Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Nunhead Cemetery

It is All Saints' Day, so what better place to spend the afternoon than in a cemetery?  Nunhead cemetery, to be exact.  It was part of a guided walk organised by the Cooltan Arts Centre, not as exciting as the blurb suggests - the guide to the cemetery wasn't available until 2:30, and then he was held up, so really, touring the cemetery was all we had time for.

The walk started off outside Nunhead Library, which is closed for redevelopment until 5 December, but is really rather an enchanting building.  We then stopped on Nunhead Green to talk about the area - a craft beer shop and an enormous estate agents providing proof of gentrification!  Then it was along Linden Grove (where Charles Dickens apparently installed one of his mistresses) to the cemetery.

It was really lovely!  It is, of course, on of the Magnificent Seven suburban cemeteries established in the 1830s and 1840s when London's churchyards were overflowing.  It was used for burials for over 100 years, but closed in 1969.  And left to rot for the next 20 years, while wildlife and nature took over.  And, of course, there was a lot of urban exploration, drug-taking, and downright vandalism going on.  Eventually the cemetery was bought by Southwark Council for £1, and eventually it was restored - there are Friends of the Cemetery who volunteer to help keep the walkways open and so on. 
Because it was All Saints' Day, some of the graves had fresh flowers, and some had flameless candles on them.  Not all, by any manner of means, but enough to show that people still care.  There was one modern grave that just said "Harold and Tim RIP" (it might not have been those names) with no date; we wondered whether it  had been an unofficial burial while the cemetery was closed, in an era when Harold and Tim might not have been welcome to be buried together elsewhere.
There was a very moving memorial to some scouts who had drowned in a disaster off the Isle of Sheppey, near a World War 1 cemetery. 


From the top of the hill, there is a protected view of St Paul's Cathedral, but it was too foggy to see it today!
And then we walked back downhill to the exit. 

Contrary to popular perception, it wasn't in the slightest bit spooky - it was lovely and peaceful.  Apart from people walking their dogs, of course, but then, how lovely that they should have such a big space available for to do that in!  It really is a lovely place, and I would happily go back if it wasn't slightly awkward to get to! 


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