Talking West Cheshire

Work to tackle anti-social behaviour reveals historic treasures

17 August 2010

Overleigh CemeteryWorks to clear and rejuvenate overgrown areas of Chester’s Overleigh Cemetery in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour has shed light on the area’s rich history.

The land had become overgrown and neglected over the years and large areas had become inaccessible or hidden from public view, providing perfect locations for anti-social behaviour.

Partnership working between the Council’s Cemeteries and Crematorium Service, Community Enforcement Team, Streetscene and Grounds Maintenance, along with a workforce provided by the Probation Service and a local stone mason, meant that vast expanses of overgrown land can now be put to good use.

As work progressed on clearing the overgrowth of brambles and ivy, architecturally ornate Victorian memorials were uncovered, each one with its own tale of local history and heritage.

One of the most extravagant tombs to be found was that of Henry Raikes - a former Chancellor of Chester - which features a full size statue of Henry being protected by an ornate stone canopy. Historical information on the finds is currently being collated and, once completed, will be added to Cheshire West and Chester Council’s website.

Much-needed public seating has also been installed and a new notice board will be in place shortly.

Councillor Lynn Riley, Executive Member for Community and Environment, said: “As a direct result of the works carried out, an area that was until recently a haunt for those intent on causing anti-social behaviour has now been opened up for the local community and become an increasingly popular visitor attraction.

“The works undertaken here really show how partnership working can really make a difference and without the team provided by the Probation Service, who helped with much of the clearance work, the timescale would have been much longer.

“I am delighted that works to restore the land to its former glory have been carried out - with its rolling landscape, secluded and sheltered corners, historic connections and wealth of wildlife the cemetery is a haven for those seeking peace and quiet.”

The clearance work has also provided the opportunity to utilise previously overgrown and unused space to create a much-needed baby burial area. The new Baby Garden is scheduled to be ready in September 2010.

Overleigh Cemetery opened in 1850 and was the only municipal burial ground in the city until Blacon Cemetery opening in 1922.