The cemetery and grounds of Lawnswood Cemetery feature in ‘Shudder’ as the church and the graveyard. I have moved it to the edge of the woods near Finders Hospital where it is also the scene of the dramatic finale to the story. For the sake of the story, it is not the exact likeness of Lawnswood, but is my inspiration.
My grandparents are buried there and I have visited several times. Apart from funerals my most memorable visit was one very snowy day when everywhere seemed very silent as the big fat snowflakes fell. Walking through the old memorials I challenge anyone to remain in disbelief about the afterlife. Passing beyond the veil of life must be very similar to this quiet and peaceful experience. In my mind anyway.
My mother went to Lawnswood Girls School as a girl and would talk about her time there all of her life She thrived there, passing exams, acting and singing. She left to become a SRN, met my father during her training, married and had me. This beautiful building is another long gone and one wonders why so much beautiful architecture has been lost in West Yorkshire. When I describe places to anyone now, the memories bear no similarities to the Leeds and its surrounding areas now. It is why I have had such fun setting ‘Shudder’ in old Bramley, bringing it alive again.
There is a group set up now who are trying to look after Lawnswood Cemetery and I wish them all the luck in the world with it. Grandma and Granddad are trying to sleep there.
Look for them here. Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery
Following is a short piece from the book when Lydia first sees the graveyard.
The coat was lovely, so Lydia decided to go back outside and see what she could see. Warm as toast, she walked back into the snow which was now coming down thick and fast. There was no one about, so stepping out onto the driveway would not cause any problems. At the moment the entrance gates were still visible, but as the snow was increasing, they would soon be blocked from view.
To her right was a path which led around the back of the lovely building and to her left a path leading to another stone building. Both beckoned to her.
She decided to take the right turning before the snow became too heavy. The path wound its way through bushes which made passage difficult for her and would not have allowed another person to travel alongside. Stones planted here and there were covered in chisel carving. The path spilt into two and on the corner was a mock stone entrance to a house. Lydia could only see part of the feature when she first came upon it and as she walked around to the front, saw that there stood a woman staring away into the distance.
“Hello,” she said to the woman.
But there was no answer and it wasn’t long before she could see the reason. The woman was made from stone. She was a statue, albeit an excellent one. Looking at her face must have been exactly the same as looking into the face of the woman after whom her likeness was created. Lydia reached out to touch the cold face and felt a tremor within.
She knew that the woman was sad or had been the cause of great sadness. The stone lady stood impassively in front of the stone door and under the shelter of a stone porch. The door behind her was slightly ajar and when Lydia tried to look beyond the lady and the door, she could only see another wall. Jumping a little when she thought that the lady moved, caused Lydia to pull the fur coat around her for comfort. She must pay more careful attention to the statue lady and make sure that she wouldn’t suddenly come alive and chase her down the lawn.
The beautiful stone lady , dressed in the old fashioned style was reminiscent of the old paintings Lydia had seen on the walls of the Town Hall. In her hand she held a handkerchief tightly as if for security. Her other hand resting against her dress held a solitary flower. The porch roof stood on ornate stone pillars and the door itself, although made from stone looked exactly like carved oak. Next to the door, underneath the bell push was a sign.
Lady Gladys Ailwood, my darling wife and companion.
Taken from me by the Shudder Man.
I shall never stop looking.
Lord Edward Ailwood