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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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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17th Century · Lambeth

The spectacular Tradescant tomb: “a world of wonders in one closet shut”

Tucked away in a pretty garden that was once an old churchyard near the River Thames is an extraordinary, richly-carved tomb.  Decorated with exotic scenes and creatures, it marks the resting place of members of the Tradescant family, who made a name for themselves in the 17th Century collecting plants and other curiosities from all over the world.

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19th Century · Highgate

The Victorian splendour of Highgate’s Western Cemetery

Highgate is London’s famous cemetery – it’s the one that most people think of first when Victorian cemeteries are mentioned and it’s the most well known of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries that date from the early Victorian period.  Its location on a hillside overlooking the towers of central London draws thousands of visitors, and the overgrown western cemetery has inspired quite a few chilling tales over the years.  Although it retains the glamour and prestige it commanded in its heyday, Highgate looks quite different now compared to its Victorian beginnings.  Despite the many years of neglect (now being remedied by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery), this wonderful burial ground is still one of the finest locations of Victorian funerary architecture in Britain.

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17th Century · City of London

Deciphering a spectacular resurrection stone at St Andrew, Holborn

Over a doorway on one of the City of London’s many Wren churches is something really quite special.  A large but intricate carving depicts the Last Day – the figure of Christ presides over the dead, who are rising up from their coffins in preparation for the final judgement.

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19th Century · 20th Century · Mile End

Novo Beth Chaim: an old Jewish cemetery marooned on a university campus

It’s one of the last places you expect to stumble across an old graveyard, but in the middle of the Mile End campus of Queen Mary, University of London, is a remnant of an old burial ground with many stories to tell about the history of East London and the people who settled there.

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19th Century · 20th Century · Kensal Green

A walk among the stone saints and angels: St Mary’s Cemetery, Kensal Green

Next door to the well-known Kensal Green, one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries, is another vast necropolis.  The two cemeteries are separated only by a tall brick wall, and although they are similar in age, and include many similar memorials, there are differences between the two cemeteries – some subtle, others less so.  St Mary’s Cemetery at Kensal Green is one of only two burial grounds in London that caters exclusively for Roman Catholics, and around the cemetery the visitor can see many symbols that reflect the faith of those buried there.

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19th Century · Kensal Green

A taste for the dramatic: the grand monuments of Kensal Green

One of the things that has always appealed to me about the big Victorian cemeteries is their sense of drama, and their grand, elaborate memorials.  Of course, there’s nothing new about the moneyed commissioning ostentatious memorials for themselves and their loved ones, but in the grand cemeteries of the big cities, like London, it’s possible to see lots of dramatic memorials clustered closely together, all vying for prominence in burial grounds that were designed to be visited by the living as well as being places for the dead to rest.

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Kensal Green, one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries, is home to many wonderfully dramatic monuments.  Opened in 1833, it was inspired by the famous Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, and the burial of one of King George III’s sons, Prince Augustus Frederick (died 1843), made Kensal Green a fashionable place to be laid to rest.

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18th Century · 19th Century · Fulham

The final resting place of the Bishops of London

I’ve lost count of the number of times I walked past this church and its burial ground before finally stopping to explore it.  All Saints, Fulham, is situated close to the River Thames, and is the twin to the more famous church on the other side of Putney Bridge – St Mary the Virgin, Putney.  St Mary’s was the home of the Putney Debates, a series of discussions amongst members of the Parliamentarian New Model Army, in 1647.  But All Saints also has an interesting history, and has a churchyard full of fascinating graves – including the tombs of many of the Bishops of London.

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20th Century · East Sheen

East Sheen Cemetery and the “Angel of Death”

Opened in the early 1900s in a well-heeled area on the edge of Richmond Park, East Sheen Cemetery seems at first to be an entirely typical 20th Century burial ground, its paths lined by stone and marble monuments, sheltered by pine trees.  Sadly, it’s suffered from vandalism over the years and a number of crosses and headstones have fallen or been pushed over.

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However, there is a dramatic surprise waiting for visitors to this otherwise unassuming cemetery.

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