Arnos Vale Cemetery stands in 45 acres between the A4 Bath Road and the streets of Knowle in Bristol. A campaign started in the 1980’s to stop the then owner’s plans to develop part of the cemetery for housing. With massive local support including the Evening Post newspaper and the Bristol Council, the campaign succeeded. A restoration programme was completed in 2010 with the aid of a grant of £4.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. ‘The Friends of Arnos Vale Cemetery’ work hard to support the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust which now manages the cemetery.
The Trust is taking various initiatives to support the cemtery into the future. Although it has been ‘saved’ it is not ‘safe’, because significant funds are needed to maintain its 45 acres and the buildings. Arnos Vale still operates as a working cemetery, in addition to scatterings and interment of ashes new plots have been identified for burials at the cemetery. More recently, natural woodland burial plots have become available in the old woods in the cemetery. The Atrium Cafe (open every day) is in the Non-Conformist Chapel – where you can also visit a free exhibition about cremation. There are numerous events held on the site (see: www.arnosvale.org.uk) including regular tours.
In addition to private tours and all those advertised, there are regular ‘heritage’ tours starting at 1.30pm most Saturdays. These tours last about an hour, start from the Gate Lodges at the Bath Road entrance – there is a small charge. Useful for family historians who would like to learn a little about the cemetery and how to find their way around.
Burials: The Burial Registers contain the records of an estimated 170,000+ burials in around 50,000 graves from 1839 when the Cemetery opened. The Burial Registers are not available to the public but they are held for safe-keeping in the Bristol Records Office. The Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust (which manages the cemetery) will carry out family history searches of these records. A fee is always charged and full details are available on the Trust website: Arnos Vale Cemetery Family Record Searches .
Cremations: The Registers also contain the records of over 123,000 cremations which took place at Arnos Vale between 1928 and 1998. Once again a search of these records can be ordered for a fee (follow the above link). However, the Crematorium Books of Remembrance contain memorial texts for many of the cremations from about 1951 and these books are on display to the public in the West Gate Lodge at the Cemetery. Please apply by visiting reception in East Gate Lodge at the Bath Road entrance. All the historical entries are also freely available to view via the Trust website (follow the link below, scroll to the botttom of the page and click on the white box which should take you to a ‘google archive’ containing scanned images of the books pages): https://arnosvale.org.uk/cemetery/.