Woking Borough Council has approved plans that will support the ongoing conservation of Brookwood Cemetery and encourage visitors to explore this globally significant heritage site.

The Masterplan and Experience Plan approved at Full Council (30 July 2020) set out a number of broad policies by which the site will be managed and developed in the future. They support a vision of a sustainable working cemetery leading the way in heritage conservation which other sites will look to.

The plans focus on enhancing the cemetery’s unique characteristics such as the railway line that serviced the cemetery up until its London terminus was bombed during the Blitz; the substantial collection of Giant Redwoods thought to be the earliest and grandest in the country; and the cemetery’s historic ‘Ring’ with its high quality Victorian monuments, many of which are Grade I listed.

New visitor facilities including a café, walking trail, education centre and the provocatively titled, ‘Museum of Death’ are among the plans to attract new audiences and promote greater use of this largely hidden public asset.

Ensuring the experience of visiting Brookwood remains that of visiting a cemetery, new information points and zoning will make the site’s historical and ecological landscapes easier to navigate and explore.

Cllr Graham Cundy, Woking Borough Council’s Lead Member for Brookwood Cemetery, said:
“We now have a set of plans that will help us take the cemetery forward over the next ten to twenty years. “First and foremost, the cemetery’s main function is, and always will be, to provide a dignified and respectful resting place for Woking’s deceased, of all faiths and none. As stated in the Masterplan, all future development must sustain and support this objective.

“The Experience Plan is a much about inspiring residents to explore and appreciate the cemetery as it is about attracting new audiences from further afield. An expanded programme of events, tours, exhibitions and workshops will bring to life the themes and cultural wonders within the cemetery, while highlighting the different aspects that make Brookwood a heritage site with immense local, national and global significance.”

Brookwood Cemetery was founded mid-nineteenth century after a cholera epidemic (1848-49) exacerbated the problem of overcrowding across London’s cemeteries. Built by the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company (LNNMC) on 2,268 acres of heathland purchased from Lord Onslow, Brookwood was reputed to be the largest cemetery in Europe and the pinnacle of Victorian garden cemetery design.

Cllr Ayesha Azad, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Asset Management, said:
The Council acquired Brookwood Cemetery for the people of Woking. Over time the site has become dissected and lost from public view both physically and metaphorically. We intend to change that and detailed within the plans is a cemetery that is seen as community asset, which supports both physical and emotional wellbeing and provides opportunities for learning and shared cultural experiences.