Work on disused cemetery begins

A project to restore one of Liverpool’s oldest burial grounds has begun.

Deane Road cemetery in Kensington has fallen into disrepair and is inaccessible. Covered by foliage is a Grade II listed Greek revival gateway and wall built in 1836 and memorials to significant members of the community – including department store founder and philanthropist David Lewis.

The Old Hebrew Congregation burial board is responsible for the upkeep of the cemetery, which held its last funeral in 1904. But it has been hampered by a lack of funds and has had trouble tracing relatives.

The work has now been taken on by the Groundwork Trust – an environmental charity dedicated to making sustainable development a reality in many of the UK’s poorest communities. It has received £5,000 and £3,000 from Kensington New Deal and Community 7 Housing Association respectively to begin work on transforming the cemetery into a community garden.

The project will take longer than expected after contractors who went on site this week found it was choked in Japanese knotweed – in some place 6ft high. It grows quickly and forms dense thickets and its spread is aided by fly tipping.

Groundwork Trust development officer Ruth Webster explained: “It could take up to two years to completely destroy the knotweed, using flame and chemicals. It is extremely difficult to eradicate once well established.”

When the knotweed is cleared, Ruth will consult with the Jewish and Kensington communities to decide on a suitable plan for a community garden. This will include using the site as a green classroom for local schools and there will be full local consultation. Ruth said: “There are 400 headstones and memorials in the cemetery and we will need volunteers from the Jewish community to decide what to do with them and mark out the paths. We obviously don’t want to contravene Jewish laws or desecrate anything, so we will need advice. Ultimately, I see the cemetery as a memorial garden – a little haven for the community with benches, flowers, trees and bushes.”

In the shorter term, Ruth intends to bring in a structural engineer to carry out a survey on the front wall and iron fencing and for the repair of the internal perimeter walls. She is also finalising bids for further grants to continue the project along with a continuing maintenance plan.

Rabbi M L Cofnas, senior rabbi to the Liverpool community, welcomed the plans “in principle”. But he said respect for the graves must be maintained and that paths should go around and not over them.