In the middle of my very chilled out Autumn break (very chilled because we had zero plans thanks to the possibility of anything being cancelled by lockdown regulations) I find myself with a camera roll full to the brim with grave photos thanks to a lot of cemetery wandering. This not only makes me very happy but also gives me a lot of writing fodder to catch up on!
At the weekend I headed to the City of London cemetery with Laura T on a mission to try and track down her relatives graves. It was a bit of a mission doomed from the start because we had no plot number for these graves, and that cemetery is the actual definition of massive. Think big, then think again and double that. We walked for hours and hours in the sunshine, we met some lovely people and had a wonderful time. Of course we didn’t find the graves we hoped we might stumble across but we did see some amazing things.
The cemetery is right on the edge of Epping Forest, sprawling for what feels like miles and miles of not just pathways but actual roads through the landscape. It is very well cared for, the lawns are manicured and it is kept very clean. The new graves are in neat rows, sometimes sandwiched in between the older ones, clear from the changes in style. The rows and rows of earlier graves are a little jumbled and wobbly but full of charm and wonder. Wikipedia states that there are over 150,000 people buried at the City of London Cemetery which is a mind blowing number.
One aspect I found amazing are the bigger monuments which stand over the reinterred remains exhumed from the inner city churches destroyed to presumably make way for changes. One example you can see in the monument inscription below which shows the churches destroyed for the formation of the Holborn viaduct and other ‘improvements’ in the 1860s. Several of these monuments exist from various parishes of the inner city. They fascinate me and fill my head with imagined scenes of an old London with its tiny churches and churchyards. The history of cemeteries is something I am developing a love for, I’ve found myself being able to clearly spot the changes in grave style between late Victorian, mid last century and present day which is easy when you know what to look out for.
If you are thinking of visiting, which you should be, this cemetery is fully built for the visitor’s experience. It’s a nice place for a walk or cycle, absolutely full of history and wonder, and you may spot a famous person (deceased, although I assume living could be possible too if they were paying a visit). There’s a brilliant little cafe at the main gate too! Another aspect I was very impressed and surprised by was the availability of toilets dotted around the site and their condition (clean and remarkably lacking in spiders!). I have since been told of a few different graves I should have also been looking out for while there, but I am already making plans to go back so I shall keep them for another time.
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