Future Is Golden For Muslim Burial Ground

Secretary of State for Culture Sajid Javid has welcomed the restoration of a Burial Ground for First World War Muslim soldiers in Woking.

A copper gilded finial with 12 petals was yesterday (10 June, 2014) carefully placed on top of the entrance Chattri at Woking's grade II listed Muslim Burial Ground, marking the completion of the first phase of major restoration work.

A large grant from English Heritage, together with funds from Woking Borough Council has beautifully restored the exterior wall brickwork, Portland stone capping and the entrance Chattri of Woking’s unique burial ground. Yesterday, a finial was delicately placed on top of the gateway by a conservator reaching out from a “cherry-picker” crane.

Built in 1917 for the burial of Muslim soldiers who fell during the First World War, and later accommodating those who fell in the Second World War, the walled enclosure has distinctive arches, minarets and a domed gateway reflecting the architectural style of the near-by Shah Jahan Mosque, the first purpose-built mosque in the UK.

Secretary of State for Culture Sajid Javid, said: “I’m delighted that funding and advice from English Heritage have helped to rescue this extremely important monument in time for First World War Centenary commemorations.

“Over one million troops from pre-partition India fought as members of the British Armed Forces in the First World War, many of them Muslim. Now standing as a symbol of those lost, and an early and important part of British Muslim history, the restoration of the Muslim Burial Ground to its former glory is particularly poignant in the year we remember the outbreak of the First World War. “

The Muslim Burial Ground is located on the south east corner of Horsell Common, was designed by architect T.H. Winney and built by local firm, Ashby & Horner Ltd. The site is owned by the Horsell Common Preservation Society who have been a driving force in getting this unique heritage rescue underway.

Second phase funding secured

Woking Borough Council is pleased to announce that works to create a peace garden within the walled Burial Ground can now begin, thanks to funding from key stakeholders.

Funding was secured from the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme; Department for Communities and Local Government; Shah Jahan Mosque; Government of the Sultanate of Oman and Surrey County Council’s Community Improvements Fund.

Cllr John Kingsbury, Leader of Woking Borough Council, said: “We are delighted to have obtained this important funding to enable us to complete the final phase of this project. The Muslim Burial Ground is an important heritage site, both locally and nationally. With the golden finial now in place, works will progress to create a peace garden that will offer a place of quiet contemplation, remembrance and for acts of commemoration, while enhancing pride of place.”

An Islamic-style peace garden will be created, featuring 27 Himalayan Birch trees representing the original number of servicemen buried at the site, water feature incorporating a memorial stone bearing the names of those once buried at the site, bold strips of pink and white heather orientated towards Mecca, two stone ceremonial prayer mats and benches for quiet contemplation.

Once complete, the site will become an integral part of the Armed Forces’ ongoing cultural diversity training and annual memorial services for the local community and forces.

Anyone interested in finding out about First World War Sites near them and helping to record them for posterity should look at the Home Front Legacy Project.