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Heritage funding lifeline for East End’s unique cemetery woodlands, canals and the Tower of London

PUBLISHED: 17:19 09 October 2020 | UPDATED: 18:15 09 October 2020

Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park who have kept the woodlands open as a green haven during the pandermic. Picture: FTHCP

Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park who have kept the woodlands open as a green haven during the pandermic. Picture: FTHCP

FTHCP

A lifesaving cash boost from the government has been given to the East End’s biggest nature reserve and its canal network as well as the Tower of London to get them back on their feet after the coronavirus pandemic.

Volunteering to clean up east London's waterways may soon get going again... with heritage funding. Picture: C&RTVolunteering to clean up east London's waterways may soon get going again... with heritage funding. Picture: C&RT

It means Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park now have the cash to help restart maintenance work and keep open to the public.

They have been looking after the 30 hectares of wooded parkland that stretch from Mile End to Bow Common, one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Victorian cemeteries.

“It’s been a challenging time for heritage organisations like us since the pandemic,” Cemetery Park heritage officer Claire Slack said. “Grants such as this are invaluable so we can do things differently, while maintaining our woodland and historic cemetery despite challenges we now face.”

The visitor and learning centre in Southern Grove was hit by the lockdown, while the woodlands remained open as a green haven, listed as a site of Metropolitan importance.

Mucking in... volunteers dig up the dirt on the Regent's Canal. Picture: C&RTMucking in... volunteers dig up the dirt on the Regent's Canal. Picture: C&RT

But now events, school visits and volunteering have slowly started to resume—despite “a huge loss of income” for the charity.

The cash hand-out has come as a breath of fresh air to the volunteers who get £24,500 towards improvements, maintenance and for staff time to get events back up and running with Covid-secure precautions.

The Cemetery Park Friends are among 445 heritage organisations to share £103 million from Whitehall’s Culture Recovery fund.

The organisations include the Canal and River Trust looking after East London’s major waterways and Historic Royal Palaces which keeps guard over the Tower of London.

Royal Palaces chief curator and TV historian Lucy Worsley said: “The pandemic sadly meant that we had to stop some of our critical conservation work. The grant we have received lets this work resume, while supporting the specialist craftspeople who are vital for the future of our national heritage.”

The Canal Trust gets cash for the upkeep of waterways like the Regent’s Canal, Limehouse Cut, Hertford Union Cut by Victoria Park and the Lea River. Much of its east London volunteer activity was hit during the summer lockdown.

The two organisations are among 12 charities getting a share of £34m to restart construction and maintenance to preserve Britain’s major heritage sites.


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