A NEGLECTED historic cemetery and burial ground has been awarded a £45,000 grant by Historic England to help restore it to its former glory.

A meeting of Falmouth Town Council's finance and general purposes committee was told 75 per cent of the grant had already been received up-front to launch the project at the Jewish and Dissenters cemetery at Ponsharden.

Henrietta Boex, Director of Cultural Services at Falmouth Art Gallery, told councillors that she had received news of the grant being awarded on Chrismas Eve.

"The Ponsharden project is now launched," she said. "We've got a design team in place and we will be committing be starting work on site with some tree work. Full tree surveys were done anyway, so this should should be taking off now.

"You'll probably see something in the press about Historic England support for the project which is really good and really important.

"This is an important scheduled monument and I think it's really good for Falmouth and it will be a good national story, or it is a good national story, but it will be getting even better."

Councillor Alan Jewell thanked Henrietta for all her hard work on putting in a bid to get the grant for the cemetery. "That's been going on for every since I've been on the council," he said. "At last we are now going to have something done on that cemetery down at Ponsharden which will be brilliant, well done."

Henrietta told councillors the capital works will take the best part of two years to really make the place safe and for access, so she didn't want a 'deluge' of people getting excited about it.

The grant comes on top of lottery funding of nearly £300,000 secured last year to ensure the future of an historic cemetery and burial ground near Falmouth.

Falmouth Town Council and the Friends of Ponsharden Cemeteries were given £296,000 National Lottery funding to restore the Dissenter’s Burying Ground and adjacent Jewish Cemetery at Ponsharden in November last year.

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For many years the cemeteries suffered from neglect and vandalism to the extent that they were included on Historic England’s ‘heritage at risk register’. In 2012, a cohort of local volunteers led by local residents Tom Weller and Rob Nunn decided to take action. Undergrowth was cleared and the full extent of the damage revealed. In 2018, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, granted the project £50,000 to develop restoration plans.

The Jewish cemetery was founded in 1780 and the Dissenters in 1808 and together they were in active use for just over 100 years and contain over 700 burials, many unmarked. They give a glimpse into Falmouth’s long multi-cultural history, and display Cornwall’s inter-connected place in Georgian and Victorian Europe, offering an insight into Cornwall’s wide reaching trade links and the importance of Falmouth as an international packet boat port in the 19th century.

In 2019, the Jewish cemetery was voted one of the ten pre-eminent ‘Faith and Belief sites’ in Historic England’s A History of England in 100 Places (on a par with Stonehenge, Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Brick Lane Mosque, Spitalfields and Fountains Abbey).

The restoration project will give plenty of opportunities for members of the local community of all ages to become involved once the site has been made safe to access. The cemeteries also provide a haven for wildlife and will become a much needed contemplative green space as the areas adjacent undergo redevelopment.

The site is significant as symbolic of both social exclusion (of non-conformists and the Jewish communities buried on the outskirts of both towns) but also of inclusion (both communities working together to maintain the cemeteries) and also illustrative of the socio-economic and cultural history of those times and the parallels that can be drawn with society today.