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Highgate Cemetery grave renewal: Plans to revive old graves for new burials continue as Private Bill submitted

PUBLISHED: 11:30 28 November 2019

Highgate Cemetery. Picture: Sam Volpe

Highgate Cemetery. Picture: Sam Volpe

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After five months of consultation, this week the Friends of Highgate Cemetery - who manage the historic Swain's Lane burial ground - have submitted a Private Bill to parliament that would see it given permission to re-use abandoned graves.

Martin Adeney and Katy Baldwin signed Highgate Cemetery's Martin Adeney and Katy Baldwin signed Highgate Cemetery's "petition for leave" to introduce a Private Bill. Picture: Highgate Cemetery

Forming part of a "grave renewal" scheme, the bill would replace the 1836 Act of Parliament which established the cemetery.

The chief executive of the FOHC, Dr Ian Dungavell, said: "This is about preserving the special magic of Highgate which comes from it being a living cemetery where people can still be buried. It's about ensuring that we can continue to be part of the community for the long term."

The idea is that grave plots which have been either abandoned for more than 75 years or where the plot was never used after being purchased at least 75 years ago will be repurposed and made available to those seeking to be buried alongside the likes of George Eliot, George Michael and Karl Marx.

Dr Dungavell added that reusing old graves had a "well-established precedent" both in churchyards and other London cemeteries which have previously applied for Private Bills.

Continuing, he said the plans had been welcomed.

"We have explained our plans to a range of audiences including local councillors

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and community and faith groups," he said.

"The reaction has been one of overwhelming support. We have also opened a register of people who have an interest in historic graves who have contacted us and we re-affirm that no grave will be renewed against the wishes of its owner."

Earlier this year, Dr Dungavell promised to the Ham&High that where graves could be re-purposed "every possible effort" would be made to contact relatives of the original owner before doing so.

He has also made clear that, as the cemetery is within the Highgate Conservation Area, there could not be radical upheaval, and both war graves and those of historic significance would continue to be protected.

To introduce a bill, an organisation must sign an petition for leave to introduce it to parliament. Private Bills can only be introduced on November 27 each year.

The bill would replace the original 1836 Act of Parliament that established the cemetery.

The cemetery's petition was formally signed by the FOHC Trust's chair Martin Adeney and a trustee, Katy Baldwin.

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