Arnos Vale Cemetery

Site: Arnos Vale Cemetery
Type: Public Open Space
Location: Bristol
Owner: Bristol City Council
Manager: Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust


Bristol City Council served a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to acquire this historic cemetery before transferring management to the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust (AVCT).

The project was subsequently awarded £4.8m of funding from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards repair and restoration costs. A 125-year lease was renewed with Bristol City Council in 2013.

The Trust has redeveloped and hires out several venues for private events and delivers a diverse programme of arts, educational and public events - this allows revenue to be generated towards the costs for managing the historic landscape and its assets.


Arnos Vale Cemetery is included in Historic England's Register of Historic Parks & Gardens (Grade II*). It contains a number of designated heritage assets.

The site came to the attention of the local community in the 1980s when, due to the failing commercial viability of the cemetery, the owner of the site declared an intention to develop part of it for residential use. Following a high-profile media campaign, Bristol City Council served a CPO and took ownership in 2003. The AVCT were subsequently awarded a licence to manage the site and kept it open during a major restoration programme.

Arnos Vale Cemetery was relaunched in May 2010.Key elements of the restoration project include the repair and conversion of one of the lodge buildings into a shop and visitor centre. An education project was also developed along with site interpretation, tours, talks and ticketed events.

This allows for revenue to be generated towards the project’s costs and for the management of the historic landscape and its monuments.

A successful model

Key elements of the restoration project include the repair and conversion of one of the lodge buildings into a shop and visitor centre. Two Grade II listed buildings have been restored and are hired out as flexible spaces for events, weddings, conferences and musical performances with an in-house booking office.

In 2014 acoustic work was undertaken to one of the venues to enable more theatre and musical concerts to be held. Other facilities include a licensed bar and café, which has been run by a private business since 2012.

The Trust applied successfully for a Santander Social Enterprise Development Award of £50,000 in 2012, which funded the construction of a timber frame building in the forest built largely by volunteers.

This venue is used for weddings, craft workshops and educational activities for children, families and adults. Themed tours and workshops are provided for primary and secondary schools, including a forest schools programme.  

The Trust now employs the equivalent of nine full-time staff, including a fundraiser, and have 60 active volunteers.

In January 2013 a dedicated Friends' group was set up and continue to support the Trust on all types of landscaping work, as tour guides, running the gift shop and reception, and carrying out various research and administrative roles.

Arnos Vale Cemetery is still a working cemetery with burial plots, cremation plots and gardens of remembrance.


In 2005 the Trust were awarded £4.8m from HLF towards the restoration of the cemetery, covering 75% of the estimated costs. Linked to the HLF grant was the provision of a loan facility by the Architectural Heritage Fund.

Match funding of approximately £600,000 has been raised by AVCT from a number of sources including Bristol City Council, charities, the friends' group and individual donations. An approximate £250,000-worth of equivalent volunteer time was also given throughout the restoration period.

The Trust have support from HLF's Catalyst endowment fund and have a target of raising £500,000 between 2013 and June 2016, which will be matched pound for pound by HLF. The annual return from this fund will cover basic maintenance and running costs.