A memorial headstone at Agecroft records the reburial of many thousands of men, women and children previously interred in the graveyard of the New Jerusalem Temple in the Bolton Street/Gore Street area of Salford. It is not known how many burials took place at the Salford New Jerusalem Temple but conservative estimates suggest it could be as many as 25,000. The surviving burial records show that from 1813 to 1837 over 13,000 burials took place. However, burials continued until 1855 when the graveyard was closed as a result of government legislation amid concerns about public health.
The New Jerusalem movement followed the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th century Swedish scientist and theologian. The ‘New Church’ movement took hold in Manchester from 1782 and churches and schools were set up on Peter Street, Manchester and at the Round House, Every Street, Ancoats. The Bolton Street church in Salford was opened on 19th September 1813 with the first burial taking place nine days later. The deceased, John Walker of nearby Griffen Court, died of scarlet fever aged seven years and eight months.
The Temple building, designed by the Manchester architect James White was built at a cost of £2,000. It was funded largely by two local men, John Barge, a Broughton calico printer and Francis Goadsby, a druggist of Chapel Street. The Goadsby’s connection with the Temple continued for several generations with registers recording many Goadsby family births, marriages and deaths. Francis Goadsby’s son Thomas, a successful local businessman and alderman of Manchester was closely associated with the Temple throughout his life. Shortly before he died in 1866 he presented the statue of Prince Albert to the city of Manchester, later erected in Albert Square. After a funeral service at the New Jerusalem Temple, Thomas Goadsby was buried with great ceremony in the dissenters section at Salford Cemetery. The cortege route from central Manchester, along Regent Road to Salford Cemetery, lined with mourners, is recorded in detail in the Manchester Mercury as is Goadsby’s coffin which was a Smith’s patent metallic sanitary coffin beautifully studded with brass!
Other notable members of the Salford New Jerusalem Temple included William Lockett, who was the church’s treasurer and Salford’s first mayor in 1844-45, and Lockett’s son-in-law Thomas Agnew, a picture framer and art dealer in Manchester and Salford mayor from 1850 to 1851. During his Mayoral year Agnew escorted Queen Victoria and Prince Albert around the school on their visit to Manchester and Salford in 1850. Agnew’s sons William and Thomas were brought up as Swedenborgians, attending the school in their youth.
The early image, (above) probably produced to commemorate the opening of the Temple, shows the building and graveyard planted with poplars in an open, pleasant aspect, on previously undeveloped land. However, rapid industrialisation and the coming of the railways soon impacted on the Temple’s surroundings. By 1880 the photograph shows the soot-blackened Temple and schoolhouse surrounded by the viaduct and train-sheds of the Salford Station, the Waddle and Hope brewery and factory chimneys can be seen in the distance.
The building was eventually abandoned as a place of worship around 1890 when the congregation moved to Lower Broughton. For the next 100 years the Temple succumbed to a variety of industrial uses. Initially the Temple and graveyard were bought by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and used as a ticket and timetable printing works. Later it became a warehouse and offices and by 1972 it was being used as an electro-platers. Re-development and road-widening eventually led to demolition in the 1990s when the site became a car park.
The initial removal of human remains from the surrounding graveyard in 1988 was followed by further excavations and re-burials at Agecroft between 2003 and 2007. Archaeologists estimate that there could be a further 6,000 burials remaining on the Bolton Street site.