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Brookwood Cemetery

Case study: Brookwood, Woking, Surrey GU24 0BL (South East)

List entry number: 1001265

Brookwood Cemetery park and garden at risk, the Columbarium
The Columbarium, Brookwood Cemetery

Background and history

Brookwood Cemetery is a grade I registered park and garden (RPG). Despite its status as a burial ground, this classification as a park is appropriate. It was laid out (probably by Henry Abraham) as a park interspersed with buildings. It still has this character

The cemetery was formed of heath land near Woking by the 'London Necropolis Company' in 1852. It was created to accommodate the dead of London when cemeteries there were unable to cope with demand. It is very large (145 hectares), and it houses a huge variety of tombs and monuments.

The cemetery is still in active use. Woking Borough Council (WBC) has acquired some of the land for burials and is anxious to improve the situation.

A long period of neglect and poor management was brought to a halt by the previous owner. However, there is still a backlog of repairs to be carried out. The problems are compounded by vandalism and the possible failure of the drainage systems.

The Military Cemeteries section of Brookwood Cemetery are in good condition. Some of these are cared for by the War Graves Commission. However, these are an exception, and the older areas of the cemetery in particular are now unmaintained.

This 'lack of love' has resulted in the poor state of repair of the built structures. 

Is it at risk?

Yes. Brookwood Cemetery has been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 2009.

The cemetery has been subject to vandalism. Failing drainage has caused the collapse of some large monuments as the ground has softened beneath them. The landscape features are similarly deteriorated. A lack of regulation of burial plots also threatens the overall design.

Many of the monuments could probably be listed, or listed at a higher grade. This could make them individually eligible for inclusion on the Heritage at Risk Register. The site as a whole is the South East's most challenging registered park and farden at risk.

Brookwood Cemetery park and garden at risk - leaning monuments indicate drainage issues
Leaning monuments indicating ground drainage issues, Brookwood Cemetery

What's the current situation?

In early 2015, Woking Borough Council (WBC) obtained the site. Subsequently, Historic England attended very positive meetings with WBC to discuss next steps. We were reassured that WBC was focussing on the heritage aspects of the site.

WBC officers are keen for Historic England to advise them on how best to move forward. We were able to assist with grant aid towards the production of a Conservation Management Plan (CMP). This is the first step towards creating a strategy for the restoration of this important designed landscape.

In the forthcoming year, Historic England will be working closely with WBC and their professional team. This will ensure that the CMP provides all the information necessary to achieve the best outcomes for the heritage aspects of the site. It will balance these aspects with its on-going role in providing bereavement services for the people of Woking.

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