Trent Park Cemetery

Trent Park is an extreme example of that invention of the late twentieth century, the lawn cemetery. Here the whole ground is laid to grass, and severe restrictions are imposed on what memorials may be placed on any individual plot. Small bronze plaques supplied by the Council record the name and dates of the deceased; otherwise, one small vase or similar may be placed, and that is all. It makes for easy maintenance, being mowable by tractor in a matter of minutes, and that, of course, is the point.

Though those responsible for cemetery upkeep may like the lawn cemetery, I do not. The visual effect of all that flat grass is bleak and monotonous: no one will ever walk here voluntarily and admire the beauty of the spot. Moreover, when every plot is exposed to view from the whole site, it's difficult to mourn here: there is no privacy, no hedges or trees behind which to hide ones grief, no stones beside which to linger and remember. Though the ground may be fit as a receptacle of the dead, it fulfills none of the other functions of a cemetery.

Other memorial gardens have been created in recent years which Islington might do well to emulate: a little further east at Enfield, for example, a gently rolling landscape, some Council planting and a plethora of memorial plants placed by families of the deceased are intersperced with these same bronze plaques. There, the effect is beautiful. Here, I am afraid to say, it resembles nothing more than a municipal playing field.

Only here and there is a little individuality possible, and even this is transitory: a helium-filled balloon, celebrating a fiftieth birthday, was struggling to escape on the breeze. I felt a great deal of sympathy with it.

Filed under: 20th Century 21st Century London Cemeteries .