Historic chapels in cemetery to open again

Two neoclassical chapel lodges at Jesmond Old Cemetery are expected to return to use under a lease agreement.

The two chapel lodges, viewed from within the cemetery

Newcastle City Council says it expects a couple of offers to be submitted by the deadline of Wednesday 11th July, which would see the grade II* listed buildings leased out on a 125-year contract.

The move could bring about a welcome rejuvenation for the historic chapels, which were built in 1836 by eminent Tyneside architect John Dobson and restored in 1978 by Tyne and Wear County Council. However, any alterations to the twin lodges would be subject to listed building consent and planning permission.

Ray Hayes from Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery told JesmondLocal he was positive about the prospect of the buildings being put to use.

He said: “Personally I think they would make a great art gallery or museum. That would be my vision for the buildings.”

He added that the reoccupation of the chapel lodges could help deter vandals and trespassers: “We don’t have a huge problem with crime down there, but it helps if there’s a presence.”

The two sandstone buildings, standing either side of the archway on Jesmond Road, each consist of a two-storey tower adjoining a single-storey, one-bay chapel. A crypt lies beneath both buildings with an entrance at either side.

The chapel lodges were previously used as offices, most recently for the county archaeologist and the archaeology department of Tyne and Wear Museums. The crypt, meanwhile, was used for storage.

The pair could be used for similar purposes again, although both are in need of rennovation. The eastern lodge has been empty for some time and has suffered ceiling damage due to water ingress.

Jesmond Old Cemetery was opened in 1836 and is resting place to a number of historical Tyneside figures, including William Armstrong, John Fenwick, Alexander Laing and John Dobson himself.

Ray Hayes started the Friends of Jesmond Old Cemetery group four years ago when he developed an interest in the cemetery’s history and approached the council about its derelict condition. The council invited him to set up a friends group and since then he and his fellow volunteers have worked to keep the cemetery in a state of good repair.

The chapel lodges originally housed the cemetery superintendent and his office. The western chapel served the Church of England, with the eastern chapel for non-conformists, an arrangement that matched the division of graves between the two halves of the cemetery.

The cemetery is also listed as a grade II* historic park and garden.

Jesmond Old Cemetery is a fine historic asset. Going round it is a bit like a cross between a walk in the park and a tour of an historic building. See for yourself with our Flickr slideshow: