Sylvia Plath’s Gravestone
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is buried in St.Thomas the Apostle’s ‘modern’ Churchyard in Heptonstall and is a major visitors’ destination. The grave bears the name ‘Sylvia Plath Hughes’ with an epitaph that reads: ‘Even Amidst Fierce Flames/The Golden Lotus Can Be Planted’. Both the site and inscription were chosen by her husband Ted Hughes, whose parents are also buried here. The controversy over her grave has been longstanding for many Plath devotees. For the village this is holy ground and we are keen to promote respect for anyone who wishes to visit during the Plath Festival.
To preserve the dignity of the gravesite, and of the surrounding graves, we are asking visitors to the festival to sign up to a day and time to visit Sylvia’s grave. There will be 9 hour-long slots from 10am – 7pm for Friday 21st, Saturday 22nd, and Sunday 23rd October. Each slot will allow a maximum of 10 people to visit the graveyard at any given time, and we ask that no more than 5 people visit Sylvia’s grave at once. You can sign up for a slot via this form.
Please be kind and respectful of the setting, and of each other. There is a bench near the entrance to wait. Volunteers will be at the graveyard to direct and advise visitors. If you would like to leave poems, flowers or objects in memory of Sylvia, there will be a memorial basket in the Contemplation Space at Heptonstall Museum. Please do not leave anything at the gravesite. If you have any queries about this, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heptonstall is an ancient village above the town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire and it is where Sylvia Plath is buried.
Its earliest appearance in written record dates to 1253. Heptonstall’s original church was founded c.1260, and dedicated to St Thomas a Becket. It was altered and added to over several centuries but severely damaged by a gale in 1847. A new church, St Thomas the Apostle was built in the same churchyard, consecrated on 26th October 1854.
Heptonstall was the site of a battle during the early part of the English Civil War in November 1643. The village was occupied by a parliamentary army and was subsequently and unsuccessfully attacked by royalist forces approaching from Halifax. Historically a centre for hand-loom weaving, Heptonstall’s cottages and terraced houses are characterised by large (for the time) first-floor windows to maximise the light for weaving.
The older churchyard claims ‘King’ David Hartley amongst notable graves there. Hartley was the founder of the Cragg Coiners and lived as a rogue in the Calderdale area until he was hanged at Tyburn near York in 1770. The foundation stone of the village’s octagonal Methodist chapel, the oldest still in continued use, was laid following the visit of John Wesley in 1764.
The village is blessed with two pubs and a tea room, all quite near one another on the main cobbled street. There is also a post office with a small shop and a cultural gift shop opposite.
Transport and Parking
The 596 bus runs every 30 minutes from Hebden Bridge station to Heptonstall. The service is managed by TLC Travel. Visitors in vehicles are encouraged to use the bowling club car park on Acre Lane HX7 7LT which is free.
Photo credits: Bruce Cutts, Chris Lapish & Michael Crowley