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Cemetery Archives: Tower Hamlets Cemetery
I discovered some pictures of the Tower Hamlets Cemetery chapels in the Illustrated London News for 24th March, 1849. As the actual buildings are long-gone, it was rather nice to see what they were like.
There's a very short accompanying article; here it is in its entirety.
At this period, when public attention is so universally directed to the sanitary condition of the metropolis, and when the suppression of intramural interments may shortly be anticipated as the law of the land, a sketch of the City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery, which has been recently completed, cannot fail to be interesting.
To the inhabitants of the City of London especially, it must form a matter for congratulation, that within two miles of the Royal Exchange, a suitable resting-place has been provided for the remains of those who once formed its busy occupants, so preferable in every respect to the already over-crowded churchyard burial-ground.
This cemetery was incorporated by act of Parliament in the year 1841, and a considerable portion of the ground has since been consecrated by the Lord Bishop of London. It comprises an area of upwards of thirty acres, most eligibly situated, being close to the high road leading to Bow.
The chapels, which form the subject of our Illustration, have just been completed from the designs of Messrs. Wyatt and Brandon, and are greatly admired for their purity of style and propriety of arrangement. That erected in the consecrated ground is in the early Decorated period, with a belfry at one angle, in which are some nicely ornamented windows; and at the sides are attached cloisters for the reception of mural tablets, so contructed as to afford an effectual screen from the weather. The chapel appropriated to the use of Dissenters is of octagonal form, and in the Byzantine style of architecture. Beneath both chapels are dry and extensive catacombs, arranged so as to accommodate single coffins or to form family vaults.
The grounds have been judiciously and effectively laid out by the same artists, and inclosed [sic] by high walls and ornamental iron railings; and the drainage, which is effected by means of an artesian well, to a depth of 210 feet, and tributary drains running through the land in various directions, is, we understand most successful — a depth of twenty-six feet having in many instances been obtained without moisture.
The chapels apparently suffered bomb damage in the war (shrapnel damage can still be seen on some of the gravestones towards the front of the cemetery near the Soanes Centre). They were demolished in 1967, following the 1966 purchase of Tower Hamlets by the Greater London Council. Meller notes that there was also a "little Egyptian style mortuary"; I'd dearly love to see a picture of that.
I got to wondering today, how did the new cemeteries go about marketing themselves? (Marketing's what I do when I'm not wearing a cemeterying hat.) Some digging about in old newspapers may be in my near future...
Visiting: Mile End tube, turn right and walk down Southern Grove. There's always something going on at Tower Hamlets. Met a nice lady who asked me if I was lost; I said no, I was just wandering; she said "oh good". An old gentleman told me I should have been here 30 years earlier to see more good stuff. This is the kind of cemetery I like.
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