News

Reading Community Launches Bid To Acquire Cemetery Junction Arch For Heritage and Arts Project

 Reading, United Kingdom, 23rd May 2019: Volunteers in Reading, registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC) called Junction Arch Heritage and Arts (JAHA), have launched a bid to acquire the Cemetery Junction Arch in order to turn it into a Heritage and Arts Hub for use by the local community.

The Arch, built in 1840, was originally a grand ornamental gatehouse to Reading Old Cemetery and today it’s a Grade II listed landmark which is currently vacant.

The Arch was advertised for sale by auction by Reading Borough Council as it was no longer required for Council purposes. On hearing of the community’s plan to apply for National Lottery Heritage funding to turn it into a hub for use by local people, the Council withdrew the property from auction to allow the local community to develop and progress its bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Located in Cemetery Junction, an instantly recognisable part of Reading, the area is one of the most culturally diverse in the UK. The cemetery itself is of great historical interest and contains the graves of many of the most historically noteworthy occupants of the town during the period 1843-1970, including many large and unusual memorials, two of which are Grade 2 listed. It also offers a tranquil escape from high volumes of surrounding traffic, and a large area of green space, rich in flora and fauna, off-setting the high levels of air pollution.

The Expression of Interest form submitted to National Lottery Heritage Funding proposes that, in addition to the restoration of the Arch itself, there will be significant benefits for the local area:

  • The Junction Heritage and Arts Hub, “Junction Arch” for short, will focus on the heritage and arts of the diverse local community and the part they have played in the story of the Cemetery Junction area.
  • A cafe, community herb garden and art exhibitions will act as a central point to bring people together.
  • A digital interpretative aspect will be a Time Window and periscope, enabling visitors to look out from the exhibition room and see how the area has changed through the centuries.
  • Recorded oral histories of elderly residents, many of whom are in their 90s.
  • A study of the graves and the stories surrounding the people buried in them which would be open to volunteers and encourage students visits from local primary and secondary schools.
  • And finally, a study of the flora and fauna of the graveyard, a recognised wildlife haven, that includes Muntjac Deer.

Community Director of the project, Nick Cooksey, said, “Reading is a town steeped in history, which, like other towns and cities in the UK, is experiencing huge regeneration and expansion. Although Reading’s heritage is being recognised at sites such as Reading Abbey and the prison, it is important to recognise that heritage is as much about places like the Cemetery Junction Arch and the stories of ordinary people as it is about Kings and famous writers. The restored Arch and community garden will provide the local people with a place they can be together to share their lives and stories.”

Karen Rowland, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said,“Reading’s impressive heritage is woven throughout our town and the grade II listed Cemetery Arch, circa 1840, is one of our finest iconic and instantly recognisable landmarks. Each heritage asset we have in this town is critical to retain in order to “Keep Reading, Reading” and ensure our heritage environment is visible far beyond the Abbey Quarter. Regrettably, cuts to our budgets imposed by the Government mean the Council is simply not currently in a position to use it ourselves. On hearing of the local community plan to create a community space with the Arch, we were happy to withdraw it from auction to allow some time to work on the project and develop a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund.”

She continued, “We wish them every success and whilst we are unable to contribute funding to their efforts as a Council, we look forward to supporting the group and watching the project develop in the months to come.

Lack of use of heritage assets is a leading cause of loss in the historic environment, so it is important that a use for this building is found in the near future.  Therefore, while fully supportive of the group’s ambitions, the Council from a financial perspective cannot have the building unused indefinitely.”

The Junction Arch Heritage and Arts company will now wait to hear if their initial request to the National Lottery Heritage Funding will be accepted before progressing to a formal, comprehensive bid.

For further information please contact:

Martine Naughton

Junction Arch Heritage and Arts Public Relations Representative

E: mnaughton@swarmmarketing.co.uk
Tel: 07909 475815