Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Friends of War Memorials (CEM 69)

  I write in response to the Environment Sub-committee's notice of it's inquiry into cemeteries. Friends of War Memorials is the national charity concerned with war memorials of all dates and types. Whilst a great many of the war memorials that take the form of external sculpture or monuments are situated in urban spaces, village greens or main streets, or in churchyards, a significant number are located in great urban or smaller local cemeteries. FoWM is also aware of instances where, given changes to site ownership, land use and urban morphology, war memorials have been relocated into cemeteries from other sites. FoWM's concerns therefore relate chiefly to historic cemeteries, their environmental, historical and cultural significance, and their current condition and funding.

  The environmental, historical and cultural significance of cemeteries cannot be in doubt (see "Mortal Remains" by Dr C Brooks). Many of the great C19 cemeteries were planned as environmental assets as well as places of burial and share characteristics with public parks of the same period (for example at Nottingham and Liverpool). They were carefully laid out, even landscaped, often with the cemetery buildings as "eyecatchers" and specimen planting of arboretum quality (for example at Coventry, the work of renown architect and designer Joseph Paxton). Cemeteries are also vitally important repositories of memorial and funerary art, design and craft—cemetery chapels, other cemetery buildings such as gatehouses, lodges and shelters, and monuments, individually and as a group or type. Cemeteries are a significant and particular type of heritage resource, but in our experience are not always valued as such. Like the war memorials which many contain, they also provide a wealth of social historical information.

  FoWM recognises that cemeteries present particular management and conservation issues which are of concern—combating casual opportunist and pre-meditated vandalism and misuse, architectural theft, arson attacks on cemetery buildings (which are often disused); and provision of maintenance at an appropriate level and frequency, within budgetary limitations. Levels of statutory protection are also an issue. Whereas some cemeteries are themselves, or lie within, designated Conservation Areas, in others protection is limited to the individual listing of particular monuments (including war memorials), often in the absence of an overview of the grain and complexity of the whole cemetery, which provides the context for these listed memorials. Some cemeteries' significance is recognised by inclusion on English Heritage's Parks and Gardens Register, but this does not afford them any special protection.

  FoWM would identify its key concerns as being security and stewardship of cemeteries and the monuments and memorials they contain, funding for regular upkeep, repairs and emergency works, but also in some instances for rehabilitation of cemeteries where lack of resources or neglect have led to decline over time; and use of the cemetery and its buildings for particular purposes and as an environmental asset.

M A Goodall (Ms)

Conservation Officer

December 2000

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