This could be seen as make or break time for a key part of Holbeach’s important heritage.
Holbeach Cemetery Chapels, a part of the town’s history for over 150 years, are in disrepair.
According to Trudy Shephard, the project officer with Holbeach Cemetery Chapels Project, there is now serious concern that the historic building could be demolished in future if it’s not restored soon.
For the people of Holbeach, that would be a tragedy as the cemetery has been a site of mourning in the town for many years.
The chapels also represent one of the few remaining examples in the region of the work of architect James Pigott Pritchett Junior, a key figure in the layout and design of Victorian cemeteries.
However, before a bid for serious funding can be made – and Trudy estimates it will need about £1 million spending on it – it is vital that the people behind the project find out what the people living in Holbeach would like to see the restored chapels being used for.
There have been suggestions of a heritage centre, or community halls where classes could be taught and for occasional pop-up shops and art installations.
Trudy says: “The focus is that it becomes a space the community can enjoy and get maximum benefit from and which will attract visitors to Holbeach, so the idea is to encapsulate as much positive benefit as it’s possible to do.”
The first step towards that goal is a £49,000 Heritage Lottery grant that will allow Holbeach Cemetery Chapels Project to put on some free activities for the public – and where committee members can listen to people’s ideas for the future use of the chapels.
The team has made a start with a stand at the recent Holbeach Food Festival, where Trudy was able to correct some misconceptions. One was that the money was for her salary (she’s on a minimum wage during her 18 months in the post) and another was that the management committee were going to make all the decisions.
Trudy says: “We must have spoken to about 100 people and I would say about 65 per cent wanted to have further information, so the project has got a really warm reception. It’s important for us that people understand that the bulk of the money is paying for free activities that we are offering to the public.
“What we are looking to do this next year and a half is vital for the future of the chapels. There is concern that, if the fabric of the building is not restored, long term it will be at risk and could eventually be demolished. This is why the Heritage Lottery money has come forward to involved the community so we get a real idea of what they would like for the chapels’ use.”