Thursday, 26 February 2015

Brookwood Cemetery

A couple of weeks ago we spent the weekend with friends who live near Woking, Surrey. Whilst out and about we drove past Brookwood Cemetery and they told us a bit about it's history but confessed to never having been there. Our Sunday morning excursion was planned.

The cemetery was established in 1852, as the population of London grew and space was running out, to bury the dead. For a while it was the largest in the world, even today it is the largest in the U.K and has Grade 1 listed status. A dedicated railway station - The London Necropolis Railway Station just outside  Waterloo - took passengers and coffins to one of two stations at Brookwood. North for non-conformists and south for Anglicans. As you can imagine all sorts of ideas were discussed over a glass or two about this service. You know the sort of thing - ran by a skeleton staff…

Anyway, to continue. Designed purely for burial the London Necropolis company allowed anyone to be buried and set aside various areas of the site for different denominations, guilds and societies. One of the few sites to allow burials on a Sunday, it became the last resting place for many in the theatrical profession, as it was their only day off.  If you take a look at the map you can see the different areas marked, from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, various military sites, a columbarium and even a designated space for members of The Oddfellows.

We only saw a small area but it was one of those places which left you asking questions and we all spent happy half hour researching on our return. One example was raised at the Orthodox Christian site. There is a fairly recent Orthodox monastery, St.Edward the Martyr Orthodox Brotherhood, established in 1982, with a burial site. All of the graves had the orthodox cross

and we wondered on the meaning of the slanted lower bar. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a definitive answer to that one. We came a cross two graves, covered with gravel and with incense burners, a tea cup and cup cake. We did not recognise the nationality of the names but research revealed that they were Vietnamese and obviously the leaving of food and drink is an important ritual.

It is really worth a special trip, with over 400 acres, much of it woodland. Sadly photography needs special permission so my camera remained in my pocket ;-) but there are a lot of images on the web.


  1. Try this then, a novel with the Necropolis Railway at its heart:

    1. So have you read it or was it the name 'Necropolis Railway' that provoked an internet search?

  2. Cemeteries provoke such respect on me... what a peaceful place.