LOTTERY funding of nearly £300,000 has been secured to ensure the future of an historic cemetery and burial ground near Falmouth.
Falmouth Town Council and the Friends of Ponsharden Cemeteries have been given £296,000 National Lottery funding to restore the Dissenter’s Burying Ground and adjacent Jewish Cemetery at Ponsharden.
The steering group for the restoration of Ponsharden Cemeteries says the green light from The National Lottery Heritage Fund means they can now deliver this important heritage project. Thanks to National Lottery players, the £296,000 grant has been awarded as part of the three year, £500,000 project and work is due to commence shortly.
For many years these cemeteries suffered from neglect and vandalism to the extent that they were included on Historic England’s ‘heritage at risk register’. In 2012, a cohort of local volunteers led by local residents Tom Weller and Rob Nunn decided to take action. Undergrowth was cleared and the full extent of the damage revealed. In 2018, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, granted the project £50,000 to develop our restoration plans.
The works will include the stabilisation of the north earth bank on the busy Falmouth Road; the restoration of the arched stair to the Dissenter’s Burying Ground; some tree clearance and of course, restoration of the gravestones and vaults themselves. In addition, a new accessible pathway will connect the two cemeteries and some additional landscaping and restoration of the stone walling will improve the boundaries.
The Jewish cemetery was founded in 1780 and the Dissenters in 1808 and together they were in active use for just over 100 years and contain over 700 burials, many unmarked. They give us a glimpse into Falmouth’s long multi-cultural history, and display Cornwall’s inter-connected place in Georgian and Victorian Europe, offering an insight into Cornwall’s wide reaching trade links and the importance of Falmouth as an international packet boat port in the 19th century.
In 2019, the Jewish cemetery was voted one of the ten pre-eminent ‘Faith and Belief sites’ in Historic England’s A History of England in 100 Places (on a par with Stonehenge, Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Brick Lane Mosque, Spitalfields and Fountains Abbey).
The restoration project will give plenty of opportunities for members of the local community of all ages to become involved once the site has been made safe to access. The cemeteries also provide a haven for wildlife and will become a much needed contemplative green space as the areas adjacent undergo redevelopment.
The site is significant as symbolic of both social exclusion (of non-conformists and the Jewish communities buried on the outskirts of both towns) but also of inclusion (both communities working together to maintain the cemeteries) and also illustrative of the socio-economic and cultural history of those times and the parallels that can be drawn with society today.
Commenting on the award Henrietta Boex, director of cultural services for Falmouth Town Council, said: “After many years of hard work by a brilliant team of dedicated volunteers in both cemeteries with whom we are now partnered, we are extremely pleased to have received this support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and would like to thank all National Lottery players without whom it could not have happened. This will be a great project for the local community to get involved with and its legacy will provide another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of our unique heritage for years to come”