Lottery millions gives cemetery new lease of life

A multi-million pound cash injection from the National Lottery will transform one of the UK’s most unique cemeteries into the best example of its kind.

The Royal Parks (TRP) has secured nearly £4.5million Parks for People funding from the BIG Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to protect the future of the historic and nationally important Brompton Cemetery. As well as this grant, TRP will invest a further £1.2million in the project with an additional £500,000 coming from The Royal Parks Foundation, the charity for The Royal Parks.

The 39 acres of green space is one of the oldest designed Grade 1 cemeteries in the country and houses some unique and historic monuments including its picturesque chapel, which was designed in a similar style to the setting around St Peter’s in Rome.

Among the 205,000 people buried there are notable figures from history including suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Queen Victoria’s surgeon Sir Thomas Spencer Wells as well as thousands of former Chelsea Pensioners.

Now, thanks to this £6.2million project, the cemetery will undergo a major facelift which will help recreate the vision that Benjamin Baud originally designed in 1840.

The project aims to reflect the needs of a wide range of visitors while protecting the wildlife and retaining the unique character of the cemetery.

Following a consultation last year to determine what the public wanted from the cemetery, the project has now been given the green light from local council planners and the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and BIG Lottery Fund.

It will involve:

  • turning the North Lodge into a visitor centre, shop, 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 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.

Greg McErlean, the Director at The Royal Parks who is leading the project, said: “This project is focused on transforming a superb but relatively little known Victorian cemetery into a vital 21st century community asset that delights visitors from further afield and serves as a source of inspiration for other cemetery managers.

“The Royal Parks is at the forefront of modern day management of parks and other green spaces such as Brompton, and I’m delighted that this has been recognised by both the National Lottery and planners.

“Our vision is to make Brompton a real community asset, and that is why I’m so pleased that the local community has had a big say in what should be included in this project.”

Arthur Tait, the Chairman of the Friends of Brompton Cemetery, said: “The project will help bring a new lease of life to the cemetery; from conserving the landscape and buildings to providing visitor, volunteer and information facilities. It will be a hub for volunteering, training, and a place of relaxation for children and families while still being a haven for those who want peace, quiet and beauty.”

Increased pressure on budgets and question marks over the future management of Brompton Cemetery has meant its condition has deteriorated over the years.

Royal Parks Board member Wesley Kerr, who is also working on the Brompton Project, said: “Brompton Cemetery is as much for the living as for the dead. It is architecturally astonishing, full of magnificent sculptures, monuments and buildings set in a very beautiful designed landscape. It is a place where history comes alive and a marvellous communal green space for a densely populated part of London.

“We aim to make this a model restoration of an urban garden cemetery, with sympathetic conservation of the original buildings, modern facilities, innovative interpretation and story-telling . Brompton will continue to be a haven for wildlife and will combine great horticulture with areas of wilderness.

“The Royal Parks has a long record of conserving and managing some of our most precious parks and monuments. But finances are tight, and we are immensely grateful to the National Lottery for enabling this project, which we hope will be an outstanding exemplar of the role cemeteries can play in our environmental and social ecology.”

The Royal Parks Foundation has raised half of its £500,000 target, but additional generous support is needed, as Chief Executive Sara Lom explains: “Brompton Cemetery is a beautiful monument to our nation’s history. It’s a final place of rest for notable figures and unsung heroes in equal measure.

“The Royal Parks Foundation invites the local community, including visitors, friends, companies and trusts to make their mark by supporting this delicate and much needed conservation project.

“Together we can create a successful conservation model that celebrates urban green spaces and beautiful cemeteries across the land. Please help us to make this possible.”

To donate to the Brompton Cemetery appeal please visit the Royal Parks Foundation website or call 020 7036 8060.

As well as funding, the project is also calling out for volunteers who will play a huge part in the future management and enjoyment of the cemetery. To find out more about volunteering opportunities contact The Brompton Cemetery Project Office on, telephone 020 7349 8161 or write to The Partnership and Community Engagement Office, c/o The Chapel Office, Brompton Cemetery, Fulham Road, London, SW10 9UG.