musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Magnificent Seven

The Cross of Sacrifice

Visiting cemeteries looking for War Graves will mean that I will encounter the Cross of Sacrifice on a regular basis, and it is an easily recognisable and familiar object in many of the cemeteries that I visit. 
The first one I ever saw was at West Park Cemetery in Johannesburg, and this cemetery was really where my war grave photography started. I literally cut my teeth on war graves here, and while I have not been there in years I usually consider it a yardstick with which I compare other cemeteries to.
Cross of Sacrifice: West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg.

Cross of Sacrifice: West Park Cemetery, Johannesburg.

Designed in 1918 by Sir Reginald Blomfield for the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission). It is present in Commonwealth war cemeteries containing 40 or more graves. The cross is an elongated Latin cross with Celtic dimensions whose shaft and crossarm are octagonal in shape and ranges in height from 18 to 24 feet (5.5 to 7.3 m). A bronze longsword, blade down, is affixed to the front of the cross (replaced in some cases by fibreglass replicas). It is usually mounted on an octagonal base.
Cross of Sacrifice: Brixton Cemetery, Johannesburg.

Cross of Sacrifice: Brixton Cemetery, Johannesburg.

Sadly the local vandals stole the sword from this cross as well as from the one in Brixton Cemetery, and this has been replaced. Sadly, when I first saw this Cross it was still in its vandalised state.  There are two crosses in Johannesburg, although there is no real dedicated war cemetery in the city. The closest war cemeteries are in Pretoria and of course my favourite is in Palmietkuil just outside Springs.
Cross of Sacrifice: Palmietkuil South War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Palmietkuil South War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Thaba Tswane New Military Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Thaba Tswane New Military Cemetery

Leaving South Africa I travelled east to Hong Kong where the Cross of Sacrifice stands at the bottom of the magnificent Sai Wan Military Cemetery.
Cross of Sacrifice: Sai Wan  Military Cemetery, Hong Kong

Cross of Sacrifice: Sai Wan Military Cemetery, Hong Kong

The Cross and headstones are of the white stone which is unlike the gray that we have in South Africa, and I would encounter that white stone when I moved to the United Kingdom.

In London there are a lot of these Monuments to our folly with warfare, and the first I encountered at Streatham Park Cemetery where it forms part of the war memorial. Unfortunately the weather on this day was gray and overcast, and at that point I did not really have a place where I could submit my images to any longer.

Cross of Sacrifice: Streatham Park Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Streatham Park Cemetery

The use of the Cross of Sacrifice as the centrepiece if the war memorial is quite a regular occurrence in the UK,
Cross of Sacrifice: Brockley/Motherwell Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Brockley/Motherwell Cemetery

The Cross of Sacrifice may also be found in four of the Magnificent Seven Victorian garden cemeteries in London.
Cross of Sacrifice:Highgate Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice:Highgate Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice:Abney Park Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice:Abney Park Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice: Kensall Green Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice: Kensall Green Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice:West Norwood Cemetery, London

Cross of Sacrifice:West Norwood Cemetery, London

Oddly enough not all of the Magnificent Seven have a Cross of Sacrifice, although one was erected in Chelsea near the station and forms part of the local war memorial. Brompton Cemetery is not too far from here.
Cross of Sacrifice: outside Chelsea Station, London

Cross of Sacrifice: outside Chelsea Station, London

Moving from London to Southampton brought new challenges and places to visit, and one of the first places I visited was Hollybrook Cemetery.  There are two Crosses of Sacrifice in Hollybrook. The first is at the memorial to those who lost their lives at sea.

Cross of Sacrifice: Memorial to the Missing. Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton

Cross of Sacrifice: Memorial to the Missing. Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton

And of course there is another Cross of Sacrifice at the World War Two plot in Hollybrook.
Cross of Sacrifice: World War Two Plot. Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton

Cross of Sacrifice: World War Two Plot. Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton

Southampton is also home to Netley Military Cemetery, and it too has a Cross of Sacrifice.
Cross of Sacrifice: Netley Military Cemetery, Southampton

Cross of Sacrifice: Netley Military Cemetery, Southampton

Southampton Old Cemetery has a number of military burials within its walls and I spent many hours hunting them down. I also attended a wreath laying at the cemetery in 2013, and this grand old cemetery has a special place in my affections as a result.
Cross of Sacrifice: Southampton Old Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Southampton Old Cemetery

I only visited Winchester briefly and managed a visit to West Hill Cemetery which had a Cross of Sacrifice as part of the memorial within the cemetery.
Cross of Sacrifice: West Hill Cemetery, Winchester.

Cross of Sacrifice: West Hill Cemetery, Winchester.

