Mark’s History: A Baroness, an overgrown Farsley graveyard and Bramley War Memorial

coal hill lane cemetery
Photo: Mark Stevenson

I had read somewhere that there was a Baroness buried in the old cemetery on Coal Hill Lane, so as I had a bit of time on my hands so I went in to have a look to see if I could find the grave, writes Mark Stevenson.

This was easier said than done as it is badly overgrown. It reminded me of the Baptist graveyard in Bramley which used to be in a similar state until it was tidied by volunteers.

coal hill lane cemetery 2
Photo: Mark Stevenson

The cemetery was once part of the Rehoboth Baptist Chapel on Bagley Lane.

It is said that the Rehoboth Chapel may well be the first religious building constructed in Farsley it is certainly the oldest remaining religious building (technically just in Bramley Parish) and dates from 1777.

coal hill lane cemetery 3
Photo: Mark Stevenson

The first registered burial was in 1785, and the last was in 2000. Nearly all of the cemetery is covered in vegetation only the War Graves cleared by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Hainsworth plot which seem to have been recently tidied up are really clear.

Some of the War dead in the cemetery are on the Bramley War Memorial.

The Hainsworth plot is where I found the Baroness. Alice Wilhelmine von Blumenthal (Wilhelmine Hainsworth). She was born in 1883 at Claremont in Farsley and was the daughter of Abimelech William Hainsworth and Elizabeth Hainsworth.

In 1913 she was to marry Professor Baron Albrecht Werner von Blumenthal. They had two sons, both were to accompany their mother back to England following her divorce on grounds of his adultery. She went on to marry Percy Arnold-Baker. She died in 1977 and was buried in Farsley.

Bagley, farsley
Photo: Mark Stevenson

That is where I might have left the story, but her two sons seemed to have lead interesting lives both joining the Army in WW2 both the Army and MI6 made good use of their ability to speak fluent German.

Her eldest son Richard interrogated Rudolf Hess. Her other son Charles who had changed his name to Charles Arnold-Baker (from Wolfgang Charles Werner von Blumenthal) worked with the traitor Kim Philby, whom he disliked, and in whom he saw none of the supposed Philby charm. He was one of the first to voice suspicions about Philby.

After the War he worked in local Government and his work “Local Council Administration” is owned by every Parish, Town, and District Clerk in the country and known in local Government circles simply as “the Bible”.

The familiar yellow book is one of the master reference books for Local Councils to this day.

Many quotes and points from the seventh edition of Local Council Administration, written by Arnold-Baker, were used at the start of each of the seven parts of J.K. Rowling’s hugely successful first book for adults, The Casual Vacancy.

The title came from a quotation used by Arnold-Baker in point 6.11.


  1. My brother Roger and I, two of Abimelech Hainsworth’s great-grandchildren, make an effort to try to keep the family grave, where our great-aunt Wilhelmine is buried, clear. My father Peter, Wilhelmine’s nephew, was the last person buried in the graveyard in 2000.

  2. The square building is the old Rehoboth chapel, used by Farsley Baptists until the new chapel on Bryan Street was built. The second chapel is now demolished, but the Sunday School (and later third chapel) is now apartments. There are still two date stones on the first chapel, one very high up, which is now used as offices.

  3. That is good to know Richard. I have photographed most of the old religious buildings in West Leeds and it would be unusual to see the Hainsworth name missing from it or its graveyard

  4. Thank you for this article. It was at my suggestion (at the tender age of 16) that my grandmother Wilhelmine (the baroness in your article) was buried with the Hainsworths rather than with either of her husbands, as she adored her father, her family, Farsley and Yorkshire.

    My late father Charles Arnold-Baker (ne Wolfgang von Blumenthal)’s memoires “For He Is An Englishman” describe quite a lot of the history of the Hainsworth family as well as his own war experiences, among other things.

    He did not live to see the publication of JK Rowling’s novel, a pity as he always regarded his book (as you say, known as “the Bible” in Local Government circles) as “the most boring book on earth”.


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