A 300 year-old burial ground will undergo conservation this month after decades of neglect, writes Kate Dennett.
The Huguenot burial ground in East Hill, Wandsworth will undergo landscaping at the end of the month as part of a £300,000 regeneration project.
The site, better known as Mount Nod, is home to listed tombs and graves and will reopen to the public as a “pocket” park.
The burial ground opened in 1687 opposite the Wandsworth parish church of All Saints and was used by Huguenot refugees who settled in Wandsworth after fleeing France.
The burial ground closed in 1854 and today is overgrown with trees and shrubs. It was given a local historic park and garden status as part of a public consultation.
Public funds could not be given to preserve the listed statutes until now as it was not clear who legally owned the land.
The council was awarded the title deeds and will now conserve the historic green space. The project will take around six months to complete.
Council leader Ravi Govindia said: “Having taken lawful ownership of this much overlooked but historically very important little corner of our borough, we can now set about the task of not only preserving its listed tombs and monuments for future generations but also bringing it back into use for today’s Wandsworth residents.”
Some tombs date back to 1687 while the Huguenot memorial was erected by the Wandsworth Society in 1911.
Calvinist protestants fled France during religious persecution and many became tailors in Smithfield.
They were attracted by the cloth and textile mills on the River Wandle and their skills as hat and dress-makers helping establish Wandsworth as a centre of 18th century fashion.
Victorian social commentator James Thorne, writing in 1876, said: “Gradually the French element became absorbed in the surrounding population, but Wandsworth was long famous for hat-making.”
French church services were performed at the old Presbyterian Chapel in Wandsworth for more than a century after the first Huguenots arrived.
Wandsworth’s coat of arms still features the tears of joy the Huguenots shed when finding sanctuary in the borough.
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