I lived in Salisbury for just over a year and there was a Cross of Sacrifice in the London Road Cemetery, but none in Devizes Road Cemetery, although both of them had war graves in them.
Cross of Sacrifice: London Road Cemetery, Salisbury

Cross of Sacrifice: London Road Cemetery, Salisbury

Strangely enough, St Lawrence Church in Stratford Sub Castle had a small war graves plot presided over by a small Cross of Sacrifice. The graves were mostly of Australians from World War One.
Cross of Sacrifice: St Lawrence Churchyard, Stratford Sub Castle, Salisbury

Cross of Sacrifice: St Lawrence Churchyard, Stratford Sub Castle, Salisbury

My biggest war grave photography session was in Gosport, at Haslar Royal Navy Cemetery, and it was interesting because most of the pre World War Two graves had a different headstone to the standard CWGC one, but there was still a Cross of Sacrifice as a reminder of where you were.
Cross of Sacrifice: Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, Gosport

Cross of Sacrifice: Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, Gosport

I spent some time in Basingstoke and found that Worting Road Cemetery had a small CWGC plot with a Cross of Sacrifice in it.
Cross of Sacrifice: Worting Road Cemetery, Basingstoke.

Cross of Sacrifice: Worting Road Cemetery, Basingstoke.

And while I was in Basingstoke I managed to visit the magnificent military cemetery at Brookwood. There are two large Crosses of Sacrifice in this cemetery.

Cross of Sacrifice: Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Cross of Sacrifice: Brookwood Military Cemetery.

Cross of Sacrifice: Brookwood Military Cemetery.

I also visited the city of Bath which had a Cross incorporated into the town war memorial.

Cross of Sacrifice: Bath.

And the beautiful Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol has a Cross of Sacrifice at the “Sailors Corner”.

Cross of Sacrifice: Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol.

Cross of Sacrifice: Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol.

On a trip to Swindon I discovered a small Cross of Sacrifice in the Radnor Street Cemetery.
Cross of Sacrifice: Radnor Str Cemetery, Swindon

Cross of Sacrifice: Radnor Str Cemetery, Swindon

And on my visit to Reading I discovered the small Cross of Sacrifice in the local cemetery, keeping watch over the screen wall.
Cross of Sacrifice: Reading Cemetery.

Cross of Sacrifice: Reading Cemetery.

After Leaving Basingstoke I travelled North and ended up in Staffordshire, there I visited Cannock Chase Military Cemetery.
Cross of Sacrifice: Cannock Chase Military Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice: Cannock Chase Military Cemetery

And I found another Cross of Sacrifice in Warstone Lane Cemetery in Birmingham.
Cross of Sacrifice: Warstone Lane Cemetery, Birmingham

Cross of Sacrifice: Warstone Lane Cemetery, Birmingham

and another in Ryecroft Cenetery in the town of Walsall.
Cross of Sacrifice: Ryecroft Cemetery, Walsall.

Cross of Sacrifice: Ryecroft Cemetery, Walsall.

I now live in Tewkesbury, and the first Cross of Sacrifice I have encountered around here is at the beautiful Prestbury Cemetery in Cheltenham.

The point I am making is that wherever there is a Cross of Sacrifice there is a reminder that many servicemen and women, as well as civilians and their families were lost in the two World Wars, and they remind us that we must never walk down that terrible path again, because who will be left to erect even more war memorials or Crosses of Sacrifice?

I am sure I have forgotten a few of the crosses that I have seen, as I wade through my pics I am bound to find more of them, and will continue to find them as I explore more around me. The Cross of Sacrifice is a simple yet effective memorial, but it is so tragic that we need something like this in the first place.

© DRW 2015-2018. Created  20/09/2015, images migrated 01/05/2016

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:25

West Norwood is complete (2)

Continuing where we left off,

 I had entered “Ship Path” and now found out where it got it’s name from:

There is just so much to like about this memorial, but then I am biased. Looking around me I spotted a mausoleum in the bushes” and went to investigate.

The area around this memorial is very different to many of the areas in the cemetery, Ship path is a well defined path and it passed through an area of heavy undergrowth on one side and sloping grass with graves on the other. Both hold their attractions, and the heavy undergrowth can have many beautiful memorials in it.  The mausoleum in the undergrowth above belongs to Christopher Pond who helped pioneer railway catering to the UK amongst other things.

Time was marching, and the clouds that had been quite sparse when I arrived were starting to arrive too, so I decided it was almost time to head off back to the station. I really wanted to be out of there by 14H00 so that I could get a train back home before rush hour. I had more or less seen most areas of the cemetery, but you never really get to see everything.

As for war graves, I had photographed what I saw, and will know how many I did get once I have sorted and labelled the images that I have. (it appears as if I missed 81 graves). A funeral had also  started to arrive, and I am happy that this place does see burials and cremations, it is a new lease on life for an oldie like this, and while it may just be a cemetery, it is really a history book for everybody to read if only they would take the time.


I will leave you with a small selection of images, but they cannot convey the beauty of this cemetery, and I am glad that I have seen it. But before we get there, some images of St Lukes Church which was quite interesting in itself. 

West Norwood Misc images.

Back to the first part of West Norwood.

