Arnos Vale Cemetery occupies over 45 acres of steep hillside within the city of Bristol near the River Avon. It was laid out between 1836 and 1840 and is one of this country’s first metropolitan cemeteries, and one of its earliest planned cemeteries. It is a good example of an Arcadian landscape of Greek revival cemetery buildings and specimen planting. The cemetery is prominently visible from much of central Bristol and also has views out towards the city. Part of the cemetery is included on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest (Grade II*). The entire site is located within the Arnos Vale Conservation Area and is designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) in the Bristol Local Plan. The whole cemetery is of considerable ecological importance with a mosaic of wildlife habitats and an extensive variety of species.
Nicholas Pearson Associates’ (NPA) involvement started in 1999, producing the landscape proof of evidence for the public enquiry into the Compulsory Purchase Order of the cemetery by Bristol City Council (BCC) and the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust (AVCT). The cemetery was in private ownership and in a state of disrepair, and the owner planned to sell the site for commercial development. NPA then worked within a team of consultants led by Architects Purcell Miller Tritton. A successful Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid secured funding to restore the cemetery, and NPA were retained to oversee the implementation of the proposals.
The cemetery’s landscape, buildings, tombs and monuments were all in extremely poor condition. Substantial work was needed to conserve its heritage value and arrest further deterioration, but also to improve public circulation and enjoyment of the cemetery. Works needed included restoration of all of the buildings; repair and conservation of listed monuments and tombs; repair of the cemetery boundaries; management of existing vegetation; resurfacing of paths and roads, and improvements in maintenance operations.
The cemetery was officially opened in Spring 2010 and now offers venue hire, amenity value, education, open days and guided walks, conservation activities, in addition to its revival as a working cemetery.
Approximate Map Location
Nicholas Pearson Associates Ltd
Bristol City Council (owners), Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust (tenants)
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Joint winners of the English Heritage Angel Award for the best rescue of any other entry from the 'Heritage at Risk Register', 2011; Winner, Heritage & Conservation category, LI Awards 2010
Restoration of a Victorian cemetery from a state of neglect to one that provides a contemporary facility for the community to enjoy while giving due consideration to the wide range of heritage and conservation elements contained within it.
Project Management: City Design Group, Bristol City Council; Lead Consultant/ Architects: Purcell Miller Tritton; Quantity Surveyor: Gleeds; CDM Co-ordinator: Gleeds; Health and Safety Structural Engineer: Mann Williams; M & E engineer: Integrated Design Partnership; Lead Ecologist: Wessex Ecological Consultancy; Bat Specialist: Clarke Webb; EcologyArboroculturalists: The F.A. Bartlett; Tree Expert Co Ltd; Topographic Surveyors: Anthony Brookes Surveys Ltd
Bristol City Council
Heritage Lottery Fund; Bristol City Council; English Heritage; Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust
Eradication of notable invasive weed species from the site, eg Japanese Knotweed
The decision was made by the design team that a careful balance should be sought between complete neglect and obsessive tidiness, both of which are unattractive for a cemetery.
One of the aims of the restoration works was to improve Arnos Vale's value as a public amenity resource. The restoration of footpaths and roads has facilitated people's enjoyment of the site by improving access and safety throughout the site and connections to neighbouring residential areas. The methods of landscape management and maintenance have been carefully developed to respect the diverse ecology of the site and to sure its continued resource as varied wildlife habitat.
The following key features of the heritage landscape and associated management practices were incorporated within the final implemented scheme:
Main Contractors: Ken Biggs Ltd Landscape Contractors: Silvanus