It was a 19th century staircase to spirituality and a vision of infinity.
And after two years of fundraising by dedicated volunteers, the Stairway To Infinity has been returned to Batley Cemetery’s hillside.
The stairway was the star attraction at this year’s Batley Cemetery Support Group (BCSG) open day, officially opened by historian Malcolm Haigh BEM before a crowd of hundreds.
Visitors also enjoyed stalls manned by community groups, including family history research groups, and Kirklees Council Bereavement Services helped people to find their family’s graves.
The original Stairway To Infinity, designed in 1866 by Michael Sheard and Walter Hanstock, was removed by Kirklees Council in 1979 after the two sets of stairs were deemed unsafe.
In 2010, a huge fundraising campaign began to bring the stairway back to the cemetery and recreate the inspiring views that can be seen from the lower stairs.
BCSG applied for grants, appealed to businesses and received contributions from the public, raising more than £14,000 to rebuild the stairway.
Last September, first ground was broken for the project and by March, the stone steps were available for cemetery visitors, restored to their original design.
Mr Haigh said the architects had a clear vision for the steps back in 1866.
He said: “Hanstock wanted to create a route from the lower to the upper slopes of the hillside so that people could visit their family graves and walk around the cemetery grounds with ease.
“But he also wanted people visiting Batley Cemetery to have a spiritually uplifting experience and he used architecture to achieve this by creating what he called the Stairway to Infinity.
“Visitors entering the cemetery by its eastern gate would have their gaze drawn by two long flights of stone steps straight through the heart of the cemetery and up beyond the horizon to the endlessness of the western sky.
“Thanks to the skill of Hanstock’s design, people would be given a vision of infinity.”
For BCSG coordinator Judith Greenwood, Sunday’s opening cemented the success of the volunteers and contributors’ hard work.
She said she had memories of running up and down the stone steps as a schoolgirl and joined the BCSG out of a desire to see their stairway rebuilt.
“A family grave is at the top of the steps, half way up, and I have always had to scramble up the banking, so it became my dream to have the steps to clamber up.”
Grants from the Batley, Birstall and Birkenshaw Area Committee and the William Henry Coulter Trust, donations from businesses including Yorkshire Bank and Asda, and a generous donation from the Snowden Street Mosque in Batley helped pave the way for the stairway’s restoration.
The project was undertaken by builder Paul Frain, who also attended Sunday’s festivities to celebrate the finished stairway.
“It’s wondeful,” Judith said.
“It’s very spiritually uplifting but it’s practical as well, anybody can use and enjoy it and it will be there for hundreds of years, what’s not to like?
“We have done what we set out to do, it was something that we could achieve that everyone would be happy to see.
“It was for the town, and the future of the town, and that was quite inspiring.”
Judith said the steps had transformed the hillside.
“It’s a vision of infinity – you can’t see where the top steps end on the lower steps, and you’re looking right up at the sky.”