© DRW 2015-2018. Created 21/01/2015, images migrated 22/04/2016

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:47

West Norwood is complete (1)

Today I finally did it. I visited West Norwood Cemetery in London, thereby completing the final cemetery of the 7 Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London. To say that I am chuffed would be an understatement, especially when I consider what a beaut this one turned out to be.
West Norwood station

West Norwood station

I was blessed  with a clear morning for my trip, although the frost lay heavily on the ground (which made for stunning images too). The trip was via Clapham Junction and then onwards to my destination. Clapham Junction is quite a place too,  but surprisingly easy to navigate if you know where you must be. Oh, and know which train to catch. The local I caught here was a Southern Trains local, and the trip to the station was quite a quick one. The walk to the cemetery was also a quickie, although I kind of got distracted along the way by a church (which also had a war memorial).  Still, I am glad I did not have a long walk because I really needed my energy for the cemetery (as well as a full complement of batteries). 

West Norwood Cemetery is on the right with the brown fence.

West Norwood Cemetery is on the right with the brown fence.

Immediately after entering the gate you come to the Cross of Sacrifice and the screen wall. There are 136 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war and 52 of the 1939-1945 war here and an additional 18 cremations of the 1939-1945 war. There is 1 Belgian war burial. 
 I was not after any specific grave, in fact this was more of a touristy type trip, any CWGC grave that I saw I would photograph, but I was not there with a list and a predetermined route. 
The first breathtaker is very much the first thing you see when you enter the cemetery, and it is the Edmund Distrim Maddick Mausoleum of 1931. 
Spectacular is not the word I would use for this structure. It is truly magnificent, and what really makes it memorable is just how light and airy it was with its big windows and panels in the roof. There are a lot of mausoleums in West Norwood, and this was just the beginning! 
I could probably foam at the mouth about the mausoleums and statuary, I walked away from there with nearly 500 photographs, and I could show every one, and it could never really explain what this place was like. Like many of these Victorian cemeteries it was really an exercise in contrasts,  the rich and titled competing with soldiers, children, ordinary people and a host of vegetation, wildlife and stone. Parts are wild and overgrown, and others are pristine, like the avenue above. 
In parts it seemed almost empty, but I remembered that an empty space does not mean that there is no grave there, it can also mean there is just no headstone. I also believe that quite a few memorials were removed, which could explain some of the empty areas. Naturally I watched out for angels and statues, I cannot help it, they tend to draw your eye with their magnificent and often decaying splendour. And there were lots to see too, and some I had not seen before in other cemeteries, while others were like old friends. 
The Green Boy

The Green Boy

Kneeling Angel

Mother and child

Mother and child



The leaner

The leaner

The pointer

The pointer

Yes, I admit it, I am a sucker for a statue. Moving onwards I came to a very large area dominated by mausoleums, although I decided to not be lead into temptation and rather come back to it once I had done my circumnavigation. However, it was hard to walk past this area without looking.

Speaking of circles: what does West Norwood look like from above? I did not have a handy plan with me, but it is not really a very complicated layout. I am pretty sure I walked the while thing flat though.

There is a slight hill in the middle and the highest point is probably where the Crematorium is (the small building slightly off centre in the map).  The cemetery is home to a working crematorium and burials are still held here.  The cemetery was consecrated in December 1837 and has 164000 burials in 42000 plots.

The standard of maintenance was good, grass was trimmed,  paths were neat and generally the cemetery had a good feel about it. Parts of it are really wild though, at times almost impassable, but I had seen that in a number of the old London cemeteries and it is sometimes part of the ecology of the cemetery. I did get to see a fox on this visit, and I expect there is quite a lot of wildlife and birdlife here.
I could not help but think that in our urban jungle these cemeteries are really very valuable green spaces, and at times they may seem to be overgrown, but just maybe that is a good thing too, because it allows for populations of small animals to exist in our crowded world. I did see a feral cat running around, as well as the usual squirrels, and of course you could hear the woodpeckers and see the many birds that live amongst our dead. I also noticed bee hives in the cemetery, and tried my best to avoid those, but the idea that we can utilise spaces in this way is a very attractive use for a dynamic cemetery such as this. 
I was now in the area around the crematorium which used to be the site of the Dissenters chapel. Both chapels were badly damaged during the war, and the current building bears no real resemblance to the original. Its not an ugly building, its just not a pretty one.


There are two gems in the area of the crematorium, and they were both built by the architect Harold Peto, using terracotta. They are outstanding mausoleums, the one being for the Tate Family (of Tate and Lyle Sugar cube fame, as well as the Tate Gallery), and the other is for the Doulton Family. 
The Tate mausoleum was built in 1884, while the Doulton mausoleum dates from 1889. There is a similar one in Nunhead Cemetery too, and I managed to photograph it when I was there in 2013,  but it did not seem to be as well maintained as this pair. It was time to head back towards the exit and I walked along the road surrounded by all manner of headstone, it was really difficult to keep in a straight line because I kept on dashing off to photograph a grave. My shoes were sodden from the wet grass, and I was already getting flashing lights from my battery meter. 
The cemetery has two gates, and the one I came to now was not the one that I entered from, although from this one I could see St Luke’s Church which dominates the crest of the rise. It had an interesting war memorial which I would return to photograph on my way home, but it was realistically time for me to turn around and head towards that gathering of mausoleums that I had seen earlier. 
This area was fascinating because in 1842, a section of the cemetery was acquired by London’s Greek community for a Greek Orthodox cemetery, and was this soon filled with many fine monuments and large mausoleums. The images of the statues above marked “Kneeling Angel” and “Mother with child” is from of the tombs in this area.  Unfortunately a work crew were close by doing something mysterious with a grinder so I tried my best to look inconspicuous while in this area. 
There were a number of family vaults here that had a staircase leading down into them chamber underneath, and I was able to get a good look at the insides of one of them. We do not have this sort of thing back in South Africa, so my curiosity was piqued when I first found out about these vaults. Unfortunately though, the vandalism aspect for something like this is very high, and there was evidence that people were interfering with these resting places.

