He is Dick Empson a local resident who started working as a volunteer in the cemetery after he retired from work from BCC. His main interest so far has been in recording the remaining memorial inscriptions at Key Hill, a project being undertaken by a small group of volunteers.
They plan to produce a comprehensive record of each section of the cemetery, together with research into the persons interred there, complete with photographs and notes on the present condition of each memorial.
Ultimately this will be made available to researchers and others with an interest in the cemetery and will form the cornerstone of the campaign to restore and refurbish what has become a sadly neglected part of Birmingham’s heritage.
Another group of volunteers led by the indefatigable Colin Giles, are also regularly working in the cemetery to remove litter and cut back invasive vegetation. Colin, who is also a key volunteer for both the Hockley Flyer and the Pen Room, has recently discovered the base of the former sundial, associated paths and bench bases as was reported in the last issue.
The Friends hope to find a means to bring this feature back into proper use, paced as it is in an elevated position on top of the Catacombs, it provides a perfect place to sit and reflect and enjoy the diverse flora and fauna of the cemetery.
Another project is to gather information about war casualties recorded on memorials in Key Hill. Whilst not actually buried in the cemetery such memorials may be the only tangible record of such heroes, and the sacrifice they and their families made must not be forgotten. In addition to producing a booklet about them it is hoped to involve local schools in preserving these memorials and in learning more about the people recorded.
Each year the Friends organise an ‘Open Day’ as a means of publicising its work and helping visitors understand the cemetery and what it means. This year the event is to be on Saturday September 13th. It is planned to provide more details in the next issue of the Hockley Flyer.
The Friends are keen to find new members, whether or not they can be actively involved in the group’s projects, who share in the objective of preserving Key Hill and improving access to it so that its unique character can be properly enjoyed.
Dick Empson – (Chairman).