Coventry’s historic London Road Cemetery is set to be given a new lease of life following the appointment of a landscape design specialist to undertake design work to support its £1m refurbishment.
The Grade I listed cemetery was created by celebrated designer Joseph Paxton in 1845 and the work is being carried out following a grant award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
IDP Landscape, a division of Coventry-based architectural and urban design practice IDP, has been awarded the contract to oversee the latest stage of the site’s transformation.
Stage one of the HLF funded plan set an overview for the refurbishment project and now greater design detail will be added working alongside local stakeholders such as the Friends of London Road Cemetery.
The scheme aims to restore Paxton’s original design intent, undertaking horticultural and tree works as well as repairing major features such as The Promenade, the Anglican Chapel and key monuments.
William Wheeler, IDP Landscape’s Design Director, said: “Joseph Paxton was at the height of his powers when he designed London Road Cemetery and it is quite rightly recognised as one of the top five historic cemeteries in the UK.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to retrieve and restore Paxton’s original design intent and at the same time refurbish an important and historic place which the people of Coventry will once again be able to fully enjoy and appreciate.
“The support of the HLF, Coventry City Council and the Historic Coventry Trust in making this possible is invaluable and we are also keen to engage and work with the local community and volunteers. We hope the refurbishment of the park encourages people to get involved and learn new skills, and that it builds upon existing pride and ownership in the cemetery.
“This really is one of Coventry’s most delightful spaces with a rich historical significance and it is very appropriate that this work is being carried out as the city prepares its bid to become City of Culture in 2021.”
The cemetery was designed as an arboretum, with many new species of trees including exotics, and combines a cemetery and an arboretum park over a seven hectare site. It also includes three chapels and the ageing cemetery and its buildings are now badly in need of repair.
Councillor Jayne Innes, Cabinet Member for City Services, said, "Our wonderful London Road Cemetery is a really special place. I know it's highly valued by the people that live close by. But it really is worth a visit wherever people live.
"The grant money from HLF will mean we can get on and lavish proper care on the site. We will also use it to encourage more people to enjoy it and learn about it and this will help to ensure it is protected for many years to come.
“Over the next few weeks we will asking local people to help us plan for the future by completing a quick survey. I hope lots of people will take five minutes to have their say."
Joseph Paxton was an English gardener, architect and MP who went on to design London’s Crystal Palace seven years later. Notable Coventrians buried in the cemetery include George Singer who founded the Singer Cycle Company and is credited with the design of the first curved fork, still used in modern bicycles. His works' football team, Singer FC, went on to become Coventry City FC.
IDP Landscape is part of IDP which employs more than 100 professionals in landscape design, architecture, planning and project management and has its main office in Coventry’s Spon Street.