There is a large columned chapel building here too and I suspect it ties into this Greek Orthodox area. It is a beautiful building, but again I did not have answers to my questions. 

In this image you can see the entrance to one of the underground vaults in the bottom left hand corner. Unfortunately the door has been broken (or was removed) and parts of the interior seem to have fallen in. Leaving the Orthodox section I headed across to an area that had scaffolding on it, and I believe this may be where the catacombs are.
There wasn’t anything to see under the scaffolding, so I turned around and headed into the bushes behind the container. It was a good decision too when I look back on the pics I took.

This beaut is the Alexander Berens Mausoleum, and it is fantastic. Entrance is through the front, and next to it is a smaller mausoleum is that of Thomas de la Garde Grissell.

Slightly overwhelmed I found myself in an area that I had seen previously with the enticing name “Ship Path”. Being of a nautical bent myself I had to investigate it, and shall leave a tantalising clue on this page and will continue on the next page.   

© DRW 2015-2018.  created 20/01/2015 Images migrated 22/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 09:48

Tower Hamlets, a quick look

During the month I was in London in 2013, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit 5 out of the “magnificent seven” cemeteries in that city (Highgate, Kensall Green, Abney Park, Brompton, and Nunhead). Each was different, and each had its own attraction. Two of them eluded me though, and at the last moment I decided to try for Tower Hamlets during my trip to London on 15 August 2014. It was either that or Bunhill Fields (finally saw it in 2016), but the attraction of getting another of those famous cems under my belt was too great to ignore.
I hit the tube early, bailing at Miles End on the Central Line. The cemetery is a short walk from the station and easily found. 
Unfortunately though it was a bit of a gloomy overcast morning and the clouds kept on coming and going. There was a lodge, but no visitors center to pop into, or toilets for that matter.  My first find was a good one, I have been looking to photograph one of these headstones for ages and this was my first and she was one of the closest graves to the entrance gates.
And having seen it I am not too sure whether I really like the headstone after all, it seems slightly over melodramatic.  
My handy cemetery book says that the cemetery is 29 acres of greenery, and the greenery was obvious almost immediately. In fact I was reminded of Abney Park although the paths seemed a bit wider here. 

Like many of these cemeteries it is a series of meandering paths that seemingly ends up somewhere. You literally take a path and follow it until you end up back where you started, (or keeping going in circles until you get tired). The first detour I made was to the War Memorial, 

There are no CWGC headstones in the cemetery and there are 283 casualties listed as being buried here. And while it is more about bulb plating, this map gives a rough indication of the layout of the cemetery. My aiming point was a memorial which was close to Holly Walk on the map.
As I walked along the path I stopped and spotted one interesting memorial which I made a detour to photograph, on reflection this was probably the most ornate of them all that I saw.  
Continuing further I spotted a path and stopped, because coming up the path was what I thought was a fox. We stood and looked at each other and I started taking pics, but he was a bit far and I could not be 100% sure. It did not look like a dog, but the bushy tail was not there, and I will be honest I do not really know whether it was one or not. I like to think it was.
Eventually I came to the memorial I was looking for.
The cemetery was bombed during the war, and a number of memorials and buildings were damaged by bombs, it is also probable that a number of graves were damaged too, and of course the dead are buried in this cemetery. The Docklands area is not too far away and that was a prime target for the bombers overhead. 
I continued my meander, pausing occasionally to photograph a headstone or a group of headstones. 
The designs are all very similar and virtually indistinguishable in the undergrowth.  Again the similarity with Abney Park is very prominent, although the paths here were well tended and overall the cemetery was wild, but not madly unkempt. There is a a Friends Group that looks after the cemetery, and they do seem to be doing a reasonable job considering that they are probably all volunteers. 
Eventually I came to what was nice grouping of memorials, and it was actually quite odd to see this group together. 
The grouping on the left have two different surnames, while the grouping on the right have the same, but why the similar headstones? I have no idea. Still, the two crosses were really stunning, although both of the angel figurines are looking somewhat worn. 
Various areas of the cemetery are named as woods, dales and glades, and given the nature of the place it is well suited to what I was seeing around me.  
One thing I did feel was that there wasn’t that heaviness that I experienced in Highgate and Nunhead, and it was actually a nice cemetery to walk through. It was obviously very popular with the locals as I kept on encountering people walking or jogging through it. That  is one thing I do like about these glorious old cemeteries, they have become parks in their own right, in the Victorian Era they were seen as places to visit and promenade, today they are green spaces to use at leisure. 
Then it was time to head off to my next destination, the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red commemoration at the Tower of London. I was planning to go from Miles End to Liverpool Street and then onwards to Tower Hill Station. I hadn’t spent as much time as I had planned here, so had a bit of leeway to play with.  I had not been able to find the ruins of the Anglican Chapel that were somewhere in the cemetery, but had seen pretty much what I wanted to so as to get a feel for the place. The last thing I photographed was the slightly derelict lodge, which really needed some TLC.
In many of the cemeteries I had been in the lodges were in private hands, and I think that they could make for interesting living spaces, after all, you are at the doorway of one of London’s Magnificent Seven, and a very pretty place it is too.
Tower Hamlets is not a great cem, it will never be on the scale of Highgate or Brompton, but it does feel like a lot of the normal people of London are buried here as opposed to the “upper crust” buried in the more better known cemeteries, but at the end of the day, when the money ran out they all faced the same issues with all of these garden cemeteries (with the exception of Brompton), a cemetery that became an urban forest, and is now a tourist attraction for those who like rooting amongst the long forgotten dead. 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 15/08/2014, images recreated 19/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:34

