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Scartho cemetery buildings being restored to Victorian glory

10:30 am, Monday, 17th July 2023 - 10 months ago

Births, marriages and deaths

STEPPING into the Victorian buildings at Scartho cemetery is like drifting back in time, to an era where ladies in bustling skirts and men with wool jackets and flat caps arrived at the large, wrought iron gates to say a final farewell to their loved ones.

Opened in 1889, the arrival of a funeral cortege, fronted by a horse and cart, would have been commonplace at the Scartho Road site.  While the burial was registered at the nearby lodge, mourners would reflect in the waiting area across the road, warmed by the tiled, cast-iron fireplace during the cold, winter months.

The horse and cart would have waited patiently by the side of the chapel, tethered to a metal bar at the edge of the building.

Horses would be tethered to a bar outside the chapel
Horses would be tethered to a bar outside the chapel

Fast forward to 2023, the once derelict buildings are undergoing a huge, sympathetic scheme of restoration, managed by Gavin Duffy, senior architectural technologist at North East Lincolnshire Council’s partner Equans.  Gavin has seen the project from its infancy through to the rapidly developing stages of restoration seen in the buildings today.  He commented:

“It has taken 14 years to get to this point, so it is exciting to see it develop each day.  We had to apply for funding, decide what the buildings were going to be used for, and create a schedule of works for the project.

“During the last half century, there has been a lot of poor workmanship across the site and much of this has had to be stripped right back.  Some of the materials used were retaining water and we are having to dry a lot of the brickwork out, particularly in the chapels. The buildings were last used in the Nineties. 

“Our contractors, UK Restoration Services, are specialists in this type of restoration, and complete historic projects, such as this, across the country.

“The work is progressing well, although there are always some surprises, but we are on target to start the second phase of works by autumn, 2023.”

One of those surprises was the discovery of bats at the lodge.  The team had to ‘down tools’ and apply for a mitigation licence from Natural England, resulting in a new home for the bats, in the eaves of the former waiting room.  The whole process set the lodge project back for four months, but the team is now firmly back on schedule.

The two chapels, dramatically situated at the centre of a roundabout, are surprisingly spacious, and have had extensive work completed since 2018.   The colourful windows have been beautifully restored, repointing has taken place on the brickwork, and new doors have been installed.  In time, one chapel will be used for storage while the other will be used to hold funeral services.

The former waiting room, with its seating area resembling that of a Victorian railway station, will become an area for viewing and purchasing headstones, while a nearby, much smaller building would be ideal for a floristry business.  This building was added to the site in the 1950s.

All the building work has benefited from suitable, environmentally friendly materials, such as sheep wool for the insulation, and hemp for the plaster.  The ceilings in the lodge are undergoing the restoration of the 135-year-old lath and plaster.  All materials used have longevity, reducing the risk of replacement or fixing in the short-term future.

The lodge will be a further home for bereavement services and a single-story extension is planned for the rear of the building, although this will not be completed until late 2024.

Cllr Stewart Swinburn, portfolio holder for Environment and Transport at North East Lincolnshire Council, said:

“These buildings are a real asset for the area.  It is wonderful to be able to put them back into use and preserve them for future generations.

“Using sustainable products and materials ensures that the chapels, former waiting room, and lodge are restored to the highest standard, and they are much kinder to our environment.”

Scott Dewhurst, Contracts Manager for UK Restoration Services, finished:

“The restoration has been challenging overall but we are really pleased with how things are coming along.

“It is a privilege to resurrect and work on these historic, Victorian buildings and in doing so, the team and I have also become a part of their rich and interesting history.”

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