Views and Aspects of the City of London Cemetery (1) Buildings

col main gate 230317 143829606 art

Here are some aspects of the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium which do not necessarily have a wildlife connection, they just reflect the Cemetery and its landscape.

The cemetery landscape is Grade I listed in the Heritage Category of Park and Garden by Historic England (https://historicengland.org.uk/), the Government department that describes itself as 'the public body that looks after England's historic environment'. There are a further eight buildings and monuments within the 200 acre site that are listed as Grade II.

The cemetery is notable for the large number of re-burials of remains from the City of London churches. The City churchyards were full - if not actually overflowing - with remains. A number of cemeteries were built around London in the mid-nineteenth century to relieve the pressure. The grounds of the City of London Cemetery were laid out in 1855. The first interment took place on 24th June 1856, although the grounds were opened first on 24th July 1856. Some of the remains from City churches were transferred to the City of London Cemetery and are often marked with a grand monument.

An on-line search may well result in many photographs of some of the grander monuments, or of more well-known people buried there, but I hope to include some lesser-known - and less grand - graves and memorials and some other aspects that I have found interesting.

On this page are some of the buildings which make up the cemetery and crematorium. Other pages will include some of the memorials, and some general features.

All of the photographs included here were taken by myself.

Link to Memorials in the Cemetery

Link to Other Features of the Cemetery


 

The Main Gate of the City of London Cemetery, on a cold day in February 2009

MAIN ENTRANCE SCREEN AND LODGES

The photo shows the main entrance gateway, which is the view most people would have if visiting. There is another gateway - with no additional structure apart from gateposts - to the east near the junction of Rabbits Road with Forest View Road. This is known as the South Gate, but is rarely open.

The main entrance gateway and the associated buildings to the right, including the café, the florist and the gatekeepers office, was originally the Porter's Lodge. To the left of the gateway is what was originally the Superintendent's House, but are now the administration buildings and enquiries office. These are all Grade II listed. (List Entry Number: 1080984*)

 

Above the vehicle entrance is a large carved panel with the City of London's coat of arms. Above the pedestrian gates are some ornamental tablets set into the masonry depicting the construction date of the cemetery (1855), the Heraldic Shield of the City of London, the renovation date of the gateway (1898), and a somewhat worn and indistinct shield at the bottom of which is the motto Dum spiro spero, which translates to "While I breathe, I hope".

col gate panel emblem 230310 70861artCity of London Emblem

col gate panel 1855 230310 70860art'Erected AD 1855'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

col gate panel 1898 230310 70859art'Restored AD 1898'

col gate panel design 230310 7300artDum spiro spero - "While I breathe, I hope"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A view across the garden lawn to the cafe outside seating area and the gatehouse buildingsTHE CEMETERY CAFE AND GARDENS

The buildings to the right of the main gate are used by the gatekeeper staff, a florist, administration offices upstairs, and to the rear, a cafe. This opened originally as 'The Gatehouse Pantry', then became the 'Poppy Pantry'. With seating provisions inside, and outside in the pleasant gardens, the cafe has proved very popular. Most recently the cafe was run by the Royal Voluntary Service, but unfortunately, this closed in March 2023.

 

 

 

 


The Chapel, City of London Cemetery

THE CHAPEL

Straight ahead from the main gate, along Chapel Avenue, is the Chapel. This was originally know as the Dissenters' or Non-Conformist Chapel. It is visible from the Main Gate, but is largely obscured by trees lining the roadway - particularly the branches of a fine conifer close to the chapel. It is octagonal in shape, with a large rose window above the entrance doorway.

This is another Grade II listed building.

 

 

 


The Church, City of London Cemetery

THE CHURCH

Also known as the Church Chapel or Anglican Chapel, from the main gate is at the NW end of Church Avenue. As with the Dissenters' Chapel, it was designed to be visible from the main gate, but the view is largely obscured now by trees.

It can also be described as being at the 'west end of Central Avenue', and Central Avenue was intended to be the main approach-way for funeral services. The cemetery was built in the mid-19th C., at a time when railways were gaining prominence. The intention was that a special railway station be built near to Ilford, and the coffins and funerary procession would use the railway to get to the new cemetery. Hence there is a gate at the extreme NE corner of the cemetery, adjcent to the area known locally as 'The Butts' and close to the pedestrian underpass to Little Ilford. The gate is now unused, and as the use of trains never happened was probably rarely ever used. If one takes the train between Manor Park and Ilford stations, looking down from the train viaduct one can see what looks as though it may have been a siding - perhaps the one intended for the funerals.

col church moulding dog 220401 60848A dog-like 'grotesque' architectural feature on the ChurchThe Church has a tall (19m) crocketed spire, below which hang a number of dog-like creatures. These take the form of gargoyles, but as they don't appear to spout rainwater from the roof, they are perhaps better called 'grotesques', an architectural term for a fantastic or mythical figure carved or moulded onto a building for ornamental purposes. The term 'chimera' may also be used. (See Wikipedia article).