Revisiting Brompton.

When I first went to Brompton Cemetery on 25 March I had returned unimpressed. So much so that I kept trying to work out why. I do expect the weather had something to do with because the cemetery was not really memorable at all. There was only one thing to do and that was return, this time on a day that theoretically could have a hint of sunlight. I also had the opportunity to try to find some of the VC recipient graves I had not found before. Don’t get me wrong though, the 6th of April was not as warm as it promised. 
The nice thing about Brompton though is that it is reasonably linear, so finding things isn’t all that impossible, however the legibility of the headstones is problematic.  There are quite a few mausoleums and impressive statues too, so they are always first in my mind. In spite of two visits to this cemetery I was not able to find the reported statue of two children in their Sunday best. A myth? or me not looking properly? (Apparently it does exist, but I just didn’t find it)
The Chapel is an impressive structure, one that would not look out of place in London’s business district. Leading off of the chapel are the two pillared structures that don’t really seem to serve any function, except for being the roof of the crypt. They are really magnificent structures, and in a remarkably good condition, unlike the similar structure that I saw in Kensal Green.
There seem to be 3 gates per side leading into the crypt underneath, and through the doors I could see coffins in shelves. I was surprised because I would have thought that the Victorians would have been somewhat more circumspect about having coffins in view through a door. However,  I was looking at something that was over 100 years old, and circumstances may have changed. 
There are a number of “celebrities” and famous people buried here, including Samuel Cunard, Emmeline Pankhurst, Richard Tauber and a few that are “before my time”. It was probably a very fashionable cemetery to be buried in during its heyday. Considering that it opened in 1840, it really has a wide selection of everybody in English Society. 
Military monument wise, apart from the 12 VC graves, there is also a Chelsea Pensioners plot and Memorial.
And an extensive Brigade of Guards Memorial which has been used since 1854.
What I did like was that the cemetery was obviously a much appreciated recreation space for the local community, and on the day I was there a large number of families were taking a walk through this Royal Park and enjoying the atmosphere of it. It is really quite a nice tidy cemetery, although parts of it are reminiscent of the vegetative chaos of Nunhead.
Brompton had redeemed itself considerably, and I was about ready to head off home. A last look around before I left and my whole outlook had changed. The weather had definitely contributed to my second opinion, but I also expect I was able to view it with a different eye. There are over 200.000 burials registered here, some being relatively recent too, and yet it doesn’t feel too cluttered or chaotic.  
And, there are some really nice angels and headstones too, even the pigeons and squirrels seem quite content to mooch off passing visitors. And, there is the obligatory sleepy lion. 
Strange, it is the third lion I have seen in the “magnificent seven” garden cemeteries of London.
The catacombs are to be found underneath the collonades and they have wonderful steel gates on them that can show a glimpse of what lies within.
It is a strange thing to see, however we must not look at a place like Brompton, or any of those vast Victorian cemeteries through the eye of a 2016 viewer, but rather through the eyes of the Victorians, and then we may understand.
Brompton is the only public cemetery to remain under government control and is now managed by the Royal Parks Agency.
There  are a number of Victoria Cross holders buried inside it’s walls,  the most famous being that of Sub-Lieut Reginald Alexander Warneford VC.
And that concluded my second Brompton visit, and I was glad that I took the trip out there with so few days left in London.  

 Random Images from my 2nd visit.


DRW © 2013-2018. Images redone 29/02/2016. Additional images added 01/01/2017
Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:19

St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green 2013

Use the arrow to return to Kensal Green
St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery

I do not have many images from here, but it was definitely a fantastic place, I just wish I had had the time to explore it more. Unfortunately a snow storm hit the cem just as I arrived at it and I had to abandon my photography session. I never did get back here again. I did however return in June 2016 and did a blogpost about it. It is quite odd to compare the two sets of images. 

