I can’t remember where or when I first heard about Nunhead Cemetery, but it has been on my list of places to visit.
Then a couple of weeks ago, a friend visited and took some shots, so put it front and centre in my mind. So, when I realised I had to take a week off, going to Nunhead was upmost in my plans.
And for some reason, I thought that going by train, on the slow train from Ashford, would be the best use of our time.
I say our time, as Jools had the day off too.
So, plans were made and timetables studied, and so we would leave Dover on the 08:52 train to Charing Cross, but getting out at Sevenoaks.
It was a bright morning, but was soon to cloud over. But no rain.
Which was nice.
We had breakfast and loaded the car at quarter past eight, driving into what counts as rush hour traffic around here, into Dover and finding a place to park on one of the narrow, steep streets overlooking the station.
I then hed to negotiate with lady in the ticket office about whether a journey could be broken on the outward or inbound leg. I have always thought it the outbound, and indeed have done so in the past, she said inbound only.
In the end she sold me a ticket and said it wouldn’t be her fault.
In fact, it was my fault for wanting to take the slow train up and fast train back. But, hey ho.
We waiting for the slow train, watching the High Speed service leave before us, as travelling on that would have meant us paying double as it arrives in London five minutes before ten, thus making it a peak service. Had it arrived six minutes later, would be an off peak.
Anyway, our train rolled in, so we got our seats and prepared for the 90 minute journey into deepest, darkest Kent. Or Sevenoaks as we call it.
The train filled up as we got nearer London, until we reached Sevenoaks and so we got off as more got on. We crossed over to the far platform for the Thameslink service, but there was confusions, the display was showing the 10:52 cancelled, and that being the next planned departure, but the 10:22, as leaving after, but operating.
A train pulled in, so we got in to see where it would go. It was the 10:22 after all, so all good.
The train trundled along the Darent Valley, past places I knew through churches and/or orchids, until we crossed the M25 and into that London.
I can see for miles and miles We passed through places I have never heard of, parts of the urban sprawl of SE London: Swanley, St Mary Cray, Bromley, all of which are technically in Kent, and each having at least one parish church. Which could mean some urban crawling at some point, but I don’t think I will do these historical Kent churches, as they are now London boroughs.
Two hundred and seventy six We arrived at Nunhead, and being just gone 11, were hungry. I knew from GSV there was a café, so we sought it out, and both ordered a medium breakfast and a brew.
Even though this is a few miles from the centre of London, traffic passed outside, sometimes an ambulance or police car with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Houses packed so close together than the selection of wheelie bins made the pavement almost impassable, especially as the London Plane Trees were so mature so that they took half the path.
All Saints Cemetery, Nunhead, Southwark, London After eating up, we made our way through a modern housing estate, through a passageway and found ourselves outside the cemetery.
All Saints Cemetery, Nunhead, Southwark, London Nunhead was one of the "magnificent seven" cemeteries built in the 1840s to find places to bury the city’s dead when the churchyards near the centre of the city were full.
All Saints Cemetery, Nunhead, Southwark, London Nunhead is perhaps the least known, and the Victorian part has gotten overgrown, with nature reclaiming the land, with graves and monuments covered in plants and ivy.
All Saints Cemetery, Nunhead, Southwark, London It all makes for fine photography, but also a reminder that in death, we are all equal, as the grand tombs and memorials are claimed by nature now, or partially damaged at a time when it was even more wild than it is now.
All Saints Cemetery, Nunhead, Southwark, London We walked to the ruined chapel, locked, sadly, then up and round a rad, lined with grand tombs and memorials, some at alarming angles due to tree roots.
All Saints Cemetery, Nunhead, Southwark, London We stopped at a bench, and tried to spot the parakeets in the trees above. We could hear them, but not see them.
All Saints Cemetery, Nunhead, Southwark, London We had seen enough, so walked back down tot eh gate, through the estate to the station. We caught a train to Blackfriars, which as it neared the river, weaved through buildings and over roads, passing so close to some flats that I could have reached out and knocked on their windows as we went by.
At Blackfriars we crossed to the other platform to catch a train to Luton, going just two stops up the line, under The City to St Pancras.
We had a 50 minute wait, so I got us a coffee and some honey roast peanuts, so we sat on a bench and watched people passing by, all in a hurry and most carrying luggage.
It’s funny, that from the same station you can catch trains to Dover and other places in Kent, Nottingham, Derby and other places in the midlands, trains to Brighton, Gatwick and Luton Airports, Cambridge, as well as Paris and Brussels. Quite an amazing place, and a wide selection of people and passengers.
We went up to the platforms above to wait for our train to come in, delays meant there was a shortage of platforms, so as soon as the Margate train left, some 15 minutes late, ours came in, filled up and we slipped back out, into the tunnel under London to Stratford, then out to Dagenham to Dartford, under the river into Kent.
