Call for community to help conserve historic Keynsham Cemetery

Published on: 06 Feb 2017

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As any family historian would say, cemeteries are a rich link to a community’s past – and that is particularly true of Keynsham Cemetery.

With its listed Victorian chapels above ground, Roman remains hidden beneath, and as a place of remembrance for many of today’s residents, it is a valued site.

Its structures, however, have been showing signs of their age recently with a 17-metre stretch of wall crumbling into neighbouring school playing fields, subsidence on its driveway and erosion on some of the banks that surround it.

As a result Keynsham Town Council, which owns and maintains the site, has announced it will be investing in a programme of works in the cemetery in coming months and years to secure it for future generations.

The most pressing work will be to the boundaries, to rebuild the lost dry stone wall – once permission has been secured from the diocese and Broadlands Academy – and permanently restore the barrier along Durley Hill, which will be put out to tender in the coming financial year.

Town clerk Dr Cheryl Scott said: “First of all, what a wonderful place the cemetery is, how beautiful and full of wildlife it is with Grade II-listed buildings and some of the walls listed, too. The town council has maintained the cemetery over the years but there comes a time with old structures that perhaps you need to do more.”

Restoration of the chapel is one aim, with around £50,000 already set aside for future work at the cemetery by the council, which will also be looking at other grants and funding available – but there is also the chance for the community to play a part in conservation at the site, too.

Dr Scott added: “The town council wants to issue an invitation to schools, colleges, wildlife organisations and community groups to work with the town council in putting together a proposal to conserve the cemetery and chapel, to make it more accessible to the people of Keynsham with a focus on educating them about its history and significance.”

Archaeologists who carried out excavations at the cemetery in 2015, led by Bryn Walters, are keen to return to carry out work on the intriguing ruins that were first examined in the 1920s.

Speaking at a Keynsham Town Council meeting in April last year, Mr Walters said he believed the remains could be “one of the most important buildings ever found in Britain” and envisaged archaeologists creating a visible outline of the building in the grass and new information panels for visitors.

Whether it will happen isn’t clear, but the site already holds great significance for many local people – anyone who is interested in finding out more about getting involved with conservation at the cemetery can contact the town council on 0117 986 8683 or email townclerk@keynsham-tc.gov.uk

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