The Belgian Soldiers Memorial (First World War)

The Belgian Soldiers Memorial (First World War)

The first thing that caught my roving eye was the beautiful Belgian Soldiers Memorial which also seemed more worthy of being in a public place than in a cemetery.
The snow was starting to become problematic as I was struggling to keep my lens dry and search for a VC grave too. But I had to admit defeat and decided that I would grab more pics and then head out of there.

I now had five of the Magnificent Seven under my belt, and only two days to go before I leave for Southampton….. I hoped that one day I would be able to see West Norwood and Tower Hamlets, and that actually happened but nearly two years after this visit. I always regretted never getting back to Kensal Green in better weather. My experience was really ruined by those grey skies and snow flurries. But that is the thing with grave hunting, sometimes you have to get the shot because tomorrow may be too late.

Kensal Green is managed by the General Cemetery Company since its inception  in 1830 and they still have offices by the main gate. It is still very much a working cemetery, and there was a service happening during my visit. The Friends of Kensal Green run tours of the cemetery on a regular basis. 

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated and links repaired 29/03/2016. Spilt off from original Kensal Green 2013 page
Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:20

Kensal Green (2013).

Before I head off to Southampton I really wanted to squeeze in one more of the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries in London, at first I was going try for West Norwood, as it theoretically wasn’t too far from where I live, but then decided at the last minute  to try for Kensal Green. The wonderful weather I had had in Abney Park was not going to continue and even snow was forecast! This visit meant I had to change to the Bakerloo Line at Elephant and Castle and climb off at Kensal Green. In 2016 I revisited Kensall Green and I have replaced 2 of the photographs in this post.
A bit of an odd train change at the station before really confused me, but fortunately I arrived more or less intact. I did not use the main gate, but rather the gate next to St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery which was next door.
Kensal Green was the first commercial London cemetery to open in 1833 and was designed by George Frederick Carden. My first impression was of mausoleums all along the paths, and fortunately that did change as I went along, but they just kept getting grander and grander all the time. 
I do suspect that I hit paydirt when I came across this particular one with its Sphinx guardians, and extra ornamentation.

While hunting VC graves I returned to this mausoleum and discovered a very nice sculpt of a drovers hat with gloves in front of it. The tomb belongs to Andrew Ducrow, a British Circus Performer. What does something like this cost? £3000 apparently (and that was in 1837). 

Spirit of Ecstasy. (Thea Cannonero Altieri, born 21/06/1910, 29/10/2000)

Spirit of Ecstasy. (Thea Cannonero Altieri, born 21/06/1910, 29/10/2000)

In the meantime I continued on my way until I reached a large building which is the Anglican Chapel, and from what I have read the crypt is underneath this building.

On either wing of the building were magnificent statues, the one pictured being for Georgina Clementson. Apparently she was the daughter of John Graham Lough, who sculpted this memorial.

The other is the really magnificent Robert William Sievier (1794-1865) Memorial. It is a magnificent piece, much more suited to a museum than faded chapel in a cemetery.

Continuing my exploration I finally arrived at the main gate, (which I had not used), it is an impressive building on its own, but it does pale into insignificance when compared to some of the mausoleums inside the cemetery.

I also came across the Dissenters Chapel which was also very impressive, and it is the first Nonconformist Chapel to be built in a public cemetery.

Then it was time to turn around and start searching for the Victoria Cross recipient graves, of which there are  15 in Kensal Green. The problem here is that the graves are not always that legible, and the weather was really starting to become a problem, as soft sleet was occasionally falling. My route took me back along the road I had come, pausing every now and then to check a section off on my list. The selection of graves beyond the pathway was less impressive memorialwise, and some were really beautiful. 

Image from 2016

Image from 2016

The image of the horse and rider is in a very poor condition, and it is now scheduled for restoration. The records show that Alfred Cooke was interred in the tomb in 1854, and it is a grade II listed monument. 
Walking through a cemetery like this is always difficult because of the variety of ornamentation and headstones that may be all around, and every now and then there is a splash of colour.


Of course there are the angels and cherubs and strange statues, my personal favourite in any cemetery. Kensal Green has a lot that I had not seen before, but again there are just so many…

The child statue on the right I just had to find again, and I did in 2016, and she was just as I rememebered her. 

The VC search was not going well either,  there were just so many distractions all around me, and at some point I considered giving up the search altogether. One of the graves took me to what must have been some sort of gallery/collonades where they had wall memorials on display. It was not in a good condition and signs warned of unstable structures.  

The plaques that lined the walls before are now mostly broken off, and the interior of this pillared building has an apocalyptic feel about it.

Generally I do not hunt down celebrity graves unless they are of interest to me, and I was fortunate to encounter two graves of famous people. The first was one of Britains finest engineers. He was responsible for so many feats of engineering and shipbuilding that he is legendary. I have seen quite a few odds and ends that Isambard Kingdom Brunel created, and this grave really is special to me.

