Yesterday was one of those days when I get a spur of the moment urge to get out of the house. In fact, I had been pondering a return visit to Bookwood, but never got down to it until 11H56 in the morning of 20 December. By 12H24 I was on the train and on my way. It does go to show that I can get my act together if I really want to.
Much to my delight the previously flooded subway was now dry and I was able to enter the cem with my dignity intact. And, almost immediately I discovered something I had missed originally.
The sight of the railway line was always on my list of things to see, and this was a tangible link to that past. I did not really have a specific plan on this day, I still did not have a map with me, but then I was really killing time and not really there with a goal. Everything would be happenstance. My next find was this sign which I photographed from the back. Oddly enough it does not really face anything, and there is a possibility that this sign may tie into the railway line, remember that on the other side of this sign is the railway line to London…..
(Passing the sign on the train confirmed my theory about the sign, it is barely visible from the existing Brookwood Station, but the Necropolis Railway would have gone past it much closer). I continued my random stroll, pausing to look at graves, and generally enjoying myself. It was a bit chilly but the light was nice and it was quite a nice day. Yet, there was something about this place that I could not quite put my finger on, and it only struck me a bit later. I also wanted to head towards the office which was at the “Glades of Remembrance”, which is on the opposite side of the road (Cemetery Pales) that bisects the cemetery.
However, when I finally arrived there I found it all locked and bolted, so no asking of pertinent questions was going to happen on this day. That done I struck off across a large seemingly empty plot of ground which is dotted with the occasional grave. I had no way of knowing whether this area was still to be developed, or whether there were graves there.
It was probably around about this point where I finally managed to put my finger on what I considered was wrong with this cemetery. It was not a welcoming place, it was not the sort of cemetery where you can wander around and feel like you are amongst old friends, in fact I felt out of place here, almost like an intruder in some secretive place. I have been in many cemeteries, and they are all very different, yet some just have a better atmosphere than others, ask any taphophile and they will confirm what I say. It does not put us off our meanderings, it just makes us look harder for reasons to like the place.
I really wanted to take a look at the chapel and St Edward Shrine Church which was more or less in the direction I was heading. I had not explored this area in my last visit so was really curious.
Unfortunately for me the area is not really accessible as it was a private property, and the signage at the church explained the reasons. However, it also gave me a clue to the missing railway line.
“… the area around the furtherest building bonded by the edge of the railway platform and the low yew and box hedge (These actually outline the former south station of the Necropolis Railway)…” Google Earth was unable to provide an answer from the overhead view, but I did see what looked like railway lines behind the 3 buildings, so that may be the railway line remnants. A bit more reading and I was able to confirm that the buildings were the endpoint of the railway line, so next time I am there I will be able to take a better look and see what other remnants I can find.
While looking through my pics that I took when I was last in London in August 2014, I discovered that I had an image of 121 Westminster Bridge House which was the entrance to the London Necropolis Railway Station. The lettering over the façade is no longer there, but it is the same building. The area was also bombed during the war so I suspect some changes have been made in that area around the building.
I checked Google Earth to see where the building was in relation to Waterloo Station and spotted a siding that ran almost right up to the building next to the old offices at 121, and in all probability that siding was the same one used by the funeral train to Brookwood. What a strange turn of events this whole LNR thing turned out to be.
Back to Brookwood:
Time was starting to pass so I started heading in the direction of the station. I wanted to catch the 14H55 train back to Basingstoke and still wanted to quickly stop at the military cemetery, in fact I was really tempted to spend an extra hour at the cem but the light was heading towards night so I did not think that the 15H55 train would be such a great idea.
I really wanted to take another look at the Memorial to the Missing that I had not really appreciated last time I was here.
However, the military cem is so big that I would not be able to get there, do what I wanted to and then still make my train, so I decided to leave it for another day and headed back towards the station.
Oddly enough I was not too tired, and had the light not been fading may have stayed awhile longer, but unfortunately light, train timetables and energy dictates how long I can stay in one place. The military cem is a day trip on its own, and maybe one of these days I will take that day and do what I want to in the military cem, but this was not that day.
I still am undecided about Brookwood, although I now have a better understanding of how it comes together, and where the necropolis railway fits into it. It is worth remembering if I get to Waterloo Station too, because it is nice to tie something like this up. The modern context of Brookwood as a place is very different to what it must have been before WW2, and the sad thing is that the war really ended the necropolis railway and added to the numbers buried in the cem. There are 98 war graves buried there which are not in the military cem, and who knows, maybe one day I will be hunting them down too. But, we will wait and see.