Page last updated at 18:32 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 19:32 UK

Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol reopens after revamp

Arnos Vale Cemetery

A formerly neglected Victorian cemetery in Bristol has officially reopened after a £5m revamp.

The 171-year-old Arnos Vale Cemetery is home to more than 60,000 graves and monuments and is a wildlife haven.

The project has seen the 45-acre site transformed and a new visitor centre added.

The cemetery was once threatened by commercial development, but was saved after being bought by Bristol City Council.

More than 300,000 people have been buried at the cemetery since it opened in 1839.

'Redevelopment threat'

The first person buried there was Mary Breillat, the wife of the man who brought gas street-lighting to Bristol.

More than 100 people attended the opening event.

Among them were members of the Friends of Arnos Vale action group, which led a campaign to save the cemetery from the threat of redevelopment.

In 1987, private owners announced plans to clear a large section of Arnos Vale for commercial redevelopment, leading campaigners to rally together.

In 2002, Bristol City Council purchased the land, passing it to the care of the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust.

A spokeswoman from the trust said the cemetery had been left to decay for more than 30 years before the project.

Trust chair Lori Streich said: "This is an exciting day for the many thousands who recognised that Arnos Vale was too precious to lose."

In 2005, a £4.8m Heritage Lottery Fund grant was awarded to pay for the restoration.

The project was also funded by the council and English Heritage.

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