Saturday, September 10, 2005

KEY HILL OPEN DAY, Saturday 10th September 2005.

The Friends of Key Hill Cemetery held their Open Day on a day destined to be ruined by outbursts of torrential downfall. However the weather did nothing to dampen the determination or spirits of the members and visitors.
Key Hill cemetery is Birmingham's oldest public cemetery and it is the final resting place of many of Birmingham's most famous people... Joseph Chamberlain, Charles Edge, Alfred Bird to name just a few. Sadly the cemetery has fallen into disrepair.. the gate-posts need repairs, litter is a growing problem, many of the graves are damaged and the trees need attention as they too are adding to the damage.
The Open Day was intended to raise public awareness of the plight of the cemetery and to raise money to assist with restoration. Visitors were also encouraged to join the group.
The Friends web-site is at
The highlight of the day was a visit and talk by James Lloyd whose great-grandfather Joseph Chamberlain is buried at Key Hill.
I have posted some pictures of the Open Day showing some of the exhibitors, the state of the cemetery itself, what can be achieved with a lot of work and money and some photographs of the members themselves.

The Icknield Street entrance.

A welcoming hearse.

Some of the stalls in the marquee. Stalls present included the Friends of Key Hill, a tomb-bola stall, refreshments, face-painting, a bug-hunt and the Birmingham Bee Keepers. A timber recycling group demonstrated how to make bird-houses out of scrap wood.

The bird-house area.

A variety of hearses are on display at a stand organized by the Classic Hearse Register. Go to for more information.

Members of Goththing, who sell Goth clothing, show off their hearse. See their products at

The interior of Goththing's hearse is illuminated by "black-lights".

A hearse of the Classic Hearse Register, but who is burying who?

It's a dead-end job, it could drive you to smoking. (groan)

Spooky!! This place has an incredible atmosphere.

The catacombs.

Kenrick grave.

One of the Chamberlain graves.

JRR Tolkien's grandparents lie here.

The grave of Thomas Avery, a Birmingham magistrate and alderman.

Some of the work that needs doing.

A view of the graveyard showing some of the damaged graves.

Stones lying flat.

More stones lying flat.

Some of the graves are in an awful condition.

One of the results of the groups hard work.

One of the successes, the rennovated Horton grave.

The front inscription.

Here are some of the people who work hard to achieve such successes.

Pauline Roberts.

Wendy Partridge.

The town crier, Arthur Smith.

The graveyard tour venture off in the pouring rain.

If you look closely you can see some very interesting people strolling through the grounds.

The town crier (Arthur Smith) and Rachel Bannister admire a rope dangling from the trees... but there wasn't a body attached! (Arthur and Rachel organize guided walks and have a web-site at )

More hard-working Friends of Key Hill.

Maggs Gurney and Jan Hardware looking after the refreshments.

Wendy Partridge and Sue on the tombola stall. J in the background on the "Friends" stall.

No, not a burial!! Just the graveyard tour.

James Lloyd makes a speech, watched by Pauline Roberts.

James Lloyd joins Friends of Key Hill members for a photograph. l-r:- J, Pauline Roberts, Jan Hardware, James Lloyd, Wendy Partridge, Maggs Gurney, Sue, and Dr Chris Upton.

A bit of self-indulgence, first 1906...

7th July 1906, Ward End Park, Birmingham, 70th birthday celebrations for Joseph Chamberlain.
The chap on the left (in the light short jacket) is John Charles Fisher, Master of Ceremonies. In the centre (wearing the top-hat) is Joseph Chamberlain. The lady in the middle is Joseph's third wife Mary.

...and 99 years later...

10th September 2005, Key Hill Cemetery Open Day, Birmingham.
The unsuitably-dressed chap on the left is moi, David Fisher, great-grandson of John Charles Fisher. On the right, James Lloyd, great-grandson of Joseph Chamberlain. The lady in the middle is Wendy Partridge.