Friends of Chesham Cemetery
Above: The interior of the newly restored Hearse House. Image courtesy of Phil Folly
The Friends of Chesham Cemetery are a hard working group of volunteers who are interested in the condition, history and future of the town's cemetery. In 2015, they completed the Hearse House project. Hearse House is a Victorian building near the Bellingdon Road entrance to the cemetery, which at one time, housed the town's bier, which was used to safely transport coffins up the narrow and sloping paths of the cemetery. Hearse House has been disused for some time, but the Friends saw the potential to create a space that could be used to teach people about the cemetery's heritage. The Friends worked with the Town Council on a successful bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to refurbish the building and fit it out as an exhibition centre. They were also able to obtain a grant from Chiltern District Council for display boards and items of furniture to go in Hearse House.
The first exhibition focused on the world wars and was held on Remembrance Sunday in 2015. This was a low-key launch for the centre to check how it could best be used. Visitors got to investigate the building, enjoy the exhibition and a small amount of money was raised for future work. An official opening will be held in the Spring.
The Friends also did a lot of other valuable work during 2015, including liaising with the Police on anti-social behaviour, holding a fundraising stall at Chesham Carnival and working on the wildflower meadow. This small area of natural chalk grassland meadow near the Chapel has begun to show evidence of new plant species moving in, now several years into this project.
Looking ahead, there are plans to hold guided walks in the cemetery in 2016 in conjunction with Chesham Museum, and the Friends intend to continue with painting decorative railings around some of the older graves.
Thanks are due to all the Friends, but especially Sharon McEwan, a tireless volunteer with the Friends who has done much research on graves in the cemetery and who has helped relatives enquiring after their loved ones who are buried there.
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