Raising the cash to rescue the past:
Restoring gravestones in Birmingham’s two oldest cemeteries
What we’re raising money for:
We are partnering with the Friends of Key Hill and Warstone Lane to raise money to restore gravestones in Birmingham’s two oldest cemeteries.
They’re not only the final resting place of some of the most important figures in Birmingham's history. These gravestones also tell stories of Birmingham's past that might otherwise be forgotten.
Today the landscapes of both cemeteries are listed on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens in recognition of their great historic importance.
Over the last 17 years, the Friends of Key Hill and Warstone Lane have successfully raised the funds to restore around ten gravestones every year, but their fundraising efforts have been put on hold because of Covid.
They care for these historic cemeteries on behalf of the people of Birmingham and we want to help them in their endeavours.
This project aims to restore the gravestones to their former glory and protect them for future generations.
We want to preserve a sense of the past, while allowing the public to take pleasure from these spaces. The cemeteries are, after all, one of the only green spaces in the centre of the city today.
How many gravestones?
Our aspiration is to restore 15 of the most ‘at risk’ gravestones. Each headstone costs between £200 and £300 to repair, so in order to do this we would need at at least £3,500.
We’d love to restore many more, and our ultimate aim is 20 gravestones, but for now we're starting with what we believe is an achievable target.
We want to highlight the work of the Friends more widely to the people of Birmingham (and beyond) and to give you the opportunity to help preserve a key part of our history.
How you can help
The Jewellery Quarter Cemeteries Project has already successfully carried out much-needed work on the two cemeteries: repairing boundary walls and catacombs, installing new railings, drainage and pathways. Now it’s time to focus on restoring the gravestones, many of which are approaching 200 years old!
We need your help to breathe life back into this wonderful landscape. We have plenty of rewards to entice you to make a pledge, a pledge that will secure the fabric of these unique places for the future residents of Birmingham.
Birmingham’s two oldest cemeteries
Key Hill Cemetery
Originally known as the Birmingham General Cemetery, it opened in 1836 and was Birmingham’s first garden cemetery. It was founded by a group of non-conformist businessmen to solve the shortage of burial space in the city, but was open to all creeds and denominations. Prior to this, non-conformists (protestants who did not adhere to the doctrine of the Church of England) couldn’t have their own ministers conduct their funerals. Before the cemetery opened, most nonconformists had no choice but to accept a Church of England burial in the Parish churchyard.
The success of The Birmingham General Cemetery went some way to offsetting the shortage of burial space in the city, especially for nonconformists, but Birmingham was still growing. The parish churchyards were full to overflowing and their condition causing difficulties for the Church of England authorities.
They decided to follow the example of the nonconformists and open a new cemetery of their own. The site they selected could not have been more perfect – in fact, it was right next door!
In 1845, the company purchased land from Sir Thomas Gooch and Richard Vyse. This new cemetery was consecrated on 8th August 1848 by the Bishop of Worcester and was opened for burial in the following week.
Reward your pledge with one of our limited-edition goodies!
We've teamed up with local artist, Made on the Canal, to produce some cemetery-inspired rewards to entice you to pledge your support! All our rewards are limited edition and will only be available for the duration of the Crowdfunder, so get them while you can!
We have two badges designed by Made on the Canal up for grabs; one inspired by Key Hill Cemetery and the other by Warstone Lane.
The Jewellery Quarter Cemeteries are filled with symbolic plants and greenery and they are also carved into the headstones. To help you interpret the fascinating imagery as you wander through these spaces, we have commissioned Gemma Ince and Peter Cartwright to create a hand-printed, lino and letter-pressed, limited-edition guide to the nature and symbolism that can be to found in these spaces. These images show some of their work-in-progress.
But our most limited edition reward, with only 10 available, is the A5-framed print of Warstone Lane - also by Made on the Canal. With its eye-popping cherry blossom and 3D relief, this will add a splash of colour and charm to any room.
To learn more about which rewards we have on offer, just navigate your way to the right-hand side of our project page. This will tell you how to get your hands on all our rewards.