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.)
Nowhere near Paddington, it's in Kilburn, but was named for the Paddington Burial Board who opened it in 1855, and Brent Council has kept the name. It's a beautiful little cemetery with a pair of stunning chapels (only one is still in use). The cemetery starred in the Doctor Who story The Remembrance of the Daleks.
I was playing with a new lens (50mm f1.4 - so expect a lot of very shallow depth of field stuff until I get bored with that).
Visiting: Walkable from Kilburn, Kilburn Park or Queen's Park tubes; 98 bus stops outside. A fair few livings around, mostly dog walkers. Occasional drunks and swarms of bees.
It's six years since I went to Woodgrange Park, and I don't mind admitting I trudged along Romford Road with a certain amount of trepidation. Was it even still there, or had Badgehurst finally succeeded in selling it off? There was a moment of panic when I saw a Tesco Express that was surely new... but then, no, there was the sign pointing into the cemetery. All was well.
Well, no it isn't. The chapel has gone, demolished in 2006. It's been replaced with a pile of debris, containing the smashed-up remains of several gravestones: you'd've thought after the Emmerdale fiasco, they'd have been more careful. But it's not all bad. Maybe it's the time of year, maybe it's the loss of the chapel, but the drive into the cemetery did seem a little less overgrown to me.
Further back, it seems that everything's been given a very strong dose of weed-killer. This is immediately noticeable in the older section to the right of where the chapel was, and in the larger section to the left and back which is now the Muslim burial section. I've said many times, if anything is to save Woodgrange Park, it will be the Muslim community. There are many, many more graves now than in 2005, and I really hope that this signals the beginning of a new era for this long and badly neglected cemetery.
Visiting: Woodgrange Park station and turn left. Watch out for the little sign pointing into the cemetery; it looks more like a car park from outside. Few livings about, even in the recently used parts. Someone possibly official was clearing some of the older graves when I was there. No one objects to photography.
Manor Park's nicely managed by the same company who opened it in 1875. You can see the whole of London's memorial history in this one place: from Victorian angels and solid granite edifices, through grey stone and then black granite slabs, and finally the myriad standard rose bushes that memorialise those who have been cremated here. It's nice, but not all that exciting, and I've seen it before and wouldn't have come again but for one thing: Steve Marsh's astonishing granite BMW.
Steve's daughter told the Daily Mail:
He was a car enthusiast all his life, he loved cars from a child. ... He always drove BMWs, we've all got them. We couldn't just give him a normal headstone. We wanted it to look as realistic as possible. We had a lot of trouble getting it done. We had to order it from China and have it shipped over. It weighs about a ton and was made out of one piece of granite. I think my Dad would absolutely love it.
I absolutely love it too. Rest in peace, Steve: you'll never be forgotten.
Visiting: Manor Park rail station, or walkable (just about) from East Ham tube. Very few livings, one guy washing his car. Has toilets!
I am massively disappointed in this book. The image of the cover makes it look like a lush coffee table book: I was imagining beautiful colour photographs, partnered with text that talked about the significance of the Magnificent Seven and what they'd inspired in cemetery design and management in the rest of London. I hoped for insight into the significance of *this seven* and how that might shape the future. I didn't get any of that.
The book consists of a chapter for each cemetery, with a standard introductory text to its location, layout and history, with a few pointers to exciting things to see and famous people in each cemetery: nothing that doesn't exist in plenty of other places. And there are a lot of black and white photos. I know some cemetery photographers swear by black and white and use nothing else: I'm (obviously) not one of them. If you're going to explain the sumptuous riches of these cemeteries, you need colour. And (sorry Messrs. Turpin and Knight but) the photography isn't really all that good (page 95 is particularly poor, but generally, verticals aren't vertical, horizontals aren't horizontal, and there are too many dull diagonal shots across monuments).
If you want a book on London's cemeteries, stick with Hugh Meller & Brian Parsons for comprehensiveness, and Darren Beech to fit in your pocket. And if you want photos, try Flickr.