An original Victorian floor has been discovered under worn lino and carpet during the construction of a multi-million project at one of the country’s most important cemeteries.
Royal Parks' contractors renovating the 19th century chapel at Brompton Cemetery in London uncovered the Bath and York stone radial patterned flooring after peeling back stained and thread-bare carpet.
The flooring is thought to date back to 1840 when the St Peter’s Square-inspired chapel was built. Originally, project consultants had thought the flooring was simply concrete until they started pulling up more of the carpet.
In another exciting discovery, an unusually shaped Victorian brick soakaway (a hole dug into the ground, filled with rubble and coarse stone which allows surface water to percolate back into the earth) has been unearthed under a former car park. Described as looking like an “Alibaba laundry basket”, the structure is also thought to be more than 175 years old.
Experts from Historic England and the Museum of London Archaeology have been informed about both discoveries. The flagstone floor will be restored and take pride of place in the newly renovated chapel. The soakaway will be retained as an important historical feature but sit below a removable flagstone cover in the centre of the floor of the soon-to-be-built visitor and interpretation centre.
The discoveries were made as work started on the £6.2million Brompton Cemetery Conservation project, which has secured £4.5million Parks for People funding from the BIG Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The remaining funding will come from The Royal Parks and a fundraising campaign, which has already raised more than half of its £500,000 target.
The work underway will see the garden cemetery undergo a major facelift which will help recreate the vision that Benjamin Baud and John Claudius Loudon originally designed in 1837.
Nigel Thorne, The Royal Parks’ project manager for the conservation project, said: “As if this project wasn’t exciting enough, making unexpected discoveries like this makes it even more worthwhile.
“Brompton Cemetery is one of the UK’s most important garden cemeteries, which is why we’re investing so much in this historic site. We have a great team of experts working on the project who are all dedicated and passionate about creating a sustainable future for the cemetery and its local communities and residents.
“While we are delighted to have secured lottery funding for this project, and thrilled that generous donors have given thousands of pounds to this cause, we still have about half of our £500,000 target needed to complete the project. I invite anyone who wants to support us to get in touch or pop down to the cemetery and speak to one of the project team.”
The project aims to reflect the needs of a wide range of visitors while protecting the wildlife and retaining the unique character of the garden cemetery.
It will involve:
- turning the North Lodge into a visitor/interpretation centre, cafe and accessible toilets with two small pavilion extensions;
- restoring the majestic chapel, central colonnades and catacombs;
- conserving the historic landscape, buildings and monuments;
- wildlife conservation to maintain and improve existing habitats;
- improving the community use of the garden cemetery with facilities and activities ;
- a volunteering programme to help conserve and interpret the cemetery;
- improving the funerary business to reinvigorate it as a working cemetery where families can lay their loved ones to rest; and
- presenting the 19th and 20th century history of the site in a 21st century way.
The 12-month construction work is expected to be completed by the end of December 2017.
While the lottery funding has been secured, a fundraising campaign to complete the project is still underway with£243,000 still required.
To donate to the Brompton Cemetery appeal please visit www.SupportTheRoyalParks.com or call 020 7036 8060.
Detailed plans for the Brompton Cemetery project can be found on The Royal Parks website