Tag: Victorian

Highgate East Gallery

Welcome to my Highgate East Gallery. You may have come here by accident, or you have followed the link backwards to my Highgate East post. Either way you have arrived. Pull up a chair and have a look. There are just over 40 images here.

   
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DRW ©  2013-2020. Recreated 28/02/2016


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? By sheer accident we ended up discussing it at one of my graving groups and they confirmed that the statue does exist, or it used to exist because at some point the two statues were stolen. The boy was recovered a few years ago but the girl never was. There is an article about the statue (posted 16 Sept 2011)  at http://sleepinggardens.blogspot.com/2011/09/
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.  A list of famous graves may be found here https://brompton-cemetery.org.uk/monuments.html
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 and he is the third lion that 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. I did photograph quite a few of the VC graves and they may be seen on allatsea
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 © 2013-2020. Images redone 29/02/2016. Additional images added 01/01/2017, updated 15/03/202

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 200 year old Cedar of Lebanon tree that served as a centerpiece. Unfortunately in 2019 the tree was condemned by tree surgeons, amid fears it could collapse and it was decided to cut it down. 
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 cemeteries and trying to to understand why we did things the way we did.
 

 

Random images 

DRW © 2013-2020. Recreated images 28/02/2016, more images added 01/01/2017