We arrived back in Dover at twenty to four, walked to the car and drive back home, getting back at just on the hour, time for Steve on the wireless.
As usual, we were pooped.
Nunhead Cemetery is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London, England. It is perhaps the least famous and celebrated of them. The cemetery is located in Nunhead in the London Borough of Southwark and was originally known as All Saints’ Cemetery. Nunhead Cemetery was consecrated in 1840 and opened by the London Cemetery Company. It is a Local Nature Reserve.
Consecrated in 1840, with an Anglican chapel designed by Thomas Little, it is one of the Magnificent Seven Victorian cemeteries established in a ring around what were then the outskirts of London. The first burial was of Charles Abbott, a 101-year-old Ipswich grocer; the last burial was of a volunteer soldier who became a canon of Lahore Cathedral. The first grave in Nunhead was dug in October 1840. The average annual number of burials over the ten years 1868–1878 was 1685: 1350 in the consecrated, and 335 in the unconsecrated ground.
In the cemetery were reinterred remains removed, in 1867 and 1933, from the site of the demolished St Christopher le Stocks church in the City of London.
The cemetery contains examples of the imposing monuments to the most eminent citizens of the day, which contrast sharply with the small, simple headstones marking common or public burials. By the middle of the 20th century the cemetery was nearly full, and so was abandoned by the United Cemetery Company. With the ensuing neglect, the cemetery gradually changed from lawn to meadow and eventually to woodland. It is now a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for wildlife, populated with songbirds, woodpeckers and tawny owls. A lack of care and cash surrendered the graves to the ravages of nature and vandalism, but in the early 1980s the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery was formed to renovate and protect the cemetery.
The cemetery was reopened in May 2001 after an extensive restoration project funded by Southwark Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Fifty memorials were restored along with the Anglican Chapel.
Robert Abel, 1857–1936, England test cricketer
George John Bennett, 1800–1879, English Shakespearian actor
William Brough, 1826–1870, writer and playwright
Joseph Lemuel Chester, 1821–1882, American genealogist, poet and editor
Bryan Donkin, 1768–1855, engineer who developed a paper-making machine and food-canning process
Edward John Eliot, 1782–1863, Peninsular War soldier
Vincent Figgins, 1766–1844, typefounder
Sir Charles Fox, 1810–1874, civil and railway engineer
Jenny Hill, 1848–1896, music hall performer
Sir Polydore de Keyser, 1832–1898, lawyer and Roman Catholic Lord Mayor of London
Sir George Livesey, 1834–1908, engineer, industrialist and philanthropist
Cicely Nott, 1832–1900, singer and actress
John Proctor, 1836–1914, artist, illustrator and cartoonist
Charles Rolls, 1799–1885, engraver
Thomas Tilling, 1825–1893, bus tycoon
Alfred Vance, 1839–1888, English music hall performer
At 52 acres, Nunhead is the second largest of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries. Views across London include St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Victorian part of the cemetery is currently in a poor state of repair, being best described as an elegant wilderness; locals like to call it a nature reserve. Many areas of the cemetery are fairly overgrown with vines, as visible in newer tourist photos. Numerous tombstones lean to the side. Although the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery are doing their best to restore some parts of the cemetery it is badly in need of care and funding. It is about 52 acres (210,000 m2) and is a popular place to walk.
The lodges and monumental entrance were designed by James Bunstone Bunning. There is an obelisk, the "Scottish Political Martyrs Memorial", the second monument (the other is in Edinburgh) dedicated to the leaders of the Friends of the People Society, popularly called the Scottish Martyrs, including Thomas Muir, Maurice Margarot, and Thomas Fyshe Palmer, who were transported to Australia in 1794. It was erected by Radical MP Joseph Hume in 1837. It is immediately on the right on Dissenters Road, when entering through the North Gate.
A memorial commemorates nine Sea Scouts who died in the Leysdown Tragedy off the Isle of Sheppey in 1912, including Percy Baden Powell Huxford aged 12 (named after, but not related to, Lord Baden Powell). The original memorial, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, was erected in 1914. Most of this was removed after vandalism, and only the base remains. The present replacement memorial was erected in 1992, on the initiative of the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery.
First World War CWGC Australian plot
There are a large number of First and Second World War war graves in the cemetery, the greater proportion (592 graves) being Commonwealth service burials from the former war. Most of those are concentrated between three war graves plots: the United Kingdom plot (Square 89), holding 266 graves, the Australian plot which holds 23 graves, and the Canadian plot (Square 52) which holds 36 graves, including burials of South African and New Zealand servicemen. Those buried in the UK plot and in individual graves outside the three plots are, because of not being marked by headstones, listed by name on a Screen Wall memorial inside the cemetery’s main entrance. A second Screen Wall lists 110 Commonwealth service personnel of the Second World War who are buried in another war graves plot (Square 5), and elsewhere whose graves could not be marked by headstones. There is also a Belgian war grave of the First World War
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