The Friends of Key Hill and Warstone Lane Cemeteries have received a cheque for £4,000 from Service Birmingham, the company which provides the IT for Birmingham City Council.
The Friends are painstakingly restoring this significant Birmingham landmark which was nearly destroyed by the local authority ‘toppling policy’. Council safety officers ordered hundreds of headstones to be pushed over in 2004 to avoid litigation in case masonry ‘fell on’ someone. Then the cemetery became a black-spot for rubbish dumping and graffiti.
The Friends have now cleaned up the area and are helping families find the graves of their ancestors. Their aim is to restore a green space in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter to be enjoyed by residents and workers in the area.
The cheque was presented to the trustees by Mrs Maddy Westrop who successfully applied for funding from her staff benefit fund. “This historic treasure was nearly lost because of health and safety madness,” says Mrs Westrop.” I was so glad to do something to rebuild Birmingham’s heritage that was almost lost.”
The money will be used to restore some of the larger and more important tombs.
The Friends have just restored their hundredth grave. Each one has to be fixed by a skilled mason.
The Friends run guided tours to raise money while they clear and restore the Key Hill and Warstone Cemeteries. They also help families locate relatives’ graves.
A spokesman for the Friends, Brian Southwell, said: “This is a fantastic bonus in this time of increasing cut backs, allowing some of the larger Victorian monuments to be restored to their former glory, as well as guaranteeing the successful continuation of the restoration programme for the near future.”
The cemeteries contain the remains of every sort of Birmingham resident. One grave contains the remains of an aborigine who came to England in Victorian times and died in the cold climate. Key Hill’s most significant occupant is Joseph Chamberlain; also there you will find Alfred Bird (of Birds Custard), John Baskerville the printer, Harry Gem, creator of modern Lawn tennis, and a Birmingham jeweller who won the Victoria Cross, Private James Cooper VC.
For enquiries about guided tours, schools outings, family graves and genealogy services, as well as donations, please contact Brian Southwell, Secretary, Friends of Key Hill and Warstone Lane Cemeteries, 23 Quincey Drive, Erdington, Birmingham B24 9LX. Email . Tel 0121 382 1634 or 07905054210
Brian Southwell Secretary, Friends of Key Hill and Warstone Lane Cemeteries.