As I mentioned in a reply to a comment from Pat the other day, I had a nice wander around West Norwood Cemetery at the weekend. It’s a big place, forty acres, and has a nice rise to the chapel and crematorium at the top, with splendid views across London. There was hardly anyone about, not even many dog walkers, which surprised me given what a great space it is close to streets of houses.
Even in death, maybe especially in death, it’s easy to pick out the rich, the powerful, the self-important and the famous. I couldn’t always find a name on the various tombs and mausoleums, but it was pretty obvious which ones had been particularly costly. Some are the size of beach huts, some largish summer houses. It was an uncomfortable thought that some of our dead are housed better than the living; homelessness is rife in London. It’s a national scandal. Today a homeless man was found dead yards away from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the UK government.
At least one pigeon had found itself a upmarket abode.
Other memorials were massed together; the rank and file of dead; the crosses, angels and wreaths of ivy like so many extras in a crowd scene.
Inevitably my eye was mainly drawn to the more flamboyant, but I did wonder if this woman might figure in my family tree as one of my paternal great grandmothers maiden name was Farley, and this would be the right sort of neighbourhood of London. Added to that, one of my grandmother’s middle names was Agnes. It made me thoughtful.
I liked this memorial and I know an Ibbotson, though I don’t think his family hails originally from south London.And I’d love to know the story of the couple named on this memorial.
I wrongly assumed that Mr John Wimble had died at sea, but a quick search online revealed he had retired from his nautical life, lived in comfort near the Old Kent Road and left considerable sums of money behind. Not bad for a lad who started his career at twelve or 13.
A number of the tombs and mausoleums are sadly dilapidated, including this very grand one to the Grissell clan, whose contributions through their civil engineering work include ironwork at the Palace of Westminster, gates for Sir William Tite’s Royal Exchange, the gates and railings round Buckingham Palace and at the British Museum, as well as bridges at locations in both the UK and Egypt. It’s an impressive CV.
You might notice a splendid mausoleum in the background, to the left of the Grissell monument. It’s gorgeous, but try as I might I couldn’t find a name.
Fortunately, this striking mausoleum has been documented elsewhere, so it wasn’t too difficult to find that it was erected to house the remains of one Alexander Berens, a linen draper of St. Paul’s Churchyard who made a fortune. His tomb was designed by EM Barry, whose father Charles was one half of the partnership responsible for rebuilding the Place of Westminster after the devastating fire of 1834. The son’s design seems to owe more to Barry père’s co-worker, Augustus Pugin.
Walking back down the hill though the long shadows of a February morning I came across a much simpler memorial, but arguably every bit as arresting and moving.