Image from 2016

Image from 2016

Surprise number two was the grave of Jean Francois Cravelet Blondin (aka Charles Blondin), the man who crossed Niagara Gorge on a tightrope. In fact the list of “rich and famous” for this cemetery is a formidable one, but I did not have access to the list so may or may not have photographed some of the graves on the list. The Victoria Cross graves mean more to me than some of the graves of the rich and famous (and titled), and many of these are simple headstones, often missed amongst the ostentation of some of these creations.

There is a microcosm of British Victorian Society buried in Kensal Green, and it must have really been something to see the elaborate Victorian funerals that must have taken place. Make no mistake, the Victorians had death down to a fine art, and woe betide those who did not adhere to those unwritten rules.
And in death you had to show the world a public face (or effigy, or something equally grandiose). Today many of these memorials are “listed buildings”.

Yet the cemetery is not only mausoleums and grand headstones, there are also section where the only ornamentation is a simple gravestone.

Time was marching though, and the weather was still not on my side, If anything it was becoming increasingly more unpleasant. My VC tally stood at 6 and I was not getting anywhere. I had to start preparing to go home. First, I had to pause at the Commonwealth War Graves Memorial to pay my respects. Strangely enough I had not seen too many CWGC headstones in the cemetery, and I found the Cross of Sacrifice purely by accident, 

And with that I had to close off Kensal Green, I still had to stop next door at St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, but given how the sleet was turning to snow I expected that I would not be able to spend much time there at all.  Use the arrow below to access the St Mary’s page


Random Images

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated and links repaired 29/03/2016, St Mary’s split off 01/02/2017
Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:21

Abney Park Cemetery

In my quest to photograph as many of the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries in London I visited Abney Park Trust Cemetery in Stoke Newington. Like Highgate and Nunhead this is a Victorian garden cemetery that became redundant when there was no more profit to be made. Entry is via a set of impressive gates with an Egyptian motif and faux hieroglyphics.
Unusually the sun was shining during my visit so these images are almost too bright to be real. As expected of a cemetery that has fallen on hard times, Abney Park has lots of “graves in the bush” but is really a mix of individual graves and general imagery.
There is also the almost obligatory chapel, although this particular one is not in too good a condition and has been fenced off. 
Again I ask the question, what did these cemeteries look like when they were in daily use? a chapel like this must have cost a pretty penny to erect, and it ends up abandoned? 
There is also a Commonwealth War Graves Cross of Sacrifice although I did not see many CWGC headstones. The CWGC lists there being 258 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war and a further 113 of the 1939-1945 war. The cemetery also has a the grave of John Freeman VC  in it.  And, from what I read, there is a crypt underneath this memorial. 
The headstones are about what is to be expected in a cemetery from this era; a mixed bag of flat headstones, angels, columns and monoliths. There was only one small mausoleum, which wasn’t too ostentatious either.
If anything Abney Park is almost a “poorer” relative when compared to the grandeur of  Highgate West, but it does not detract from the beauty of this faded lady. Parts of it are almost interchangeable with Nunhead, Highgate, and Camberwell Old Cemetery.
There are the rich and famous here too, the most prominent being the founders of the Salvation Army; William and Catherine Booth. 
There is also the famous Bostock Lion, which is almost a twin of the Wombwell Lion in Highgate West. 
And of course a reminder that policing can be a very dangerous job. The headstone of Constable William Frederick Tyler, is replete with a replica of his uniform.
And, there is a sober reminder that not even civilians are safe during a war. A small memorial remembers locals that were killed during the bombing of London.
Abney Park is a pretty cemetery, it is nice to walk around, and was not drowning in mud, although I suspect it could be quite wet at times. The vegetation is controlled and it was an enjoyable morning. If anything I rate this cemetery over Brompton, possibly because it  was like visiting a long lost and tired relative.
According to my book, it was abandoned over 25 years ago and then purchased by the London Borough of Hackney. Today it is more of an urban forest and wildlife preserve, and long may it grace us with its presence.

Random images

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 29/03/2016. 10 new images added 13/12/2016
Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:22

