Oakwood Clock at Roundhay in a couple of weeks.

Miss Cunningham-Clarke, who continues on the Remaking Leeds programme until October, is hopeful that a permanent position will become available at the council.

Mr Berry said: “Laura’s been brilliant. No job’s too big or too small. She just gets on with it.”

For more information about getting involved with Re-Making Leeds, please contact Sarah Neville, heritage construction skills development manager on 0113 39 57591 or email


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