If you're lucky enough to work in the area around Bunhill Fields, the City of London Corporation are running a series of events at lunchtimes next week. Ranging from complementary therapy sessions and bike surgery to (rather more to my taste) history tours and natural history talks, there's something on between 12.30 and 13.30 each lunchtime next week. Check out the press release for more information.
Organisers of events in cemeteries and friends' groups may like to know that I now have a calendar of London cemetery events in the sidebar over there -> to which your event can be added (for free, obviously). Just drop me a line with as much info as possible and a web link if there is one.
Lambeth Cemetery is either a tragedy, or a triumph of practicality, depending on your point of view. Opened in 1854, few of the original Victorian monuments survive, due to a "lawn conversion" carried out between 1969 and 1991, which removed all but the most interesting Victorian graves, freeing up new space for burials. Thus the visitor to Lambeth today sees an unusual admixture of twenty-first century granite and Victorian, lichen-covered angels. It feels very strange.
At least the pair of super-sized Gothic chapels have survived, though only one is in use and the other has been fenced off, apparently derelict. The original lodge is also still in existence. At the other end of this long, thin cemetery is the modern crematorium opened in 1969. This is typically utilitarian in design, and surrounded on one side by numbered rose beds, and on the other by sunken paths bearing memorial tablets.
Visiting: Very busy, with new graves and hence livings throughout. Numerous cars parked all over the place: is it just me who finds people driving up to the actual gravesite rather distasteful? But has toilets. 493 bus stops right outside, or visit Streatham Cemetery at the same time and walk from there.
Amongst the random ephemera I've picked up on eBay is this 1902 booklet of the Rules, Orders and Regulations of the London Cemetery Company, relating to their two cemeteries at Highgate and Nunhead. You can download a PDF of the complete booklet here.
I'm devastated to see that
All ... cameras ... must be left with the Gatekeeper during the time that the owners thereof remain in the Cemetery.
We also see the price changes over the first sixty years of Highgate's opening: in 1842, interment in a common grave was £1/5/- (one pound, five shillings); in 1902, £1/10/-. Ground for a grave 6 foot 6 by 2 foot 6 was £3/3/- in 1842; by 1902, it's £3/8/-. 5 shillings seems a very small increase, but in fact, it's not: according to the Bank of England, inflation over that period averaged -0.1% per annum: prices fell. So the expensive burials are getting even more expensive.
Streatham is one of the nicer cemeteries in this corner of London: small, but nicely set out with curving paths, and a pair of chapels with beautiful porches, separated from each other by a couple of hundred yards. Opened in 1892, it's now mostly closed to new burials, though some interments in existing graves do still happen: two last week, but none this, I'm told.
The source of my information on burials is the excellent Barry, employee of Wandsworth Council, who shares with Jean Pateman the dubious honour of being the only cemetery personnel who've trying to stop me taking photos. Assured that I wasn't taking pictures of new graves (well, there aren't any) or inscriptions newer than 100 years or actual mourners, he kindly let me carry on. He also informed me about Streatham's tragedy: the schoolchild who during one night decapitated a number of the anthropomorphic statues in the cemetery. She was caught - apparently - with a store of angel heads beneath her bed, but was too young to be prosecuted.
Visiting: Earlsfield rail station or Tooting tube, and then buses 44, 77 or 270, which all stop outside the cemetery. Probably try to avoid Wandsworth Council staff, but there were absolutely no mourners there when I visited; I'm told there are rarely many.
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Wandsworth Cemetery is crammed into a wedge-shaped space between a residential street and the railway. Opened in 1878, it was extended in 1898, and further room for new burials was created in the 1980s by banking up earth along the western edge beside the railway. Nevertheless, Wandsworth is now nearly full.
It's a beautifully-maintained cemetery, with plenty of healthy trees, and the original buildings: a pair of Gothic chapels (only one is still in use), another building now in private ownership, and the brick-built lodge. There are, it must be said, not so many interesting monuments, though a few stand out: Emma Cook's granite edifice and Jurgan and Emily Pfeiffer's arched gable are both to be found to the north of the chapels.
Visiting: Earlsfield station is just around the corner (train down from Clapham Junction). Has toilets! A few livings about but no one batted an eyelid at photography.