A major heritage site
The JQRT has done a great job in promoting the cemetery as a major heritage site, an attractive place with a rich history. Its members have placed a wealth of information online about the burials (over 60,000 people are interred there) as well as many biographies, short articles and notes about those interred.
An excellent feature is a beautifully presented set of e-books, with copies of documents, research notes, biographies, maps and plans. One example, Memory Lane by Barry Crighton, gives valuable biographical information concerning 69 graves (holding 248 burials) around the junction of three sections of the cemetery. These are not famous some of the Martineau family, relations of Harriet Martineau, the prominent midVictorian social reformer. A family tree in the online notes includes the interesting snippet that Elizabeth Martineau (1771-1848), whose grave is there, was the 5x great grandmother of the Duchess of Cambridge, so there’s a royal connection.
Incidentally, Key Hill is also the final resting place of some of Martin Shaw’s ancestors, and was visited by the actor in his episode of WDYTYA? last year. This included his industrialist great great grandfather, Edmund Eaborn, whose grave was among those removed to make way for the tramline that runs through one portion of the cemetery. However, Edmund’s name was transferred to a commemorative plaque, which itself has been transcribed and can be found online.
Doug Wilks, chair of the Trust, told me the late Dick Empson did the groundwork, spending over seven years recording memorials at the cemeteries. The original plan was to produce a book, but online publication proved cheaper (there are over 160,000 records on the site) and made the information much more accessible. The JQRT is, he says, an online information centre, accessed by almost 2,000 visitors a month – a fantastic achievement.
The group is now turning its attention to other projects connected with the heritage of the Jewellery Quarter. For instance, it is an associate and supporter of an imaginative scheme to turn the iconic but derelict Grade-II listed four-storey Standard Works, in the heart of the area, into a new centre for education, culture and community, including a college for young people with learning difficulties.
The cemetery project is continuing, though, and the Trust is always looking for more information and photos about those buried there. If you have Birmingham kin it is well worth checking the site and searching the databases and e-books.
If you can’t get to the cemetery itself the Trust is trialling a ‘virtual tour’, a video which lets you see what it looks like from the comfort of your own armchair!
Key Hill is also the final resting place of some of Martin Shaw’s ancestors
The commemorative plaque at Key Hill which shows the name of industrialist Edmund Eaborn, great great grandfather of actor Martin Shaw