A GROUP of Oxford residents is hoping to attract more people to appreciate the beauty of their local cemetery.

St Sepulchre’s cemetery off Walton Street, Jericho, closed for new burials in 1945 but has since become a much-loved place for quiet walks and contemplation.

The Friends of St Sepulchre’s group was set up to help Oxford City Council look after the cemetery and deal with the overgrown vegetation. Now The Friends are looking for more people to help them.

Walton Street resident Genefer Clark, the garden group co-ordinator, said: “It has become very overgrown and some people were quite scared to go there because it was a threatening place.

“People who do find it always come back because it think it is such a super place but it is off the beaten track. If people want to come and help we meet roughly twice a month for a couple of hours.

“For me one of the attractions are the huge trees which are just dramatically big.”

St Sepulchre’s cemetery, which is next to the former Lucy’s Ironworks site, was opened in 1848 as a burial ground for people from the north part of central Oxford.

It sits on land which once formed part of the Walton Manor farm, which was abandoned at the beginning of the 19th century.

There was a Norman-style chapel in the centre of the cemetery, but it was demolished in the 1970s and replaced with a seating area.

A Gothic lodge and gatehouse, which was added 20 years after the site opened, remains at the entrance.

Jericho councillor Susanna Pressel said: “This old cemetery, which is still used for occasional burials, was neglected for many years. Many of the graves became completely overgrown and even damaged by brambles, elderberry trees and ivy.

“There were also sometimes problems with rough-sleepers and drug-users.

“This charming, hidden corner of Jericho is still a haven for wildlife, but it is now much more accessible for people. It has always had especially beautiful snowdrops and bluebells, but now it’s easier to enjoy them. “

Notable burials at St Sepulchre’s include John Cavell, the former Mayor of Oxford who died in 1887 and also founded department store Elliston and Cavell in Magdalen Street.

Thomas and Martha Combe, who founded St Barnabas Church in Jericho and were patrons of the pre-Raphaelite art movement, are also buried there as is Robert Main who, as Radcliffe Observer, was responsible for the Radcliffe Observatory in the 19th century Ms Clark said the cemetery received many visits from Sri Lankans as it is the burial place of George Uglow Pope, a 19th century Christian missionary who translated many Tamil texts in English.

The Friends of St Sepulchre’s meet twice a month and the next sessions are on Tuesday, March 5, and Wednesday, March 20, from 10am to noon.