This is another of the cemetery's Grade II listed buildings

col 1855 drainpipe 230302 707881855 Drain-pipe fitting

col church mouldings 230302 70787artThree winged creatures on the Church's east side.

Above two windows on the west side are three more carvings, in the form of winged creatures. Also on the east side of the Church is a drain-pipe fitting, dated 1855, which corresponds to the year in which the grounds of the cemetery were laid out.


The Traditional Crematorium, or East Chapel

 THE TRADITIONAL CREMATORIUM BUILDING

This was the second crematorium in London and was opened in October 1904. (source: London Metropolitan Archives Collection Catalogue). The first cremation took place in March 1905. Since the new crematorium was built in 1971 this building is no longer used as such, but is now a Chapel of Remembrance, known as The East Chapel. This is a bit confusing, as it was for a time known as the South Chapel.

To the right of the door, an inscription in the stonework say: EAST CHAPEL. It can be seen, though, that the word 'East' has replaced another word - presumably 'South'.

To the left hand side of the door, a stone inscription states:

CITY OF LONDON BURIAL BOARD / THIS CREMATORIUM WAS OPENED BY / WILLIAM JOSEPH DOWNES ESQre / CHAIRMAN OF THE SANITARY COMMITTEE / ACTING AS THE BURIAL BOARD FOR THE CITY OF LONDON / ON THE 25th OCTOBER 1904

The building is Grade II listed.


The Cottage in the City of London Cemetery

THE COTTAGE IN BELFRY ROAD

The Cottage, also known as The Lodge, was built in 1855 to a design by William Haywood. This is another Grade II listed building.

The photograph was taken on 2nd March 2023

 

 

 

 

 


 

The South Chapel (Crematorium Building) with the catacombs in the distance and a pond to the right

NORTH AND SOUTH CHAPELS AND CREMATORIUM BUILDING

A new, modern, cremation facility was built in 1971, close to the intersection of the 6-way junction (a rond-point) which is reached from the main gate by way of Chapel Avenue.

Above the cremation chamber are two chapels, known as the North Chapel and the South Chapel. I suggest that it was unfortunate that the building was situated in the valley of the Alders Brook, as this has to a large degree spoilt the intended view of the Catacombs when seen down the valley from the south-west.

 

 

 

 


col catacombs 40575artThe Catacombs

 THE CATACOMBS AND COLUMBARIUM

The Catacombs are situated at the NE end of Rhododendron Avenue, although they are more readily located by walking down Chapel Avenue from the main gate until the 6-way junction is reached, where are the modern North and South Crematorium Chapels. The Catacombs can be seen in the distance beyond the South Chapel.

The catacombs are built into a bank which - when what is now the cemetery was the lands of Aldersbrook Manor (see here) - would have been the retaining bank of the 'Great Pond'. This was an ornamental feature created by the damming of the Alders Brook, a small stream running in a NE direction from Wanstead Flats. The course of the brook can be clearly ascertained by the realisation that Rhododendron Avenue, together with the crematorium buildings, lie in a shallow valley.

The catacombs apparently were never really succesful as a means of commemorating the dead, and part of them have now been converted into a columbarium. We have a wildife connection here as 'columbarium' means dovecote, from columba dove. I doubt that catacombs relate in any way to cats.

The Catacombs are Grade II listed.


col toilet block nr church 230302 70790artA toilet block near to the ChurchTOILET BLOCK

The grounds are well endowed with toilets, and these are usually set discreetly and unobtrusively in their locations. Often they are of designs in keeping with other buldings within the cemetery, as is this one near the church.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Link to Memorials in the Cemetery

Link to Other Features of the Cemetery

Paul Ferris  (begun 28th February 2023)

References:

* Grade Listed Buildings: https://historicengland.org.uk/

(1) A Geological Walk in the City of London Cemetery. Wendy Kirk and David Cook. Aldersbrook Geological Society

(2) https://hidden-london.com/nuggets/city-of-london-dragons/

(3) Coughlin, Con (2013). Churchill's First War: Young Winston at War with the Afghans. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 63.

(4) https://www.companyofnurses.co.uk/annie-brewster-remembered/

(5) The City of London Cemetry Heritage Brochure (Edition 2, 2004)