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Category Archives: Events
I had an excellent tour of the above-ground cemetery with David, and saw a few things I'd never seen before in Brompton: Sioux chief Long Wolf, who died in London while on tour with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and was buried in Brompton until he went home in 1997; Director of Continental Journeys to Queen Victoria, Joseph Julius Kanné's stone erected by the Queen and Prince of Wales; professional soldier Colonel Henry Byrne, who fought in three campaigns and rather nicely has replicas of his medals on his tomb.
Then it was time for a (yes, I'm going to use the s-word) spooky look at the catacombs with Terence. Kensal Green's catacombs have electric lights fitted, at least in the bit you're taken to see. Brompton's, on the other hand, have tea lights. It is very, very dark and my imagination jumped immediately to tripping in the dark and putting my hand through the side of a coffin, and wondering just what, exactly, I was standing on. Fun, all the same - and my guess from KG that catacombs are never a commercial success with the English was bourne out by the swathes of empty space in Brompton's.
Exhibitors included the Met's "stopping drugs and cottaging in the Parks" department, who were all very jolly - as well as the Friends of Nunhead and the Friends of Kensal Green. All in all, a fun day out, if only it hadn't rained quite so hard.
Inevitably, there are more photos...
When people find out I hang around in cemeteries, one question that's inevitable is: "where do you want to be buried?" The answer, for a very long time, has been "nowhere". I didn't want to be buried at all, because - forgive me for being blunt here - I couldn't stand the thought of rotting (severe eczema in childhood will have that effect). I like cremation: it's quick, it's easy and - with a bit of luck - there's no memorial spot for my friends and relations to neglect after I'm gone. And I like fire.
But I'm really worried about the environmental impact. Assuming that the Natural Death Centre have their figure right, I don't want my last act on earth to be the equivalent of a 500 mile car journey. What to do?
Chums, I've figured out what to do. Woodland burial is it. Here's how I found out.
I spent an utterly brilliant day at the London Funeral Exhibition at Epping Forest Burial Park (no indeed; Epping is definitely not London). Burial at the park is done in an environmentally sustainable way: that means biodegradable coffins, wooden memorials only, in land that - once it's full - will revert to natural woodland.
It's a gorgeous site, which just feels like part of Epping Forest. Until, that is, you're walking through the woodland and come across small clearings with wooden markers, some decorated, many not, then you spot the newer graves... And it feels like being buried there would be returning my atoms to the dust whence they came: I like the idea of feeding trees very much.
Many thanks to the following for an excellent time:
- Paula and Kevin for lifts to the station and not telling me I'm crazy
- the other staff of the Woodland Burial Parks Group for their obvious love of their jobs
- Dr Hannah Rumble for the lecture on natural burial
- Rosie from the Natural Death Centre: let's get open-air cremation in the UK!
- Mervyn from the Institute of Civil Funerals for explaining why they're not humanists (and calling me "dogmatic" - he's right)
- the horses for an excellent trip round the park.
Visiting: Epping tube station and a cab, or drive. Kinda ironic that an environmentally sensitive burial site can only be reached by car. But also inevitable. Photography not an issue (be sensitive to livings, of which there were a few): on finding out about my website, at least three members of staff asked me "have you brought your camera?"
An Evening Standard columnist once said of Kensal Green's annual open day: "It was like a cross between a funeral, a gig by the Cure and a village fete." He wasn't wrong. For me, it's one of the highlights of the cemetery calendar.
The open day centred around the Anglican Chapel, with a range of stalls: most were Etsy Live, with artisans selling everything from jewellery and jams, to cemetery photographs and books. Gingerbread coffins, complete with iced skeletons, were much in evidence, and classic hearses lined the main avenue. Death, Goths and a man on a penny farthing milled about. It was magic.
Top of the bill for me were the tours. The Friends of Kensal Green run tours regularly on Sundays, but Open Day has many to choose from, including the opportunity to go into the catacombs. The latter are fascinating: please go if you have the chance. At 2,000 deposits in the last 170-odd years, they're not exactly a commercial proposition, but they are still being used. And seeing 150-year-old coffins with their red velvet covering still intact and even a trace of gilding left on the coffin furnishings is amazing.
Special hat-tips: Dr Julian Litten for the most excellent tour of the above-ground cemetery (and his equally excellent pre-need gravestone); the guys from Silent Cities: great to finally meet you; all the Friends for their amazing work and such a good day out.
Inevitably, there are more KG photos...
If you're lucky enough to work in the area around Bunhill Fields, the City of London Corporation are running a series of events at lunchtimes next week. Ranging from complementary therapy sessions and bike surgery to (rather more to my taste) history tours and natural history talks, there's something on between 12.30 and 13.30 each lunchtime next week. Check out the press release for more information.
Organisers of events in cemeteries and friends' groups may like to know that I now have a calendar of London cemetery events in the sidebar over there -> to which your event can be added (for free, obviously). Just drop me a line with as much info as possible and a web link if there is one.
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