St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury: two 18th Century burial grounds

Although the 19th Century is the most notorious period for desperate overcrowding in the churchyards and burial grounds of London, the problem of finding enough space to bury the city’s dead was not a new one.  As London grew both in population and size during the 18th Century, little room was set aside for cemeteries and the garden we are visiting today is the first example of Anglican churches being forced to locate their burial grounds in far away from the churches themselves.  Today, St George’s Gardens in Bloomsbury is very much a part of central London, but when the two burial grounds that were later landscaped into this pleasant park were first opened, they were surrounded by fields.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading

Exploring West Norwood’s magnificent Greek Necropolis

The word “necropolis” is incredibly evocative – it is somehow a far more atmospheric term for a burial ground than “graveyard” or “cemetery.”  The word derives from the Ancient Greek term nekropolis (νεκρόπολις), which translates as “city of the dead.”  Rather fittingly, given the origins of the term necropolis, today we are visiting the Greek Necropolis, a small but dramatic section of West Norwood Cemetery in south London – a Greek Orthodox cemetery that contains the highest concentration of listed funerary monuments anywhere in Britain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading

Winged skulls and hot air balloons: the grave of Étienne-Gaspard Robert, pioneer of phantasmagoria

Not too far from where musician Jim Morrison is buried in Paris’ Père Lachaise cemetery stands an imposing monument that often gets overlooked by those set on finding Morrison’s memorial.  It stands much taller than the graves around it, and on each corner winged skulls leer down at passers-by.  It’s a superb monument, full of interesting details and rich imagery, and the man it commemorates lived a fascinating life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading

Ely Place: a street in central London that used to be part of Cambridgeshire

The heart of London is full of strange old places with unusual names and odd stories, but there is one place that for a very long time was not a true part of London at all.  Ely Place, just to the north of Holborn Circus, was until relatively recently considered to be a part of Cambridgeshire.  For centuries, it was an enclave – an area of land physically located in the City of London but not under its jurisdiction.  Instead, it was privately owned by the Bishops of Ely, and even today the street has its own gatehouse and beadles.

P1020332

Continue reading

Exploring the world’s first (and most famous) garden cemetery: Père Lachaise

This week Flickering Lamps is taking a break from the hidden, not so well known sites that often grace this site to explore probably the most famous cemetery in the world: Paris’ Père Lachaise.  Opened as the world’s first garden cemetery in 1804, Père Lachaise (or to give its original name, cimetière de l’Est – East Cemetery) was the inspiration for many other grand Victorian garden cemeteries, both in Europe and across the Atlantic in the Americas.  Situated on the edge of the city, Père Lachaise was opened to provide a dignified burial space for all of Paris’ citizens.  Around a million people have been laid to rest there since it opened in 1804, and today, around two million people visit the cemetery every year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading

Soldiers, adventurers and rumours of a time machine: tales from Brompton Cemetery

A few weeks ago, I went to Brompton Cemetery again.  I was with my friend Sharon, a fellow graveyard explorer, and I also had a new camera lens to put through its paces.  Since my last visit, a lot of the undergrowth that had swallowed up a good many gravestones had been cleared, and as a result we came across many graves that I’d never seen before.  Last time I wrote about Brompton, I felt that I’d not been able to do the place justice in just one article, so it seems like a good time to revisit the cemetery and look at more of its rich heritage.  Some of the graves featured this time around are grand and mysterious, others are modest and unassuming; yet all of them have their own fascinating stories to tell.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading

Cimetière de Montmartre: an abandoned quarry transformed into a stunning necropolis

Cimetière de Montmartre, in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, did not have the most glamorous or auspicious of beginnings.  It was originally a gypsum quarry, situated outside of the city walls, and after the quarry was abandoned, a section of it was used as a mass grave during the turbulent years of the 1790s.  Yet this rather grim location was over time transformed, and it is now a peaceful haven where thousands of Parisians lie at rest beneath beautiful memorials.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading

Hammersmith Bridge: tales of bombs, boat races and Bazalgette

Of the many bridges that span the River Thames in London, Hammersmith Bridge must certainly rank as one of the most picturesque.  Each year it is seen by spectators of the famous University Boat Race, which passes beneath it, and its striking design makes it a favourite with photographers.  The bridge has, however, had rather a dramatic history, ranging from alarming incidents of overcrowding to IRA bombs and daring rescues.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading

Graves with a view: exploring the Isle of Mull’s picturesque burial grounds

The beautiful landscape of the Isle of Mull is dotted with tiny burial grounds, each of them with their own stories to tell.  We’ve already visited Pennygown, with its ruined chapel and graves ranging from the medieval period to the present day.  Some of these cemeteries are close to settlements, others seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  They are all in stunningly beautiful locations.  The words and symbols preserved on the gravestones offer us a glimpse into the history of the island, and of the lives of the people who have lived and died there over the centuries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading

The stories behind the statues at St Patrick’s cemetery

If you’ve ever travelled east of Stratford on the London Underground’s Central Line, you’ve probably seen the vast graveyard of St Patrick as the train clatters between Leyton and Leytonstone.  It is the final resting place of around 170,000 residents of East London.  On a pleasant Saturday afternoon, I explored this fascinating cemetery with my friend and fellow graveyard enthusiast Sharon and we discovered so many stories about the people buried there – stories of war, of love, of immigration, of the faith that united all of those buried at St Patrick’s.  Along with St Mary’s at Kensal Green, which Flickering Lamps visited earlier this year, St Patrick’s is one of only two cemeteries in London to cater exclusively to Catholics.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading