Rachel and I went on a little adventure yesterday in search of a gravestone at Rippleside Cemetery in Upney in East London. 9 minutes on the tube from my home was well worth the effort. Rippleside is slightly hidden up the road from Upney tube station just one stop away from Barking on the district line. It has a small gate and a sign that is overgrown by shrubbery opposite a Ford car dealership. I went there in search of a man called John Crosby for reasons I will explain another time (intriguing? Yes!) but i can thoroughly recommend a wander if you’re ever in the area.
I should have reminded them their sign was slowly becoming part of the hedge!
I stood by the map sign at the entrance obviously looking a little perplexed when an older gentleman with a kind smile pulled up on a ride on lawn mower and asked if I was okay. I explained I was looking for a grave but I had nothing but a name, a date of death and a number that didn’t appear to correspond to anything in particular. He said the office was shut but he could go in and help me out, so he went off round the back and I waited out the front. As I was waiting a woman in a suit came out of the office and told me it was shut quite abruptly. Then the man popped his head round the door and said ‘Come on in!’. Lesson learned- sometimes the staff who are supposed to help are not that helpful, but those in other jobs are actually much better at it!
Once inside, he pulled out a dusty ledger book and we found 1921 with Mr. Crosby’s entry. The plot number was there but in traditional, beautiful script style it could have been a letter J, G, or L! He said the row number was what was important so off we trotted to the correct row in the hope of locating him.
On the way he showed me the first grave in the cemetery; a simple cross for a 6 day old little girl from 1886 huddled in amongst all the other graves in that area. One other thing he showed me was a huddle of graves to the side all tightly packed, he explained these were remains taken from Barking Abbey by St. Margaret’s church in Barking and relocated here. He said he had wanted to line them all up against the fence so you could read them but he was told they could not be moved from the relocated remains. He is such a fascinating gentleman I think I need to revisit and get his name to credit him properly!
The huddled gravestones from St. Margaret’s/Barking Abbey
Alas, John Crosby’s gravesite was used twice again after he was placed there. It was last used in the 1970s and probably bought by that family. However he will still be down there with his two new neighbours in death. It is very common for graves to be reused like this is no known relatives or grave markers are present. It’s unlikely John had a permanent grave marker or known family and therefore his plot would have come up for use again after a certain amount of time.
I felt bad that I had arranged to meet Rachel there but all this had happened before she arrived! However we did go for a long walk around he cemetery and made friends with a carnation munching squirrel. While over the other side of the site, the man pulled up on the lawnmower once again with a printout he had found. It wasn’t a J, G or an L but an I and he had all the details of the what had happened to the plot. I really can’t thank him enough for his help!
It’s a lovely little cemetery with some impressive architecture and grave markers. I’ll be sure to go back again too because I noticed some family names like those on my Mum’s family tree that she now would like to go see.
Rachel and the fearless, carnation-munching squirrel
Thank you for reading and I hope this post was interesting to you! I will explain more about John Crosby and his importance another time, I wanted this post to focus on Rippleside. I also now want to go visit the remains of Barking Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church which I might try to do next week or on the Bank Holiday.