Staff at Lawnswood Crematorium were shocked to return from the Easter weekend to find that there had been a break-in at the Reading Room at the popular and historic facility.
Books of Remembrance from the Reading Room, with records going back over many decades, appeared to have been attacked with a sharp knife and scattered in the grounds outside the building.
James Rogers, Director of Communities and Environment for Leeds City Council, said:
“This is an unbelievable and irresponsible occurrence. It appears to have been a malicious and targeted attack on the books as nothing else seems to have been damaged and nothing else was stolen. These books are absolutely priceless, holding personal sentiments from many hundreds of families from all across the UK and further afield dating back decades. It is still unclear if we will be able to salvage them all. We are liaising with police to identify the culprits.”
It appears that those involved in the break in have taken the books and thrown them outside in the wet so they are now severely damaged. This means the records will not be available for public display until they can be restored by a specialist, which will be a time consuming and costly process.
Chris Simpson, who manages the crematorium and the council’s bereavement services has also been personally affected, as he has family records in the books. He said:
“I know many people will be as saddened by this vandalism as my colleagues and I are. We understand that people’s memories are held in these books and we will do our best to try to have them restored.
“We hope people will understand that this will mean many hundreds of records affected will not be able to be viewed for some while. We are also looking at the potential for digital copying of the records so they can be available online in the future.”
Anyone who has information about the incident is asked to contact the police on 101 and quote crime reference number 13180154183.
*Update 6th April 2018*
- The book room at Lawnswood is still open to the public to leave flowers, have quiet reflection and light candles on behalf of their loved ones.
- There are three books that have been vandalised and these relate to the months of April, May and June only. Anyone who has an entry within these months, regardless of what year the entry relates to, will be affected and unfortunately these books will not be available for viewing. The months of July through to March have not been damaged. The books all go back to the first half of the last century.
- The damaged books have been taken to a professional restoration and binding company who will systematically work through each damaged page to recover and restore as much of the original information as possible. Once the pages are recovered they will be photographed before being rewritten in exactly the same style and format.
- The recovered pages will be also be uploaded in digital format for future viewing by the public.
- We are reviewing how the books are held at this and other sites across Leeds moving forward.
- The vandalism took place between 9pm on Sunday 1st April and 7:30am on Monday 2nd April. The vandals gained entry to the book room by forcing the doors of the book room to break in and then gained access to the books by forcing open the locked cabinets in which the books were kept.
- Footage from the CCTV on site is being viewed in detail to see what information can be used to track down those responsible.
- We aim to provide more updates when any new information is available and this will be shared on the council's facebook page:
and the council's Bereavement Services webpages:
Update 18th April 2018
Following the recent vandalism at Lawnswood Crematorium and the damage caused to Books of Remembrance, the Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery have set up a way for people to make donations.
This reflects the significant interest from a wide range of people in offering donations and support following te break-in. Many thanks to the Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery for doing this.