Today, the Friends of Anfield have been awarded a £50,300 Resilient Heritage grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project, ‘Exploring Anfield’s South Chapel’, prepares the charity for the challenges of turning Anfield Cemetery’s Grade II chapel into an International Heritage and Visitor Centre. The project will start in June 2018 and take up to sixteen months to complete. The chapel has been deserted for fifteen years and although it has fallen into disrepair, it has the potential to become a major Merseyside tourist attraction, serve the community and provide much needed job and volunteer opportunities in the area.
Tom Bradburn (Secretary of the Friends of Anfield) said, ‘Once again, HLF has demonstrated their faith in our work. This grant will make a big difference to our charity. The legal and financial advice given will prepare us for ownership of the chapel, take us up to the Planning Application stage for a Change of Use and provide a business plan for some years to come.’
Part of HLF’s funding will be used to employ an architect to design a two storey extension, which, if passed by Liverpool’s Planning Department will allow people on foot to see why Edward Kemp’s 1863 Grade II* geometric design is so highly prized.
A professional consultant will be employed to raise funds to enable Friends to take the chapel into ownership and begin its transformation. The chapel will serve the community in various ways. There will be community events, genealogy and competitions in photography and art. There will also be facilities for people to record stories about their loved ones, creating a Heritage in the Making resource, and as the best and largest geographical footprint from which to tell stories about Liverpool’s global past, it will become a centre for education.
Anfield Cemetery is an amazing testimony to Merseyside’s links to almost every major event down the years including: the Charge of the Light Brigade, Rorke’s Drift, the sinking of the Titanic and Lusitania, Jack the Ripper, our own ‘Chinese Che Guevara’, Liverpool’s last duel, the Slave Trade, the Spanish Armada, Commonwealth
War Graves, the American Civil War, the sacking of the White House, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Wallace Murder, leading industrialists, artists, architects, famous sporting figures, entertainers, religious and political figures, Europeans fleeing persecution, as well as a complete cross section of the social classes.
Brian Dowling (Trustee and ex councillor) said, ‘If you want an example of a cemetery being a top rated visitor attraction just look at Ireland’s Glasnevin Cemetery. If they can do it so can we. If we do, it will add to the sense of pride of those who work and live in Anfield as well as add value to Anfield’s £260m regeneration scheme.’
Like Glasnevin, Anfield is a working cemetery but people attending its 2,000 ceremonies throughout the year often wait around in atrocious conditions, attend a ceremony, then leave only to meet up again in venues miles away. The intention is for the chapel and extended areas to offer quality facilities and comfort, which can be used by the community and Liverpool’s growing tourist industry.
The Friends’ Resilient Heritage bid emerged from HLF’s on line Resilient Health Checker. This inter-active feature helped shape Friends’ application by identifying areas the charity needed to address. Tom Bradburn (Secretary of Friends of Anfield) said, ‘Sometimes charities get to a point where they’re unsure about the direction they need to take. HLF’s Health Checker was easy to complete and provided that sense of direction. Then on Good Friday of all days, we got the news that our application was successful. We can’t thank HLF enough for taking us that much closer to our goal.’
And there are further indications of strong support. Historic England and Liverpool City Council have funded the securing of Anfield Cemetery’s two large catacombs and have commissioned a Conservation Management Plan for the grounds. HLF has funded a soon to be completed wheelchair-friendly Heritage Trail around the grounds. Links with the University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University have been established and discussions are underway to explore possible future projects.