Woking Borough Council secures ownership of Brookwood Cemetery
12 December 2014
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Woking Borough Council announced today [12 December 2014] that it has secured the ownership of Brookwood Cemetery by purchasing the shares in the companies which owned the Cemetery - Brookwood Park Limited and Brookwood Cemetery Limited.
The Council agreed at a Special Council Meeting on 24 November 2014 that it should secure the Cemetery by establishing Woking Necropolis and Mausoleum Limited, as a subsidiary within its Thameswey Group of companies. The commercial terms of this purchase remain confidential.
Leader of the Council, Cllr John Kingsbury, said: "The Council considers Brookwood Cemetery to be a vitally important part of Woking's heritage and its future. Since the end of the First World War, Brookwood Cemetery has declined in quality due to lack of investment. As the Council, we faced a major challenge: to stand by and see it decline further, despite the best efforts of the current operators; or, to intervene as we have previously done, with great success, in Woking Town Centre. We decided we owed it to future generations to intervene now, despite the challenges ahead.
"We appreciate that we cannot provide a quick fix for nearly 100 years of decline, but we will work with other agencies to steadily restore the Cemetery and make it once again a high-quality place for burial. Over the next two years we will develop detailed plans for Brookwood Cemetery with a view to implementing a series of improvements by 2020 that will make the Borough proud of this important site."
Brookwood Cemetery is one of the most significant heritage assets in the Borough and it is considered by English Heritage as a site of national significance. The Cemetery was founded in 1852 by the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company to house London's dead. In the 1920s, part of the site was sold to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to accommodate the graves of the Commonwealth victims of the First World War, as well as a separate area allocated to the American Battle Monuments Commission for American victims. These war grave areas remain independently managed by the respective Commissions and are not included in the area now owned by the Council.
Initially the site was some 2,000 acres. However, after asset stripping throughout the 1950s, the site has been reduced to the 232 acres that remain today. In the 1860s the site accommodated over 3,500 burials per year; currently there are barely 200 burials per annum. The Council recognises that the site will not return to 3,500 burials per annum, but it does see the need to ensure that there are adequate burial facilities for future generations as existing local burial sites become full.
Cllr Graham Cundy, the Member of the Council's Executive responsible for Planning and Heritage, and a Director of the new Woking Necropolis and Mausoleum Limited, said: "By the Council acquiring Brookwood Cemetery it is an opportunity for us, over time, to restore its structural and environmental heritage as well as providing a facility for burials for generations to come. I welcome the challenges ahead and look forward to working with our colleagues at the Cemetery, English Heritage and the community in developing our plans for the future of the Cemetery."
By buying the shares in the Cemetery companies from Diane Holliday, the owner operator of the Cemetery, and retaining her and her deputy, Kevin Holliday, to continue to manage the Cemetery, the Council has retained the operational expertise that will ensure 'business as usual'.
Diane Holliday, the former owner and now Manager of the Cemetery, said: "Whilst I'm saddened that I needed to sell the Cemetery, I recognised that the proposal by the Council to acquire the business from me was, for the long term, in the best interests of the Cemetery. Brookwood Cemetery is part of my heart and I am looking forward to working positively with the Council to ensure its future success. I will now be able to concentrate on meeting the needs of our customers whilst the Council, with my full support, establishes its future plans for the Cemetery."
Residents and undertakers should continue to contact Brookwood Cemetery direct on all matters relating to the Cemetery and not the Council. Please call 01483 472222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org