musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: mausoleum

Photo Essay: The Colonnades at Kensal Green

The Colonnades at Kensal Green are fascinating; a seemingly derelict structure with no apparent reason for having been made originally. 

A bit of reading on the Kensal Green Website reveals the following: the structure was designed by Sir John D Paul, Chairman of the General Cemetery Company and John Griffith in 1833, and it is a listed Grade II building. It was originally used to display tablets and monuments with a brick-vaulted catacomb beneath it, the base and stairs now hidden by the undergrowth.

The colonnade is made of Portland stone with  the roof being constructed of metal beams which are fixed into the boundary wall and are supported by the columns. The underside is infilled with roofing tiles and concrete to form semi-circular vaulting. The rear wall is divided into bays and each bay would have contained memorial tablets, although most of these have fallen off or been damaged over the years.

Most are blacked (possibly by pollution?) and some have been vandalised.

The catacomb was originally entered from the western side and has steps which are partly hidden by undergrowth. Coffins were lowered into the catacomb via a central shaft, now infilled with concrete. The catacomb extends in front of the colonnade to form a terrace. 

My images from 2013 reveal more of the front of the structure, but I just do not know where the entrance is.  I do recall that the colonnades were marked as being unsafe back then, but I saw no similar signage this time around. 

It is very difficult to understand how this structure may have looked or the size of the catacombs beneath it, and whether those who scratch obscene messages describing their genitalia have any idea as to what is beneath their overpriced designer trainer shod feet. Certainly tenants of the building behind the colonnades seems to accept that throwing their litter out of the window is an acceptable way to dispose of it.  

This faded and crumbling structure is fascinating, and I must try to find some sort of period imagery of it. I know that I would love to see what lies beneath, but would be very concerned as to the safety thereof. Technically there should be at least 8 feet of soil above the roof of the catacombs to allow for the burials above it, but maybe I am overthinking that part. It is really difficult to know given how overgrown the area in front is, especially when I saw it in 2016. 

There is a book in the British Library called “Illustrated guide to Kensal Green Cemetery. By W. J. Published in 1861 that advises that the catacombs under the colonnades were already full at the time of print. (The book is available on the Google Play Store for free). Sadly, it did not provide an illustration of the structure.   

And so a mystery it shall remain. 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 13/06/2016. Some text taken from the Kensal Green website.  

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:11

Return to Kensal Green

Number 2 on my agenda on this fine morning in June 2016 was a visit to Kensal Green (all Souls) Cemetery, although St Mary’s next door was my real priority.  I had managed to snag most of the Victoria Cross graves in 2013, so this was a visit to see whether I could photograph the others that I am missing, and update any images that I had. The weather on my original trip had been grey and cloudy and while it was grey and cloudy on this day it did seem just a bit nicer and brighter.

However, the moment I walked down that path I was shocked. In places the grass was so high I could not see into the 3rd row of graves!  It reminded me that the weather can affect the vegetation and it is a never ending task to keep a cemetery free of undergrowth, and that is true of South Africa as well as Britain.

I really just followed the path, heading towards the chapel, photographing as I walked; at least the weather was a wee bit lighter but I was scared that it would rain so I had to make sure there was a place to shelter. In the back of my mind was a grave I really wanted to find as I had not really done a decent job of it last time around, and it really intrigued me. The only clue I really had was that the gasometer was visible in the background so at least I knew which side of the path it was on. 

The cemetery has a lot of mausoleums and statues. Some are in a derelict condition, some are not, and some are listed buildings and are to be restored. Most are sealed against the weather and intruders, and some are so tangled into the undergrowth they have almost disappeared. 

The chapel is really more like a huge crumbling art gallery that is in dire need of restoration, and there is no real way to photograph the whole building in one image, it is just too wide. On the end bay of each wing are statues but the plaster in the bays is crumbling in places and the floors no longer seem all that certain. What did this building look like when it was built? It must have really been an impressive structure. Today it looked like it was about ready to give up.

I continued past the chapel, really looking for one mausoleum in particular….

This is the Andrew Ducrow Mausoleum, and it is really an exercise in Egyptian and Greek mythology. It must have been quite a spectacle way back when it was erected, because that is certainly true of it today.

Random images.

It was VC hunting time, and I headed towards the areas where my map indicated. But, in all of the locations that I visited I was unable to find the graves (which were mostly flat slabs) due to the excessive grass and undergrowth. The one exception being when I stopped to look around and looked down to find I was standing next to a VC grave! 

I headed towards the “colonnades” which are situated along the one boundary of the cemetery. A block of flats backed onto the structure and a box came flying out of one of the windows to fall close to the top of the structure.

