£73k lottery grant to take cemetery from ‘dead to living’

From left, Julia Watts, James Moir and Elaine Mercer with the 'Sutton grave' in Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted
From left, Julia Watts, James Moir and Elaine Mercer with the 'Sutton grave' in Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted

A church cemetery’s conservation project has been awarded a £73,000 lottery grant – but this figure could rise to nearly £1million in 2017.

The Friends of St Peter’s in Berkhamsted have been handed £73,600 in development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) to help restore the Rectory Lane Cemetery (RLC), a resting place for more than 7,000 people.

The news comes as part of Heritage Lottery Fund’s £32million funding announcement for parks and cemeteries across the UK.

The Friends’ aim is to restore the heritage of the town’s three-acre burial ground, which is behind the Rex Cinema, and turn it into a ‘sustainable community asset’.

The initial £73,600 will help the Friends of St Peter’s progress their plans with the aim of securing the full grant of £952,200 next year.

James Moir, a trustee of the Friends of St Peter’s and convener of the RLC project, said: “We are truly thrilled that the National Lottery has recognised us with this support.

“It will enable us to step up a gear in the work that is planned to take the cemetery from a ‘dead’ to a ‘living’ space.”

The RLC project organises essential conservation work on the memorials, pathways, seating and walls, plus improving access to the site and cultivating wildlife.

A large part of the project’s efforts will also go on compiling digital information on the 1,000 memorials and 7,000 burials so people can access it online.

The cemetery was founded by public subscription in 1842, but demand for space meant that two further ‘terraces’ were opened and consecrated in 1894 and 1921 respectively.

The site is home to the graves of 27 soldiers who lost their lives in both the First and Second World Wars, as well as local dignitaries.

Project leader Mr Moir and his fellow trustees are hoping that more volunteers will step up to the plate to help preserve and protect the cemetery, which was founded by public subscription in 1842.

He said: “There is something for everyone in the community to get involved in, from the care of wildlife to stewarding at live events.

“We are looking for many different skills and all are welcome.”

To find out more, visit www.stpetersberkhamstedfriends.org.uk or chat to the volunteers at our market stall on the last Saturday of every month.