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.

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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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