The moment of my greatness, Flickr
Cemetery Archives: North Sheen Cemetery
Just when we had given up all hope - yes, I know that is always the time that things do happen in novels and tales; but I can't help it. ... It WAS just when we had given up all hope, and I must therefore say so.
Jerome K. Jerome's words from Three Men in a Boat have never seemed more apt. I had trailed round a goodly part of North Sheen Cemetery hoping to prove that Neil hadn't made up the most improbable epitaph ever. And just when I'd decided that turning up with no real idea of where the grave was, was silly, and resolving to phone the cemetery office tomorrow, there she was. I'm torn between asking what her family can have been going through, and what they can have been thinking of:
North Sheen (a.k.a. Fulham New) is a cemetery of two halves. The southern, older half is covered in long grass, being left that way until the autumn to encourage wildlife in the area. Wildlife spotted included a green woodpecker, but nothing else very unusual.
The northern, newer half is filled with regimented, back-to-back rows of gravestones, with just enough room to run the grass mower between them. There's some evidence that in the 60s, Hammersmith and Fulham Council wanted to standardise things even further: there are a couple of rows of headstones, all the same size and shape, engraved on both sides. They look like council-supplied stones. Whatever they in fact were, I don't think they were terribly popular because there are several not engraved at all, and the practise was obviously discontinued after a few years: the rows revert to individually chosen formats.
Joan Keat's family are not the only people in North Sheen Cemetery with unusual ideas about what should be written on a gravestone. The family of biochemist Edward Tomich have a chunk of Gray's Elegy - was he as depressed as that choice makes him sound? But the best work is from Tony O'Gorman, who's set up at least three gravestones with the most wonderful, personal messages I've ever read. Good on you, sir.
Visiting: Allegedly 10 mins walk from Kew Gardens rail station (take the "not Kew Gardens" exit): this is only true if you turn down West Park Road and turn right down Mortlake Road. I, unfortunately, walked down North Road to the roundabout by Sainsburys. Once you've done that walk, it's 10 mins to the cemetery, or three stops on the 190 bus. Or drive, if you do drive.
Has toilets. Plenty of livings about, but no one bothering me about taking photos, possibly because I had my "looking for a grave" face on. Which indeed I was.
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