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.

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