Jon shares this latest news from Northwood Cemetery. Ed
After nearly two and half years, nearly 8,000 hours of volunteer time and the dedication of countless contractors and suppliers alike, Northwood Cemetery opened its gates on Saturday to the general public to see the transformation that has taken place thanks to a £1.6 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund.
Chapels now safe and brought back into use
The two Victorian Chapels are now underpinned and fully restored and are no longer at risk of demolition. Two years ago, the chapels started moving significantly and were deemed unsafe for public access.
Now the restored East Chapel has a working bell, called Little Ben, made by the makers of Big Ben and is available for services or quiet reflection. The West Chapel is now a fully functioning Heritage Resource Centre brought back into public use after many decades, with a range of facilities, learning and research materials, activities for young people and which is available for community groups to hire.
Credit to GJ Banks
Although difficult to single out a single contractor perhaps special credit needs to go to GJ Banks, the local construction company that undertook the mammoth task of underpinning and restoring the two Victorian Chapels.
Jill Banks, company director, said,
“During the west chapel excavation works, part of the chapel started to sink rapidly due to the soft ground. Works were put on hold to work with professionals on a redesign to continue the repairs to ensure the safety of operatives and the chapels.”
Despite this setback and armed with a new underpinning design, GJ Banks completed the works in late September and the now glorious Chapels stand a good chance of lasting for hundreds of years to come.
Many more improvements
Elsewhere in the cemetery the changes are equally amazing with roads resurfaced, a new municipal Natural Burial Ground created at the rear, heritage memorials restored, a wooden gazebo erected and a new conservation area to protect the many rare and valuable species found at the site.
The project has been led by a group of volunteers from the Friends of Northwood Cemetery (FoNC) who have given up their spare time to make this transformation happen. Working in partnership with the Isle of Wight Council they secured the grant and have overseen each and every aspect of project delivery.
Over the moon with the result
Jon Matthews, Founder of FoNC, said,
“I suspect at the start of the project many people thought we weren’t up to the task, but hopefully we have confounded our critics and delighted our supporters.
“We are over the moon with the result – it is the fulfilment of our organisation’s aims, to protect and preserve this much loved slice of Northwood heritage.”
Support from IWC
Unusually, for a project of this size and scope, the Isle of Wight Council have not been in the driving seat but have provided resources, support and encouragement every step of the way working in partnership with the volunteer group.
Alex Minns from the IW Council said,
“This project shows that partnership working has real potential for transforming the Island.
“We are so grateful that the Heritage Lottery Fund took a risk on this project – the results speak for themselves with every project target met and costs contained within budget.”
The volunteers are now looking to the future and are already planning a series of events, school visits and activities that will be held over the coming months in the Heritage Resource Centre.
Enjoy the cemetery’s history
“We now enter another phase in this wonderful cemetery’s history – one in which local people can once again use these beautiful Victorian buildings and young people can learn about the local heritage that helped shape their current lives.”
Image: © Barry Sowerby