West Norwood Cemetery, London
The Greeks, a cook & a potter(Here's 3 reasons you may want to visit, but there's more...)
Entrance via a Gothic Gate & the Cross of Sacrifice
Still not being able to shake off my unusual allure with a cemetery, we find ourselves at another of London’s “Magnificent Seven”; West Norwood Cemetery to be exact.
I say find ourselves, once again Gary succumbs to my insistence that while we’re visiting London, I suggest that we pop into West Norwood Cemetery.
Although on this occasion I wasn’t content with visiting one, we also went to Nunhead Cemetery, but, that’s a story for another day.
West Norwood Cemetery was built in 1836, along with six other large private cemeteries during the 19th-century, this was to alleviate the overcrowding in London.
The most well-known of these I would think is Highgate cemetery (and yes that is on my list to visit).
We visited Brompton cemetery last year, so, I’ve started to tick them off.
The headstone to John Fogg Shorey
I love history, and to me, the intrigue of the individual stories, that lay behind the cold, grey headstones is the fascination.
Old headstones in West Norwood Cemetery
So, Gary and I set off to discover some snippets of history on a bright but cold, winter Sunday morning in January.
How to get there
The nearest station to West Norwood Cemetery is West Norwood station. It’s an overground service operated by Southern and can be accessed from London Victoria.
Maxim machine gun
Perhaps not the most upbeat of subjects; however, for Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, it was his automatic machine gun that made him famous. Originally born in Maine, USA, Hiram was bestowed a knighthood by Queen Victoria. Although he received it from Edward VII in 1901, shortly after the Queen’s death.
We didn’t go looking for it, but bizarrely we also came across a blue plaque for Sir Hiram Maxim whilst we were in Clerkenwell. This plaque was to highlight the workshop where he manufactured the Maxim gun.
The grave of Sir Hiram Maxim
The Blue Plaque to Sir Hiram Maxim
Well, I didn’t expect to come across a Greek Orthodox Necropolis! Located at a higher point within West Norwood cemetery, you’ll see a gated enclosure. You’re free to roam around, but some of the mausoleums and monuments are in need of a little TLC, so it’s at your own risk that you wander around.
The Greek Necropolis in West Norwood Cemetery
There was no stopping us, 19 of the graves within the Greek section are listed, so there’s a considerable amount of history here.
We came across the impressive mausoleum for Panayis Athanase Vagliano, a renowned Greek merchant and shipowner. Then a headstone a lot smaller in size, however, equally striking as the tiny inlaid tiles were so colourful & ornate.
Panayis Athanase Vagliano’s mausoleum
A striking Greek headstone
Visited any unusual cemeteries around the world, I’d love you to share them with me?
This eye-catching terracotta mausoleum is the Doulton family vault from the “Royal Doulton“ fame. It is now a Grade II listed building and is constructed out of pottery tiles and bricks from the Doulton Works.
Sir Henry Doulton’s mausoleum
We actually have our own little piece of Royal Doulton, and that’s the limited-edition Bulldog “Jack” as seen on the desk of “M” in the James Bond film Skyfall.
Jack from Skyfall, by Royal Doulton
Want to discover more than about London?
We have a little book on our shelves that we sometimes delve into when we're about to hit an area of London.
Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different regions of London, it's a great resource to help you see what's hidden in plain sight.
Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves London.
A very low-key headstone is that of Mrs Beeton, it took us a while to find her grave, but I particularly wanted to see it as I have a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Family Cookery book. Her most well-known book is from 1861 and named Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.
The grave of Mrs Beeton
Mrs Beeton's Family Cookery book
Standing quite prominent when you enter the West Norwood cemetery is the mausoleum of James William Gilbart. James Gilbart was the General Manager of the London and Westminster Bank 1833–1859. The Gothic Revival mausoleum is now a Grade II-listed structure.
The mausoleum of James William Gilbart
Point to Note
If you also have this strange fascination with cemeteries like me, then Nunhead cemetery is only a few miles from West Norwood. This is also one of London’s “Magnificent Seven”.
The Surgeon & a Mariner
Within West Norwood cemetery is also the tomb of William Marsden MD, who was a surgeon. However, his best-known achievements are setting up the Royal Free Hospital (in 1828) and the Royal Marsden Hospital (in 1851). To enable the poor to obtain medical treatment. These two hospitals are still in operation today.
Another vault that caught our eye was that of Captain John Wimble, with a sailing ship on the side. I’m always attracted to anything with a boaty theme. Mr Wimble spent 34 of his 54 years on the seas.
The grave of William Marsden
The tomb of John Wimble
So much to discover
I suppose visiting a cemetery isn’t the most fun of days out, but it certainly gives you an insight into the history of our lives.
It’s incredible that just a few of these people buried here at West Norwood cemetery made a significant impact on peoples lives.
The grave of Francis Day
Inspired to visit one or all of London’s “Magnificent Seven”?
There is so much history to be discovered.
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