Community Grant given to new Friends Group of Billing Road Cemetery

Last year, Northamptonshire Gardens Trust became one of the first recipients of our newly launched Community Grant, made possible by the generosity of the Gentian Trust.

Northamptonshire Gardens Trust (NGT) applied for a Community Grant to fund a project which will develop and form an active, enthusiastic Friends Group to support the historic landscape of Billing Road Cemetery, Northampton; one of the most significant heritage assets within the Billing Road Conservation Area.   

Formerly known as Northampton General Cemetery, it opened in 1847 and was laid out to a design by Scottish born Robert Marnock (1800─1889), one of the eminent horticulturalists and garden designers working in England during the mid-nineteenth century. Now closed for burials, the fabric of the cemetery is sadly in decline; it contains a single Grade II Listed monument, a remarkable sculpture of a horse on a plinth, dedicated to the famous circus owner Robert Fossett (1859─1915) and his family.  On the Northampton Local List is another notable monument, that to Caroline Chisholm (1808-1877) and her husband Archibald. Caroline famously worked to improve education and living conditions for women first in India and then for many thousands of emigrants in Australia. Her work there is recognised as culturally significant, sufficiently so that she was chosen to be portrayed on Australian bank notes and postage stamps.  The cemetery is currently an important public green space much used by dog walkers. 

Elaine Johnson, Chair of Northamptonshire Gardens Trust, comments ‘we were delighted to have received the grant and are excited at the prospect of forming a Billing Road Cemetery Friends Group that brings people together across communities.  We are hopeful that a Friends Group will be a key catalyst for change, raising awareness and ultimately, preserving the heritage and sustainability of the cemetery.  It is a beautiful, tranquil space which lends itself to being a community hub, subsequently benefiting both local residents and people from further afield.’ 

If you would like further information on how to become involved, or have knowledge of Robert Marnock’s work on Billing Road or other cemeteries, please contact Elaine at: 

The Gardens Trust is delighted to be able to offer this grant again in 2023. Find out more on our Community Grant page.

A map showing the layout of the cemetery, designed by Robert Marnock

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Painswick Roccoco Gardens, the Red House, Photo © Joab Smith