End of the Queens Road

Some of the graves at Queens Road Cemetery are sinking (credit James Cracknell)
Some of the graves at Queens Road Cemetery are sinking (credit James Cracknell)

Council claims sinking cemetery cannot be restored, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

Waltham Forest Council says it would be “neither practical nor possible” to restore the historic Queens Road Cemetery, despite a petition with 1,250 signatures calling for it to be rejuvinated.

Janet Ling, whose grandfather is buried in the cemetery, is campaigning for the council to straighten gravestones and generally improve the state of the overgrown site. She claims the council, which has managed Queens Road since 1965, is responsible for “decades of neglect”, pointing to other local authorities that have restored similar graveyards.

In response to Janet and the signatories on her petition, deputy leader Clyde Loakes said the cemetery was built on land “naturally prone to subsidence and shifting” and that the council was unable to level the 8,000-plus grave plots.

Janet says in her petition: “It is clear that there is a noticeable resistance within Waltham Forest Council to restore and rejuvenate Queens Road Cemetery. The site has suffered with decades of neglect and an irresponsible disrespect for those who have been lost, their families and the community that live and work around the cemetery.”

Janet highlighted the Abney Park Restoration Project in Hackney and West Norwood Cemetery Conservation Project in Lambeth as examples of other councils restoring cemeteries of a similar age.

Bilkis Atchia, who also signed the petition, wrote: “The cemetery is home to many of our old residents and even though they have left this world they are still of us. Their last abode deserves our respect.”

Cllr Loakes, the council’s cabinet member for environment, said the cemetery was built in 1872 on land prone to shifting and was even nicknamed ‘The Sinking Cemetery’ by locals. “It is unfortunately neither practical nor possible to level the 8,000 grave plots that are currently at Queens Road,” he said.

“The maintenance of individual memorials and headstones is the responsibility of the families who hold the deeds for them.”

Queens Road Cemetery is closed to new burials and the council has decided to allow longer grass and wildflowers to grow in order to encourage biodiversity. Cllr Loakes says this is “common practice” in closed cemeteries, which “gives native flowers and animals a safe habitat to thrive”. He added: “We are working with the local community to create a group of proactive volunteers who can help the cemetery team maintain the site as a wildflower meadow.”

The petition to restore Queens Road Cemetery can be signed online:
Visit change.org/p/london-borough-of-waltham-forest-petition-restore-and-rejuvenate-queens-road-cemetery-the-bombsite-walthamstow-e-17