London Highgate (West) Cemetery

Having seen Highgate East Cemetery it was inevitable that I would want to see the West Cemetery. Unfortunately you may only see it as part of an official tour; still, it is better than not seeing it. On the day of my tour the sun was battling to stick out its head so light conditions varied all the time. I was also suffering from battery problems so had to use my cellphone as a camera while I passed the time at Highgate East.
Entrance is through the ornate chapel/lodge/gate house and once through the gates up a flight of stairs to the cemetery. The cemetery is built on a hill so it is a upward climb for part of the way. There are quite a few similarities between the two Highgates, although the formal pathways here seemed much better than in the East cemetery. However, the same ornate memorials abounded, and again I was left thinking about what it must have looked like when it was open and funerals were happening here. 
The one thing that West has that East hasn’t are the crypts and mausoleums on a grand scale. The most famous being the Egyptian Avenue which was clever way to cash in on the Victorian mania for things Egyptian. Today it is more reminiscent of a casino gone wrong. The open topped avenue is lined with vaults and built on a slope leading into an even more grand area. 
 One of the ideas at Highgate was to create a central vault lined pathway topped by a tree. This ideal still exists, although now it is somewhat of a faded representation of what it was supposed to be. Apparently the vaults did not really sell very well and many stood empty for years. 
From here a set of stairs took you up another levels where you could look down on this circular area and see the 300 year old cedar tree that served as a centerpiece.
Once finished at the Egyptian Avenue we were on another level that led up to the crypt as well as another of the curved pathways that runs inside the cemetery. The crypt area is interesting because it is quite a large hallway with glassed in panels in the roof to let light in. It is a dark and gloomy place and were were not allowed to take photographs inside of it. Some of the chambers were open and we could see the coffins inside.
The cemetery has its own ecosystem and the guide said that a colony of bats made this their home too. Given the atmosphere in the crypt all it would have taken would be one bat to make us all run for cover. The roof and chapel above was supposedly a popular place in the Victorian era and people would come here for a Sunday stroll and picnic. We were not able to see this “promenade” above because of safety issues, but it once afforded amazing views of London.
Highgate is also famous for some of its beautiful headstones, and I am sure we missed some of them, but a few that we did see was “Nero the Lion”, headstone of  George Wombwell.
 The grave of George Sayer with its famous resting dog.
The famous “Sleeping Angel”
 And probably many more that I never saw or that are not on the official tour. 
There are many considerations to be made when it comes to a cemetery like this. For starters safety is a major concern, many of the monuments are at drunken angles already, and the way underfoot is muddy in many areas. However, the question I ask is “who is really responsible for these memorials?” the cemetery is now run by “The Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust” and by the looks of it they are now the custodians of those memorials and the bodies in the crypts. Burials still happen here, although it does not come cheap, and I expect more people get buried in the East Cemetery than the West.
Part of me feels that I missed a lot during the tour which lasts just over an hour, but then I expect they can only show the areas that are safe. But I do hope that one day they will open up more of the cemetery so that we can see more of this Victorian “folly”, because if you look at it rationally, it is a folly, the people who created it never looked as far as 100 years down the line when it would be full, demographics would change and people no longer believed in having an edifice for a tomb.
 Maybe somewhere down the line, in another 100 years time people will be doing tours of our 20th century grid pattern cemteries and trying to to understand why we did things the way we did.


Random images 

DRW © 2013-2018. Recreated images 28/02/2016, more images added 01/01/2017
Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:23

Visiting Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery is one of the “Magnificent Seven” in London, and like each of them it is an experience to visit and there are always things to see if you know where to look. Unfortunately as this is somewhat of a retrospective post I have to rely on some of my images to date this visit and it appears to have happened on 25 March 2013. 

There are two entrances to the cemetery and I used one on Fulham Road ( 51.482927°,  -0.186252°). It was a cold and dreary day and my hands were decided chilled as I took my photographs. This was not photography weather!

The cemetery is laid out in straight lines which technically makes things easier, you can see quite far around yourself which is a bonus if you are looking for CWGC graves. There 371 identified casualties in the cemetery, and 12 Victoria Cross recipients. 

Thomas Hancock VC

The eight Victoria Cross related burials that I photographed may be seen on my Victoria Cross Graves in the UK page.

I did not have any specific goal in mind on the visit, it was really about trying to make sense of the lives of the people were buried all around me.  A big drawcard for me was the chapel and colonnades that formed the roof of the crypt. 


The structures are in a very good condition, and if my supposition is correct that crypt beneath must be as large as the colonnades above. Entrance to the crypt was not on the cards, but the very ornate gates were sufficiently gapped to see what lay behind. Unfortunately at the time I did not check all the doors to see what was behind them. I did however see this bell which may belong to the cupola that you can see in the image above. The angel? who knows. unfortunately for every answer there are a hundred questions that need asking.

Continuing on my expedition I realised that my old bugbear was nagging at me again and I need a loo and very quickly. I headed towards the opposite gate and exited the cemetery,

coming out in Old Brompton Road (Google Earth  51.487944°, -0.193949°). This is close to the famous Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

I struggled to find a loo but fortunately there was an open pub so I was saved! Then it was back to the photography. 

There was one named grave that I wanted to find: 

The grave of Samuel Cunard

Samuel Cunard left us the legacy of the famous Cunard shipping Line and its fleet of famous ships. I had to tip my hat at that grave.

Random Images


The one thing that I recall from this visit was that I did not really “enjoy” this cemetery as much as I have others. It is difficult to explain and I suspect the grey weather did play a major part in it. I would rectify the situation on the 6th of April though, and as such shall more or less continue my walk around Brompton on that page, or you can just enjoy some more random images. Either way, Brompton has some beautiful memorials and angels and is a really nice way to spend a morning. 

More random images.


The final image count for Brompton? roughly 280 images. It was a quiet day. 

You can head across to my second visit by using the little arrow below.


© DRW 2013-2018. Retrospectively created 02/02/2017

Updated: 28/12/2017 — 07:24
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