The moment of my greatness, Flickr
Cemetery Archives: Huguenot Burial Ground
Apropos of nothing at all, one of the stories I've always loved in Isabella Holmes' The London Burial Grounds is her climbing over walls to check out burial sites she couldn't otherwise access. I hope she wore rational dress, because climbing over walls in crinoline, bustle or corset wouldn't have been easy. She probably could've done with jeans and Docs. Just sayin'.
Anyway, to the subject in hand. The Huguenot Burial Ground is situated between two busy roads in Wandsworth, and is fenced off with a locked gate. Anyone wishing to access it is advised by a laminated notice to contact the Council for the key.
Wandsworth Council have said they are to undertake a program of renovation of the tombs remaining, and that they intend to open up the ground for public use with seating and information boards. This would be nice, because at the moment, the remaining graves seem to be decaying into the foxgloves with nothing being done to stop them.
Well, I knew my history A'level would come in useful one day. Turns out, that's today. The Huguenots were French Protestants, and this is how they ended up in Wandsworth.
In 1598, Henri de Bourbon de Navarre succeeded to the French throne as Henri IV. Though he converted to Catholicism in order to claim the crown, apparently with the line "Paris is well worth a Mass", Henri issued the Edict of Nantes, granting French Protestants equality under the law with Catholics. But his grandson, Louis XIV, acting to enforce centralised government on France, began a policy of persecution of Protestants, ending in 1685 in the declaration that Protestantism was illegal. The Edict of Fontainebleau forbade Protestant worship, mandated the education of children as Catholics, and forbade emigration.
Nevertheless, somewhere around 200,000 Protestants fled France, and some of them ended up in south London, where they brought their weaving and gardening skills to London industry. In 1687 they opened their burial ground. It became known as Mount Nod and was enlarged in 1700 and again in 1735. It currently contains five grade 2 listed historic tombs and more than 100 other monuments.
The ground was closed under the Metropolitan Burials Act in 1854. It's now managed by Wandsworth Council, who have stated their aim to make it (link to management plan pdf) "a place where people feel safe and secure". The plan is to tidy up the site, make the graves safe and install seating and information boards: if Wandsworth can do this, I'll be very impressed indeed.
Je vous souhaite un joyeux quatorze juillet.
[photos coming soon]
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