London Road Cemetery
London Road Cemetery has undergone extensive restoration work, showcasing this once-forgotten gem. The Anglican Chapel, the raised promenade and old entrance to the cemetery have all been restored, and new interpretation tell the fascinating stories of its residents, and its natural heritage.
Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, London Road Cemetery has undergone extensive restoration work.
Coventry City Council, supported by Historic Coventry Trust, secured £2m of funding to restore the cemetery to its former glory. The project has included the restoration of the Anglican Chapel, one of two cemetery chapels, the raised promenade and landscape features including some of the tombs that have fallen into disrepair. It has also opened up a former entrance on London Road directly opposite Charterhouse, with a new pedestrian crossing the directly connects the sites.
New interpretation will be installed that tell the fascinating stories of the cemetery’s residents and of the natural beauty of Paxton’s arboretum planting.
The cemetery was once one of Coventry’s forgotten gems, and the restoration and interpretation work aim to increase visitor numbers to this important heritage asset and to educate, engage and inspire local people in the city’s Victorian history.
Originally known as Coventry Cemetery, London Road Cemetery was the only cemetery Paxton designed, as one of the earliest municipal cemeteries in the country when it was formally opened in 1847. Renowned engineer and architect, Joseph Paxton is best known for his work in designing Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition in 1851 and the Great Conservatory at Chatsworth. Paxton’s belief was public parks and cemeteries should incorporate a wide range of exotic trees to provoke excitement and interest. His vision for the cemetery is reflected through the design of the buildings and the layout of the trees which accommodate and enhance the beauty of the landscape, to reflect tone of peace and remembrance. Built on a former stone quarry, he utilised the topography of the former quarry and exotic trees to create an exceptional landscape that fused the burial and pleasure ground. Those buried in the cemetery include most of the city’s leading Victorian transport pioneers, especially in developing the bicycle and car.
Paxton was at the height of his horticulturist career when designing the cemetery, therefore it is host to a rich variety of plants and trees reflecting the character and function of the site. During the 1800s Paxton brought back many exotic plants and trees from America through conducting a Grand Tour, which are heavily featured within the cemetery. Some of the most notable trees are candelabra limes, purple beech, oak and elm trees.
The cemetery’s buildings themselves are significant, helping to transform the stone quarry into a place of singular beauty with both the Anglican Chapel and the Non-Conformist Chapel.
The Anglican Chapel adopts the Early Norman Romanesque architectural style, and dominates in height and visibility in the cemetery, beckoning people from the entrance. Eloquent in its quality through its red sandstone walls and timber framed roof, it reflects the Anglican funerary rights in the Victorian era. The Non-Conformist reflects a classical style hidden within trees, representing order and austerity. Encircled by evergreens, this chapel presents an uplifting mood in the aspiration of tranquillity. The promenade runs throughout the cemetery, allowing visitors to experience the site for a reflective experience.
The most significant monument in the cemetery, the Paxton Memorial, was designed by Joseph Goddard and can be seen facing the entrance. Many of the cemetery’s gravestone have carved symbolic stonework, and the site also contains an active Jewish burial ground and red-brick ohel space.