Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Restoration for Huguenot cemetery gets go-ahead

PLANS to restore Cork’s historic Huguenot cemetery were finally rubber-stamped last night.

City councillors agreed to proceed with the project to save what is one of only two Huguenot cemeteries left in Europe.

The tiny derelict area off Carey’s Lane will be restored, a memorial garden will be built and the area will be opened up to the public.

The city stepped in last May and bought the 10 metre by 10 metre derelict cemetery to save it from development.

Restoration plans were drawn up and advertised publicly in February. Five submissions were received and the project was finally cleared to proceed last night.

City manager Joe Gavin said that since the city moved to save the cemetery last year, he has been inundated with emails from members of the Huguenot community around the world.

“This could become a very important tourist draw in the future,” he said.

Under the city’s plans, the historic burial ground, which dates from 1720, will be cleared. Appropriate paving and pebble stones will be laid, existing headstones will be restored, existing internal walls will be treated and restored and information plaques will be erected.

The existing three-metre-high wall, which is in very poor condition, will be knocked, and a three-metre wrought iron gate will be erected to allow people to view the garden.

All the work will be overseen by the council’s conservation officer.

The Huguenots settled in Cork from the mid-16th century. The French Protestants were followers of Jean Calvin who fled their country to escape religious persecution. The first Huguenots were living in a small colony in Cork by 1569.

They had a temple, a pastor’s house, school-house and alms house between Carey’s Lane and French Church street.

The cemetery was built in 1720. It was subsequently sold to the Methodist Church and was in constant use until the trustees sold it in 1901.

Over the years, the Huguenots produced five or six lord mayors of Cork, including Vesien Pique, lord mayor in 1796, whose remains are buried in the cemetery.

It is also thought that the remains of Joseph Lavitte, who was lord mayor in 1720 and after whom Lavitt’s Quay is named, are buried there.

Europe’s only other remaining Huguenot cemetery is at Merrion Row in Dublin. It has been restored and is in perfect condition.

Irish Examiner

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