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West Norwood Cemetery and Catacombs 2010

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More of an organsied visit than an explore. I had seen the Catacombs on Cities of the Underworld on the History Channel and had always wanted to go and seen them in person.

Brief History taken form Wikipedia:

The cemetery was built on the site of the ancient Great North Wood, from which Norwood took its name. Although many trees had been cleared, a number of mature specimens were included in Tite's original landscaping. A tree survey of the cemetery in 2005 identified one oak which is thought to date from 1540-1640. Fourteen more oaks, a maple and an ash tree were identified that predate the foundation of the cemetery in 1836. In the first years of the cemetery's operation, these were joined by coniferous trees and evergreen holm oaks.

The site originally included two Gothic chapels at the crest of the hill, but these were badly damaged by bombing during World War II. The Dissenter's chapel was rebuilt as a Crematorium while the Episcopal chapel was levelled, to be replaced by a memorial garden over its crypt. In 1842 a section of the cemetery was acquired by London's Greek community for a Greek Orthodox cemetery, and this soon filled with many fine monuments and large mausoleums. Grade II*-listed St Stephen's Chapel within the Greek section is attributed to architect John Oldrid Scott. Another section in the south-east corner was acquired by St Mary-at-Hill in the City of London for its own parish burials.

Between 1978 and 1993 the cemetery achieved several levels of official recognition by being included in the West Norwood Conservation Area, while the entrance arch, the fine railings and 64 monuments were listed as Grade II and II* - more listed monuments than any other cemetery.

However, space for new burials ran out in the inter-war years, and, deprived of this regular source of income, the cemetery company was unable to properly afford its upkeep. Lambeth Council compulsorily purchased the cemetery in 1965, and controversially claimed ownership over existing graves. Lambeth changed some of the character of the grounds through "lawn conversion", removing at least 10,000 monuments (including some of the listed monuments) and restarted new burials by re-using plots. Southwark Diocesan Consistory Court cases in 1991 and 1995 found this to be illegal and brought about the cessation of new burials, and forced the restoration of a handful of the damaged or removed monuments. In addition it required Lambeth to publish an index of cleared plots so that the current entitled owners can request restitution. As a consequence of the courts' findings Lambeth now operates the cemetery in accordance with a scheme of management under the joint control of all interested parties that includes Lambeth, the Diocese, the local Friends of West Norwood Cemetery and conservation bodies such as English Heritage.

Notable interments taken form Wikipedia

More than 200 people in the cemetery are recorded in the Dictionary of National Biography. The Friends of West Norwood Cemetery have recorded and compiled biographies for many more of these with:

* a large number of inventors, engineers, architects, and builders, such as Sir Hiram Maxim, inventor of the automatic machine gun, Sir Henry Bessemer, engineer and inventor of the famous steel process, James Henry Greathead who tunnelled much of the London Underground, William Burges and Sir William Tite, gothic architects

* many artists and entertainers, including: David Roberts, artist, William Collingwood Smith, painter, Joseph Barnby, composer and resident conductor at the Royal Albert Hall, Katti Lanner, ballet dancer, and actors E. J. Lonnen, Patsy Smart, and Mary Brough.

* many notable medics, such as: Dr William Marsden, founder of the Royal Free Hospital and The Royal Marsden Hospital, Dr Gideon Mantell, the geologist and pioneering palaeontologist, and Sister Eliza Roberts, (Florence Nightingale's principal nurse during the Crimean War)

* many sportsmen, including C. W. Alcock, founder of Test cricket and the FA Cup, Georg Hackenschmidt, Anglo-Estonian professional wrestler.

There are also the 'Great and the Good' of the time, such as Sir Henry Tate, sugar magnate and founder of London's Tate Gallery, Paul Julius Baron von Reuter, founder of the news agency, and the Revd. Charles Spurgeon, Baptist preacher, Isabella Beeton (the famous cookery writer), who died at 29 in childbirth, to name but a few.

The Greek diaspora is well represented, including the Ralli family, Panayis Vagliano, Rodocanachi family, and Princess Eugenie Palaeologue

Useful link http://www.fownc.org/ (Our guide for the day also writes on this site)

It was a truly amazing site, but creepy at times, especially when I came across a coffin from the early nineties in the catacombs that still had the remains of the flowers that had been put there by the mourners.

Anyway on with the pics

The crest on the main gate mentions connections to Canterbury

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Some of the monuments

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Now for the catacombs

The Coffin lift (The chapel above has been flatterned and replaced by a rose garden, There are plans to replace the chapel)

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The Arms of the Catacombs

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Looking into one of the sealed Catacombs

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And then you turn a corner and come across these

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This was the creepiest one for me. These are the remains of flowers left on top of a coffin from the early nineties,

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Thanks for looking

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Cheers Fluff :thumb I would love to have had more time in the catacombs to take better pics, but there was about twenty of us down there (as well as about 200 Dead) and we where on a time limit :cry:

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dont worry mate, the photos came out lovely! this place looks amazing! well done for getting in there...permission or not, Its stil a good report. Thanks for posting

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