Margravine Cemetery

Tucked between Charing Cross Hospital and Barons' Court tube station is Margravine Cemetery, once known as Hammersmith Cemetery. It's a long corridor of a thoroughfare, either side of the busy path lined with graves. Like most suburban cemeteries, it's not over-supplied with spectacular monuments, though Margravine has a decent crop of quirkiness: check out the Fletcher family's throne, and bandmaster Tom Brown's cello, now sadly damaged. Spectacular in both name and monument is Sextus Gisbert van Os: pillows on graves are not that unusual, especially in west London, but his is one of the best examples I've seen.

The cemetery is being nicely managed as a mix of Victorian burial ground and wildlife habitat by the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, with help from the Friends of Margravine Cemetery. There are no new burial spaces available in Margravine, though interments can still happen in family graves.

"Margravine", by the way, is the female form of "margrave"; the cemetery is so named now because it's on Margravine Road. The margravine in question is Elizabeth Craven, the Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach (who looks like a rather interesting person). The Margravine herself is buried in the English Cemetery at Naples, also the resting place of Mary Somerville.

Visiting: Public transport to Hammersmith station, it's a 5 minute walk. From Fulham Palace Road, turn down St Dunstan's Road, on the north side of Charing Cross Hospital, and right into Margravine Road. Cemetery has a lot of livings in it, mostly passing through. No one acts like photography is weird.

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Kensal Green isn’t “sad” or “forgotten”

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).

Mausoleum of Duke of Cambridge

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Grave humour

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.

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Fulham Cemetery

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.

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Putney Vale 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.

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