Bristol City Council has taken possession of Arnos Vale Cemetery
Arnos Vale CemeteryA 16-year campaign to save a neglected cemetery in Bristol has finally been won. On 7th August 2003, Bristol City Council has at long last taken possession of the 45-acre Arnos Vale Cemetery from the Bristol General Cemetery Company, which was run by businessman Tony Towner.

The Evening Post helped the campaign back in April 1998, by launching the Arnos Vale Army - a willing band of volunteers who ensured the cemetery stayed open each day after an announcement by Mr Towner's company, Bristol General Cemetery Company, that it could no longer afford to run the graveyard.

The paper paid for lawyers to represent the volunteers after writs were served against them for trespass. The case was thrown out by a judge.

A Compulsory Purchase Order had been served on the owner of Arnos Vale Cemetery in South Bristol by the City Council. It followed a study by Niall Philips Architects that proposes that the cemetery be taken over by a charitable trust that would restore the historic buildings with the aid of grants. The private cemetery was opened in 1840 and has a number of listed buildings and monuments, including the tomb of Raja Rammohun Roy.

The city council has paid a start-up deposit of 250,000 into the endowment fund which will be managed by Greater Bristol Foundation on behalf of Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust an independent charitable trust which will look after the cemetery once ownership has been transferred to the city council. This will manage the multi-million pound restoration project for the beleaguered graveyard, which is bristling with listed buildings and monuments that have been crumbling for years.

Work has already begun to remove dangerous trees and repair a crumbling wall. The council has set aside 2m towards the cost of the restoration programme which hopes to win a further 3m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. A fundraising campaign to be launched later in 2003 with aims to build the endowment fund to 3 million by 2008.

Richard Smith, chairman of the Friends of Arnos Vale, said: "We have waited a long time for this to happen and now we are in sight of our goal - to improve and enhance the buildings and landscape of the cemetery - and save this very special jewel in Bristol's historic crown for the people of Bristol and the wider world."

The ownership battle included lengthy compulsory purchase order proceedings that were eventually won after a final legal challenge in London was thrown out four months ago.

The Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor Bill Martin said: "Arnos Vale Cemetery is a very important part of the city's social history and a valuable wildlife habitat. We can now see the finishing line of a very long race which has only been achieved with as a result of successful partnership between the city council, the Friends of Arnos Vale Cemetery, the Evening Post and the people of Bristol. Once we have gained ownership of the site, this endowment fund will help the Trust to start to safeguard the future of the cemetery."

Once the restoration project is finished, the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust will be granted a 125-year lease of the site at a peppercorn rent.

See Press Release by Bristol City Council at the Friends of Arnos Vale Cemetery site.

Learn about the Restoration project carried out by the BBC at Arnos Vale

Read the BBC news story of compulsory purchase of the cemetery

See article on Arnos Vale cemetery at http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk