19th Century · 20th Century · Chelsea

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.

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18th arrondissement · 19th Century · 20th Century

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.

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19th Century · 20th Century · Hammersmith

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.

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18th Century · 19th Century · 20th Century · Calgary · Dervaig · Lochdon

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.

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19th Century · 20th Century · Leytonstone

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.

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14th Century · 17th Century · 18th Century · 20th Century · Lochdon

Duart Castle: the turbulent history of the ancestral home of Clan MacLean

It’s impossible to miss Duart Castle.  It stands proudly on a spur of land reaching out into the Sound of Mull, and it’s a familiar sight to people who travel through those waters.  The powerful MacLean clan have controlled Duart Castle for much of its history, using the castle’s prominent location as a symbol of the clan’s power and prestige.  In common with other Scottish castles, Duart has a fascinating, turbulent and sometimes bloody history, from medieval clan wars to the Jacobite uprisings of the 18th Century.  Today, the Chief of Clan MacLean welcomes visitors from all over the world to his family seat, so that they can learn about the history of the castle and the clan that made it their home.

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19th Century · 20th Century · 21st Century · Battersea

Battersea Arts Centre: a Victorian gem rising from the ashes

When stepping into the grand entrance hall of Battersea Arts Centre, it’s not obvious that only a few months ago a terrible disaster struck the building.  On a Saturday afternoon in October, the place is bustling.  Families have gathered in one of the rooms for a child’s birthday party; half a dozen buggies are parked on one side of the marble staircase.  Other people sip coffee and tuck into snacks at the centre’s cafe bar.  It all seems like a normal day – business as usual – except for the group of people donning high-visibility jackets and hard hats.  They have come to the centre to see for themselves the devastation left by a fire in the centre’s Grand Hall in March 2015, and to hear about the plans to rebuild the venue that has been at the heart of social and cultural life in Battersea for over a century.

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20th Century · East Sheen

A block of flats in south west London with its own Second World War air raid shelter

The period between the two World Wars was one of massive expansion for London.  The city’s population grew and grew, peaking at 8.6 million in 1939 (a total not surpassed until very recently), and new housing was built at a rate never seen before to accommodate this growth. These new homes, council houses and private houses alike, contained modern facilities such as indoor toilets, making them attractive to those living in older, less well-equipped homes.  But a new housing development in East Sheen, in south west London, had yet another desirable feature for potential buyers: as the fear of war grew in the 1930s, St Leonard’s Court came with its own purpose-built air raid shelter.

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17th Century · 20th Century · City of London · Twickenham

Moving a church tower from the Square Mile to Twickenham: the story of All Hallows

It’s a little known fact that more of the City of London’s churches were demolished during peacetime than were destroyed during the Blitz.  As London expanded, the population of the Square Mile declined.  Fifty one of the eighty-seven churches consumed by the Great Fire of 1666 had been rebuilt, but as the City’s population dwindled during the 19th and 20th Centuries, congregations fell and many churches became surplus to requirements.

However, as you make your way along the Chertsey Road in Twickenham, towards the famous rugby stadium, an unexpected sight looms into view: a baroque Christopher Wren church tower.  This is one of the lost City churches, All Hallows Lombard Street, reborn as a suburban parish church.

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20th Century · Bowness-on-Windermere

Exploring Blackwell, a stunning Arts and Crafts house in the heart of the Lake District

On a hillside overlooking Windermere is a spectacular house.  That in itself is not surprising, as in the 19th and early 20th Centuries wealthy business owners from the north west of England flocked to the Lake District and built comfortable homes for their families – retreats from the noise, soot and pollution of the industrial cities.  But Blackwell, the house we’re exploring today, is quite remarkable – within its Grade I listed walls is an exceptionally-preserved Arts and Crafts interior.

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