Boardmove on disused cemeteries
THE BOARD of Deputies has begun an audit of all the cemeteries it looks after in Britain to find out who owns them and who is responsible for their upkeep. It has also launched an appeal to raise the funds needed to maintain the cemeteries, hoping to generate around £50,000.
Solicitor David Marcus, the deputy for Muswell Hill, has begun researching Land Registry and other records to try to find out who owns the cemeteries, some of which are centuries old.
“The Board has accepted responsibility for cemeteries around the country, virtually all of which are now out of use,” Mr Marcus explained. Some have title deeds in the name of Board honorary officers who have died, while others are in the name of the local community, or with the local authority.
“We want to start a new company and place in it all the cemeteries and any others that become its responsibility, so they are outside the Board. For example, a number are mentioned on the Jewish Heritage website, some of which are at risk, that we know nothing about and are not part of the Board’s group. The problem is: Who will look after them?”
Mr Marcus said it was difficult to raise money for the upkeep of cemeteries. “People tell us they want to spend money on the living rather than the dead. We would like to establish a fund which would have enough money to look after the cemeteries the Board currently maintains.”
After joining the Board’s heritage group, he volunteered to take on the job of tracking down who owned the title to each cemetery.
“Some of t hem are better off than others. Canterbury, for instance, has an agreement with the local authority; Penzance has a similar arrangement.
“The title deed for Bath, which goes back to 1820, names the local community. There is a cemetery at Sheerness but no community. Who is going to maintain that?”
Board chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “We are not looking for a huge amount of money, nor are we looking to install CCTV or high fences. But as the years go by, the costs of maintaining the cemeteries will increase and we want to be able to keep them properly.”
Smashed graves at the Bancroft Road cemetery in Mile End, East London