The Friends of Highland Road Cemetery

Open Day - 10th September 2006 - A Report

Four hundred people walked through the Cemetery in the one afternoon at the Highland Road Cemetery Southsea, an acclaimed great success for the "Friends " who had organised this event. This being the first time that the Cemetery had been open to the public and included in The National Heritage Open Days, although being open for just the one day on Sunday 10th September 2006.
The Walks and Talks in visiting the Graves of the eight Victoria Cross holders interredin this one Historic Cemetery and the Graves as associated with Charles Dickens proved immenselypopular but welcomly over shadowed by the opening of the Thomas Ellis Owen Chapel, opened to the public for the first time in approximately forty years, organised by "The Friends" in liasion with the Cemeteries manager,Gerard O 'Brien.
In beautiful authentic red and white robe's, the Rev. RichardSmith,. of St. Margaret's Church, Highland Road, Southsea gave the opening Blessing.

The previously disused Chapel had been renovated on the inside to Health and Safety standards with aONE THOUSAND POUND Discretionary Grant for materials from the Southsea Town council and the works carried out complementary by a local builders team, ARLINGTON HALL CONTACTORS.of Milton.Portsmouth.
Inside the Chapel the Lecturn and small wooden chairs from bye gone days were in place. On three window sills were dispalys of Flowers Donated by local Florists. These were later presented appropriately.
In the corner of the chapel along table had been set with Antique artifacts from the Victorian period, a Uniform, Swords and spears, Helmet and medals supplied by the chairman of the Friends with an interest in the subject.
The main tours were carried out by twoCity Tour Guides, Madeleine Selby and Marie Crispin,the Dickens Chairman Susan Healey, the Friends chairman, Mike Lowery and FOHRC WebMaster, Tim Backhouse.With talks by Thomas Ellis Owen Chairman/Founder Sue Pike and Dr. Professor Tony Pointon
Florists, Joanna's and Tiffany's from Albert Road and the Co-operative from Fratton road had contributed/donated magnificent flower arrangements for the chapel for this special day and Funeral Directors Dashwood and Denyer stood proudly in their Ceremonial uniforms alongside the Chapel.

Forty members of the public turned up in beautiful Victorian Costumes and were filmed by BBC"South Today". These included the Dickens Fellowship, The Friends of Highland Road cemetery,The Festival Players and several members of the public. A photo-shoot for all in Costume was enthusiastically greeted.
Storyboards depicting "secrets from the graves" of the characters of many of thefamous persons interred in the Cemetery were on display in St Margaret's church Hall, of past residents of Portsmouth and Southsea.
Thirty storyboards were produced by the Founder of "TheFriends" Helen Strange who's original interest began some fifteen years ago after a visit to Highgate Cemetery in London. Herhours of painstakingresearch and information had been produced on this Historic Highland Road Cemetery, in Southsea,and had resulted in this interesting displayon show.

Constant new information was ever being revealed, such as a recent tombstone of a contact with a"Titanic"connection and a Southsea Murder mystery connection to the famous Hero, Naval Captain Marryatt.
New member Linda Wilson had reseached deeper into previously known stories to reveal new information on'Mother Emma' of the Southsea 'Home of Comfort' in co-operation and liaison with the Sistersin residence at the present Home.
The "Adopt a Grave" scheme(to tend and care for a grave of a Famous person)was well receivedwith the offer to individuals and groups signing up to The Friends membership.
The first such group was the 8th Portsmouth/Southsea Scouts who hadadopted the grave of a man killed defending his family from a Bear during the days of the Klondyke Gold rush.Many such stories of interest, some unknown to the public arebeing combined into a story board book by the Founder of the Friends, Helen Strange.
Future activities anticipated at the Chapel area service on 'All Souls Day' 1st November and a ChristmasCandlelight event.
Written by :- Irene Strange, TRUSTEE, Friends of Highland Road Cemetery