Works Pave Way for Supernatural Future

By on 02/07/2009 in News

Photo-Call

Where: Front Gates, Key Hill Cemetery, Icknield Street
When: 12 noon, Monday 6th July

Costumed guides from the 'Birmingham Ghost Tour' will join Cllr Neville Summerfield at the entrance to the Jewellery Quarters' 19th Century Key Hill Cemetery to unveil the nearly refurbished Grade II listed entrance and gates to the site.

Visitors and 'residents' of Birmingham's oldest cemetery are looking forward to an exciting new future, after Birmingham City Council completed a £120,000 project to restore the Grade II listed entrance of Key Hill Cemetery to its original 18th Century grandeur.

Situated in the Jewellery Quarter the cemetery first opened for burials in 1836, and is the resting place for many important 19th century Birmingham figures, including Joseph Chamberlain, George Dawson and Alfred Bird.

A popular haunt not just for tourists but also those taking part in ghost walks of the city, the site is on English Heritage's Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Interest in England.

Restoration works, funded in partnership between English Heritage and the Council's Big City Plan, were required due to the poor state of repair of the stone piers, caused by severe sandstone erosion and impact that theft and vandalism has had on the grand iron gates.

Councillor Neville Summerfield, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said, “Key Hill Cemetery is a true historic and cultural gem at the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, and I am sure restoring these gates to their original magnificence will only enhance its appeal.

“Creating and supporting unique spaces that reflect the history and architecture of our great city is a key strand of the Big City Plan, and its aim to promote the prosperity of all areas of Birmingham.”

As well as allowing daytime visitors to soak in the serene setting and beautiful architecture of the cemetery, completion of works should also mean the cemetery's supernatural history is brought back to life.

Councillor Len Gregory, Cabinet Member for Street Services and Transportation, added, “The restored gates and piers will enable Key Hill Cemetery to fulfil one of its original purposes, providing a quiet space for local people, with access and walkways in a pleasant, safe environment”.

Works to the exterior of the cemetery will compliment projects within being led by the The Friends of Key Hill and Warstone Lane Cemeteries, which have already led to the restoration of the JH Chamberlain Memorial, and in future is hoped will lead to work taking place on memorials dedicated to Thomas Walker and Joseph Tangye.

Dick Empson from Friends of Key Hill Cemetery said, “The repair of the pillars and gates is welcomed by the Friends of Key Hill, which is a community group dedicated to the preservation, maintenance and restoration of the cemetery. Initiatives include regular clean ups, educational talks, an annual open day and several restoration projects”.

Key Hill cemetery is to be included in the Birmingham Ghost Walks, which were launched earlier this year.  The walks aim to provide an entertaining and informative look at the darker side of Birmingham and some of the key figures who have lived and died in the city.  They begin outside the Council House, said to be haunted by Joseph Chamberlain, and organisers are delighted that they will now be able to finish in the place his body is buried, bringing the story full circle. 

Meanwhile, the cemetery has plenty of stories of its own and is the site of numerous reported haunting and paranormal activity, including shadowy figures and ghostly lantern lights.  Overall, it provides a perfect atmospheric location to end the tours as darkness falls.  At the same time, the Ghost Walks are a great way to spread the word about Key Hill and its historic importance.

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