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Category Archives: 20th Century
Victoria Lane Burial Ground is a tiny plot of fewer than a hundred graves tucked away at the end of a cul de sac. Though the roar of the M4 motorway is ever-present, a thick shrubbery screens it from view and makes this feel a most cosy resting place.
The ground was opened in 1871 as an extension of the churchyard of St. Peter and St. Paul's Parish Church, Harlington, and is now closed to new burials. It is maintained by Hillingdon Borough Council, to whom I'm grateful for information regarding this lovely site.
Feltham Cemetery promises much, with mature trees and a lychgate-style entrance, but sadly fails to deliver. There is little to inspire in this dull suburban ground: bad and unoriginal poetry seems to be the favoured memorial here, for the stones are almost universally the mousetrap or the slab. Vandals or shifting ground seems to have been unusally active too: most of the crosses are toppled over, and curbs have been kicked to pieces.
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.
The extension to Mitcham churchyard is, I am sorry to say, as dull as such extensions usually are. Though the church itself seems built on a supersized scale, the monuments it dwarfs are universally dull and crumbling into blankness.
Deptford Cemetery and Ladywell Cemetery were founded adjacent to each other in 1858. Though the A to Z still shows them as separate, they were amalgamated in 1948, a grassy ridge marking the place of the old boundary wall. The eastern Ladywell end tends to be the more interesting, with its wrought iron gates incorporating the words ''Ladywell Cemetery'', and some of the larger pink granite monuments showing damage from a World War Two bomb (two unexploded bombs remain in the cemetery).