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National Lottery reviving Gothic cemeteries as public greenspaces and wildlife havens

New grants totaling £6.2m has helped Sheffield General Cemetery Park; Belfast City Cemetery; and Sir Joseph Paxton’s London Road Cemetery, Coventry.

Brompton Cemetery, which is one of London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’, will be the first to reopen in July, following National Lottery investment.

Sheffield General Cemetery Park; Belfast City Cemetery; and London Road Cemetery, Coventry have been awarded more than £6.2m of National Lottery cash to be revived and restored for the benefit of their local communities.

The improvements will see historic layouts reinstated; mausoleums, chapels, tombs, graves and sculptures will be restored; the past and present traditions of death, the Gothic and bereavement will be better understood by new visitors; and native wildlife and habitats will be protected and encouraged thorough planting and better horticultural management. The result will be three welcoming greenspaces that will not only benefit local communities but local wildlife.

These – and four other cemeteries that have received money from HLF and the Big Lottery Fund – take the total joint National Lottery investment in historic cemeteries to £15.1m.

Brompton Cemetery reopens

The news comes as the Grade I registered Brompton Cemetery, one of London’s Victorian ‘Magnificent Seven’, reopens on Wednesday 11 July.

It is the first joint National Lottery-funded cemetery project to open following a £6.2m restoration and conservation project. The project has revealed the cemetery’s architectural splendour; uncovered hidden heritage gems; preserved the historic landscape and created a wildlife haven for communities in a densely-populated part of the capital.

The 39-acre Grade I registered garden Gothic cemetery was created the 1830s-1840s to tackle London’s over crowded graveyards. It is now a Site of Nature Conservation Importance and there are many unique listed monuments and architecture.

It contains 35,000 monuments. The 205,000 people buried there include historic figures such as Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the suffragette movement; Sir Henry Cole, who was instrumental in the Great Exhibition, founding the V&A museum, building Royal Albert Hall and is believed to have invented the Christmas card; and Dr John Snow, who discovered the link between cholera and contaminated water.

The project has placed the community at its heart, with a new volunteering and training hub, and now offers a cafe and visitor centre. Over 500 volunteers are supporting the cemetery and helping it to reach out to new audiences and share past and present traditions associated with death and bereavement. They are undertaking guided tours, gardening, photography and research. And crucially the project has protected and enhanced the cemetery’s diverse wildlife and ecology – which includes 633 trees from around 60 species, 200 moth species and many types of bats, invertebrates and birds.

On behalf of HLF and Big Lottery Fund, Ros Kerslake, chief executive of HLF, said: “Historic cemeteries reveal much of the past but their true value to local communities and wildlife is firmly in the here and now. Brompton Cemetery is a pioneering project that, with National Lottery investment, is helping people to understand, tap into and enjoy the many benefits these community greenspaces provide. The new investment in our historic cemeteries builds on their legacy.”

New grant awards:

Sheffield General Cemetery Park (£3m grant)

Belfast City Cemetery (£1.6m grant)

London Road Cemetery, Coventry (£1.6m grant)

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