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Restoration works resume with cash injection from Historic England

Date: 

Thursday, 21 January, 2021

Brookwood Cemetery has received a financial boost from the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help meet the cost of repairs during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The fund administered by Historic England has been made available to protect the country’s ‘at risk’ heritage sites while also supporting the highly skilled businesses that form a key part of the heritage sector.

Brookwood Cemetery has received £25,000 (the maximum grant) towards the ongoing restoration of the Columbarium, which until acquired by the council, had been blocked up and closed off to the public due to its condition.

The largest and most notable of its kind within the cemetery, the Columbarium is a listed monument in its own right. The cruciform (crossed-shaped), stone-built structure is defined by its central dome and elegant classical features.

Cllr Graham Cundy, Woking Borough Council’s Lead Member for Brookwood Cemetery, said: “This grant from the government’s recovery fund will help us to get our repair programme back on schedule, which has been severely hampered by the virus.

“With the winter months now upon us, we need to make urgent repairs to the roof of the Columbarium to prevent any further water damage.”

Originally intended as a mausoleum, it was commissioned by the 5th Earl Cadogan towards the end of the 19th century. The Earl however sold the building to the London Necropolis Company in 1910 at which point it was used if for the storing of ashes.

Inside the Columbarium there is a gallery at entrance level and towards the back, an internal staircase leading to an underground vault.

Cllr Cundy continued: “Prior to the pandemic, the council approved an ambitious and exciting set of plans to safeguard the future of the cemetery and encourage greater use of this diverse site. The Columbarium is one of the larger public monuments in the cemetery with an interesting history, which should be more accessible to our residents.”

Find out more information about Brookwood Cemetery, including the approved plans for new visitor and heritage centre

More information about the repairs being grant funded

The flat roof of the structure around the central dome is leaking. This flat felted roof was installed as an emergency repair in 2009 and is now beginning to show signs of damage. The softwood substructure is breaking up, causing dipping on the decking and allowing water to pool. A number of the convex ‘lenses’ to the domed roof are also missing allowing moisture into the building.

The proposed works are to:

  • Reinstate with a metal sheet finish in Zinc (colour to be muted); batten cap style with adequate falls and detailing to discharge water effectively.
  • Re-deck in marine grade plywood including treated timber supports as required to achieve levels to allow water to discharge off the roof.
  • Replace existing broken glazing, dispose of off-site and prepare openings to receive new glazing - four green convex and three flat glazing panels to match existing.

More about Brookwood Cemetery

Brookwood Cemetery was founded mid-19th century after a cholera epidemic (1848-49) exacerbated the problem of overcrowding across London’s cemeteries. Built by the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company (LNNMC) on 2,268 acres of heathland purchased from Lord Onslow, Brookwood was reputed to be the largest cemetery in Europe and the pinnacle of Victorian garden cemetery design.

In the early 20th century, 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. A separate area was also allocated to the American Battle Monuments Commission for American victims.

Twelve Victoria Cross recipients rest within the confines of the cemetery and a further three are commemorated on site.

A grade I listed park and garden, Woking Borough Council acquired the site in 2014 to protect this site of significant historical importance and return Brookwood Cemetery to its former glory.