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Category Archives: London Cemeteries
Of all the things that the Daily Mail writes which make me angry (and there are many), cemeteries aren't usually high on the list. But they've managed it today, with a bit of filler about the last Duke of Cambridge, George, the second Duke (grandson to George III), who died in 1904.
The piece, obviously a follow up to Prince William's new title, is titled Sad resting place of last Duke of Cambridge, and begins "The last Duke of Cambridge is buried in a forgotten tomb, overgrown with weeds, in a North London cemetery." By coincidence, I happened to visit that very spot today. It's right in the middle of Kensal Green Cemetery (just to the west of the main chapel), and though it didn't have a cortege of mourners outside it, there were plenty of people passing by and at least one person (me) took a photograph of it. Unlike the Daily Mail reporter, I didn't lie down in the grass to make it look "overgrown" either (it isn't).
Graves and cemeteries form a small but consistent set amongst the fat ladies and weedy men of the humorous postcard. Alcohol is almost always present too. George Orwell in his essay on the art of Donald McGill notes that for the comic postcard, drunkenness is ipso facto funny, and I suspect that the same must go for the cemetery: how else to account for the repetition of the not very funny joke about drunks falling asleep on graves?
I'm not sure why my postcard collection exists. Probably too much time spent on eBay, plus complete incredulity that these can have sold in their thousands and yet be so unfunny. I suppose the point is that there's no danger at all that the person to whom you sent the card wouldn't get the joke.
Click the thumbnails for the big version.
A long thin piece of land running alongside Fulham Palace Road, Fulham Cemetery is pretty, but feels as though it's being managed back to nothingness. After some vandalism in the 1980s, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has grassed over a number of grave spaces, which makes the place feel more empty than it really is. There aren't really any outstanding monuments, beyond a rather disturbing Tudor-style tomb for a baby, and a large group of First World War graves, but the tympanum above the chapel door, depicting knights at the Resurrection, is rather fine.
Visiting: It's near the southern end of Fulham Palace Road, near the junction with Fulham Road. Plenty of public transport to the area: walkable from Hammersmith station. Lots of joggers and playing children in the cemetery.
Opened in 1891 and now run by the London Borough of Wandsworth, Putney Vale is just stunning. In twenty metres of path behind the chapel, there are more amazing monuments than you'll see in the whole of most cemeteries. It has a particularly good crop of angels, and three rather lovely mausolea. As you work your way down the hill away from the chapel, the early twentieth century splendour does tend to run out: areas used for newer burials are mostly lawn cemetery. The chapel itself is rather lovely, but has the crematorium chimney tacked on the back rather bizarrely disguised as a square, white castellated tower.
Visiting: Putney Bridge tube and then the 265 bus: it stops right outside. Start at the chapel (eastern) end, where most of the more interesting monuments are. Funerals happen on Saturdays, so be prepared to melt into the background while the living do their thing.
Booking has now opened for the Open Garden Squares Weekend on the 11th & 12th of June, when a number of gardens not normally accessible by the public will open their gates, and others will be holding special events to encourage visitors. Three cemeteries - West Norwood, Tower Hamlets and Bunhill Fields - are taking part, as well as several former burial sites which have been converted into public garden spaces. I'd recommend St George's Gardens and St Dunstan's in the East if you haven't visited.
Tickets are £7.50 for the weekend if bought in advance (£10 if you buy them on the day), and can be bought in a number of ways. (The Capital Gardens website is not especially user-friendly, so I'd use one of the other ways if you can.)