I still cannot quite fathom what this structure was for, and the Kensall Green website does provide an explanation: “… Along part of the northern boundary-wall a series of catacombs extends, which are at present calculated to contain about 2000 coffins. The line of these vaults is indicated, above ground, by a colonnade of Greek architecture, designed for the preservation of tablets and other monuments in memory of the persons whose bodies are deposited underneath”. (”   Where was the entrance to these catacombs?  apparently there was a door on the west side, now hidden by undergrowth.  However the colonnades are crumbling and most of the wall memorials are now blackened remnants, and in some case they have fallen off already and their remains scatter the floor. It is however a fascinating structure and makes for interesting photography. I did a photo essay on the structure with more images of the memorials in it. 

With my VC search abandoned I now decided it was time to find my missing grave. In 2013 I had photographed a statue of a small girl leaning on a cross, but had not managed to photograph the inscription, and I wanted that inscription. However, she was intent on not being found and I waded through waist high wet grass looking for a small statue to no avail. I had more or less given up completely when my meanderings took me back to the area where the skeletons of the gasometers stand. It was almost as if this child was teasing me because I knew she was around, but did not know where. Then I spotted her out of the corner of my eye and was able to finally put a name to a statue. 

Her name was Winnie Smith, and she died on 20 March 1904 and she was almost 6 years old when she passed on. She has stood her lonely vigil for over 100 years, and the odds are there is nobody alive from her immediate family that even remembers who she was. But, I had remembered and was glad that I could finally put a name to that small statue. Curiously it is very possible that this is a representation of what she looked like in real life as this is not an off the shelf statue.

Kensall Green does have a lot of angels in various states of repair, and I saw quite a few that I had missed in 2013.

The CWGC records that there are 536 burials in the cemetery although I did not see too many scattered graves. In 2013 I had not had the chance to photograph the small plot of graves close to the exit as it was undergoing restoration at the time. This time around I was fortunate enough to be able to visit it and photograph the graves of which 3 were of South Africans. 

I also visited the Screen Wall where more casualties are listed as having graves that could no longer be individually marked.

And having completed that area it was time to head for home and the Thames to take my last images of the RMS St Helena. Kensal Green is an impressive cemetery that is best experienced twice. It is big, it can be very overgrown in parts, it can be overwhelming in others. There are areas where recent burials have occurred and you may end up bumping into grave diggers along the way (I did). It is hard to know what it looked like when it was founded, or how it looked over the years. However, there is one sobering memorial that must be shown.  

My time was up, and I will leave you with more random images. 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 10/06/2016

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:12

Return to St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery

I had last been in Kensal Green in March 2013, and had never been too happy with the pics I had taken. To exacerbate matters, when I went “next door” to St Mary’s I had been caught in a snow storm and had had to abandon my expedition without finding the VC graves I was looking for originally. Kensal Green is an impressive place, and it is the sort of cemetery that you need a lot of time in because there is just so much to see. 

Getting there is not too difficult. You grab the Bakerloo Line, change trains at Queens Park, then travel one station to Kensal Green. The cemeteries are both not even 200 metres away. Because St Mary’s Roman Catholic cemetery was more of a priority I headed there first. There were 3 Victoria Cross graves that I needed to find; these were the graves I had not found in 2013, and now I was armed with a description of each grave on top of the map I had gotten from Kevin Brazier in 2013.

The cemetery is a Roman Catholic one and it can be quite overpowering with the many mausoleums and statues. It is however quite large, but I did not venture too far from the main gate and chapel area.

The road from the entrance leads to this split, the building on the right is the chapel and one of the mausoleums is next to the pole. The Belgian War Memorial is on the path leading left.

The Chapel

The Chapel

There are enough mausoleums to fill a blog post, and some of them it is possible see inside because of clear or broken windows. Some are really beautiful inside, but I often wonder how many people actually go into them so many years after they were erected.  Some are in a poor condition, but generally they seem to be in a sound condition.


Looking at my images now it is difficult to imagine a Victorian era funeral taking place here. It was established in 1858 so the funerals were not only a time of mourning but often a social event.

My personal favourite has to be this one. 

My VC grave search went well and I was able to find all three graves in short order, although I kept on being distracted by statues and small details on graves. I cannot help it, that is how I am.


I have to admit she is beautiful, but I do wish I had photographed up into her face.

There are 318 CWGC casualties buried in the cemetery, although I did not go deliberately hunting them down as the cemetery has already been photographed;  naturally now I regret not doing it. But, it is always a reason for returning one day.


The weather, which had been warm with slightly blue skies was changing, and I decided that I really needed to get next door and see what was going on there. So I made tracks for the exit, and will leave you with some random images.

Random Images


And then it was time to head next door to Kensal Green (All Souls) Cemetery. I bade my farewells and walked down the lane, I felt much better now that I had had a chance to explore a bit of this place, unlike last time when I was more interested in keeping snow off my lens than anything else. Who knows, maybe one day I will return.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 10/06/2016.   

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:12

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

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
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