Background Information of West Norwood Cemetery
Located in the London Borough of Lambeth, West Norwood Cemetery is a 40-acre cemetery which, much like its fellow seven, is a mixture of historic monuments, catacombs, graves and cremation plots which have been named amongst the finest collection in London. Not only recognised by Lambeth Council as site of nature conservation value, West Norwood is also an important site of national historical and cultural interest, which led English Heritage to place it on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, describing it as ‘the first cemetery to be designed in the Gothic Revival Style’.
Founded in 1836 by its own Act of Parliament, West Norwood Cemetery offered a rural setting in open countryside (as it was located outside of London at that time) and was designed to attract the attention of notable and wealthy Victorians who commissioned a plethora of mausoleums, vaults and graves in the gothic style. Interestingly, in 1842 a section of the cemetery was acquired by London’s Greek Orthodox community which led to the cemetery being filled with fine monuments and mausoleums which aimed to memorialise their Anglo-Hellenic heritage. The cemeteries unique blend of culture and architectural styles makes it a unique experience for visitors- lets get into some of these must-see sights that cannot be missed
Top 5 must see sights of West Norwood Cemetery
- Henry Tate (1819-1899)
Many people reading this may recognise the surname of this famous resident, as he is in fact THE Henry Tate who established the Tate Britain Gallery, London in 1897. Born in 1819 in Lancashire, Henry Tate was an English sugar merchant and philanthropist who was the son of a unitarian Clergyman. Tate’s wealth grew from the success of his sugar and grocery business, and he soon became a member of the aristocracy who donated generously to charity. In 1889, Tate donated a collection of 65 contemporary paintings to the government on the condition that they be displayed in a gallery (towards which he donated £80,000 for them to build) The National Gallery of British Art (Now Tate Britain) was opened on 21st July 1897, and throughout his lifetime Tate continued to donate, often anonymously, to a plethora of causes he held passionate about. A fun fact about the man behind the gallery is that he was made a Baronet in 1898, after continually refusing the title, because he was told the Royal Family would be offended if he refused it again! Sir Henry Tate is buried in a family mausoleum in the Cemetery, be sure not to miss this important figure of London’s history.
- West Norwood Catacombs (1837)
Opened in 1837, the West Norwood Catacombs are located below the Anglican and Dissenters’ chapels which both suffered bomb damage during the Second World War and were subsequently demolished. The catacombs are laid out in six vault passages, which are comprised of 95 vaults with a capacity for 3500 coffins which are comprised of both private and shared loculi (which are coffin spaces). In the centre of the catacombs, there is a hydraulic catafalque which was a coffin lift designed by Bramah and Robinson in 1839 to transfer coffins from the chapel which was above them down into the catacombs for final burial. The Catacombs are not currently open to the public; however, tours are often available throughout the year- Be sure to check out the West Norwood Cemetery for more information about booking this tour.
- Henry Doulton (1820-1897)
Another name readers may recognise is Henry Doulton, a Victorian inventor and manufacturer of pottery who was also an instrumental developer in the creation of Royal Doulton ceramics. Born in Vauxhall in 1820, Doulton was the second of eight children and the son of a potter manufacturer and business owner, to which Henry himself joined in 1835. Doulton experimented with a variety of methods and styles of potter making, and in 1846 he superintended the manufacture of drainage and sanitary appliances in Lambeth which helped to make the firm famous. In 1870 the manufacture of ‘art pottery’ began in Lambeth, which joined together the skills of the students from the Lambeth Art school (now the City and Guilds of London Art School) where a variety of porcelains and earthenware was produced. The Doulton business continued to expand and prosper across the years, as did Doulton himself who received a knighthood in 1887 and also the Albert Medal by the Royal Society of Arts in 1885. Sadly however, Doulton died at his residence in London in 1897 and he was placed in a mausoleum in West Norwood Cemetery which is constructed from red pottery tiles and brick from the Doulton Works, which subsequently made it a Grade II listed building.
- Princess Eugenie Palaeologue (1848-1934)
Mystery shrouds the story of Princess Palaeologue as very little is known of her true ancestry or how she came to be in London…however, interestingly her surname Palaeologue takes its descent from the Byzantine Greek family who rose to nobility and produce the last ruling dynasty of the Byzantine Empire in the Duchy of Montferrat (an area in Northern Italy). Upon further research, the Times Newspaper also seems to explore the mystery of Princess Eugenie claiming that had ‘descent from Constantine the Great, and who at one time laid claim to the throne of Greece’. Although very few records of this kind exist, I was able to uncover that Eugenie was married to Colonel Edmund H. Wickham (Royal Artillery) with whom she had four sons with, who sadly all died before her in the First World War and another who tragically drowned at Teddington Weir. After suffering from ill-health for several years before, Princess Eugenie died in 1934 at the age of 86. Her funeral service was held at a Greek Church in Bayswater, from where she was taken to West Norwood Cemetery to be buried along side her husband and two of her four sons.
- Mortuary Chapel
Following on from the cemeteries inclement rich Greek heritage is the Mortuary Chapel. Built in 1842 in dedication to St Stephen, the Mortuary Chapel was created in memory of Augustus Ralli, who had died of a rheumatic fever whilst attending Eton in 1872. Designed by Edward Middleton Barry (the son of Charles Barry who designed the Houses of Parliament) who was a high-profile architect of the period, Middleton was drew his influence from the architectural style of the Parthenon in Athens however, instead of Ancient Greek imagery the chapel features Christian. The Mortuary Chapel is a must see site when visiting West Norwood, as it stands out as one of the most beautiful and unique memorials within the whole cemetery (the Chapel is located in the Greek Necropolis)