'House of Life' - Project Timeline
Date Uploaded: 
Monday 4th March 2019

We want to conserve London’s pre-eminent Victorian Jewish Cemetery and open it as a site of heritage for the public. The only Jewish cemetery Registered as a Park or Garden of Special Historic Interest, Willesden is a remarkable survival, telling the stories of the first ethnic minority to settle in Britain in modern times. It is where many notable people have been buried, from scientist Rosalind Franklin to Tesco founder Jack Cohen.

We will create a visitor welcome centre in the Lodge and refurbish funerary buildings into multi-purpose spaces for activities including learning, exhibitions and events. Judicious garden restoration and memorials conservation will enhance the landscape for visiting and bio-diversity.

We want more and a wider range of people to connect with our heritage, to value and protect it. We will grow visiting and volunteering so Willesden has a bright future as a “House of Life”.

Project Timeline as at August 2019:

January 2018 - Announcement of £1.7 million Heritage Grant from Heritage Lottery Fund towards a £2.3 million conservation and community engagement project.

January 2018 - Receipt of London Borough of Brent Planning Permission for reconfigured maintenance yard.

April 2018 - Permission from HLF to start the project. Recruitment of staff team including Project Leader Hester Abrams who continues from the Development Phase.

May 2018 – Appointment of Richard Griffiths Architects as Lead Design Consultant, with Fox Fernley Landscape Office, followed by further design team appointments. Work starts on RIBA Stage 4 detailed design for the Lodge, buildings and planting

June 2018 - Arrival of Capital Works Manager Saroop Hanspal, Programme Manager Alice Mayers and Administrator/Volunteer Coordinator Victoria Proctor

September 2018 - Heritage Open Days Open Sunday at Willesden with three heritage talks and four guided walks attended by some 250 visitors

October 2018 - Volunteer photographers start work identifying World War One tokens and memorials

December 2018 - New fibre-optic cable laid from Lodge beneath paths to prepare for multi-purpose use of the Portico, Prayer Hall and Cohanim Room for visiting and learning

January 2019 - Plane trees in Old Ground receive their bi-annual pollarding but with tops left bushy to allow creation of an espaliered avenue, with Rabbinical permission

February 2019 - Old iron gate is sent to forge for restoration

February 2019 - Appointment of Philip Simpson as Interpretation and Design consultant to shape the stories of the site and create and install exhibits and media, from Lodge to outdoor trails and soundscapes

March 2019 - Appointment of Anna Cullum and Pam Jarvis as project evaluation consultants

March 2019 - Receipt of new planning permission from London Borough of Brent allows for a permanent building in the new maintenance yard for grounds staff, workshop and equipment

March 2019 - Recruiting volunteers to help create a flagship exhibition at Brent Museum & Archives to happen while building works are on including oral histories

March 2019 - First regular House of Life newsletter mailed to 500 supporters

March 2019 - Volunteers sow California Poppy seeds in a demarcated square “Quadrat” of Section QX, the project’s first trial in increasing bio-diversity and natural habitats in the grounds

May 2019 - US Burials erects new Portakabin for grounds staff in a new screened maintenance area behind the Lodge

May 2019 - Appointment of building contractor Borras

May 2019 - Activities and Volunteer Manager Emma Weleminsky-Smith appointed to lead delivery of Formal Learning, Interpretation, Community Engagement, Audience Development and Volunteering

May 2019 - Reinstatement of gate in back wall between Willesden Jewish Cemetery and Liberal Jewish Cemetery

May 2019 - Inheritance Day invites multi generations to come and share stories of families buried at Willesden

June 2019 - Project Team Staff and cemetery superintendent vacate Lodge for new maintenance building

June 2019 - Building works on site. Lodge and central buildings are worked on concurrently. Funerals and consecrations continue as normal. To continue until end of 2019

June 2019 - Project Manager Jason Lowe joins the team

June 2019 - First training for volunteer tour guides

July 2019 - Sunday afternoon drop-in guided walks provided by volunteer guides

September 2019 - The House of Life takes part in national Heritage Open Days, B’nai B’rith Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage, and Open House London

October 2019 - Opening of flagship exhibition at Brent Museum & Archives created by volunteers and taking the cemetery out into the local community

October 2019 - Annual Commemoration by AJEX the Jewish Military Association at Willesden Cemetery cenotaph for visitors from all communities

October 2019 - Claire-voies created

December 2019 - Installation of new exhibits and visitor experience in the Lodge Welcome Centre and in Mortuary, Prayer Hall and Portico

January 2020 - Works due to be complete

January 2020 - United Synagogue starts the 150th Anniversary year of its founding in 1870 by leaders buried at Willesden Cemetery

February 2020 - Brent Museum & Archives Exhibition ends