West Norwood Cemetery

Category: Famous cemeteries

West Norwood Cemetery is a 40-acre cemetery in West Norwood in the London Borough of Lambeth in London, England.

By 2000 there had been 164,000 burials in 42,000 plots, plus 34,000 cremations. The cemetery features 66 Grade II and Grade II* listed structures, including a dedicated Greek Orthodox section with 17 listed mausoleums and monuments.

Lambeth have recognised it as the principal site of nature conservation value within the Borough in addition to its outstanding value as a site of national historic and cultural interest.

In 1830 George Frederick Carden, editor of The Penny Magazine, succesfully petitioned Parliament about the parlous state of London’s over-full church burial yards. In response they passed a number of laws that effectively halted burials in London’s churchyards, moving them ‘to places where they would be less prejudicial to the health of the inhabitants’. The South Metropolitan Cemetery at what was then called Lower Norwood was the second of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries established in response by Parliament. After its founding statute was passed in 1836 it received its first burial in December 1837 and was the first cemetery in the UK to be designed in the new Gothic style. At the time it offered a rural setting in open coutryside, as it lay outside London at that time. Architect William Tite was a director of the cemetery company and designed the landscaping, some monuments, and was eventually interred there himself. Its design and location attracted the attention of many wealthy – and not so wealthy – Victorians, who commissioned many fine mausoleums and memorials for their burial plots and vaults.

The site originally included two Gothic chapels at the crest of the hill, but these were badly damaged by bombing during WW2. The Dissenter’s chapel was rebuilt as a Crematorium while the Episcopal chapel was levelled, replaced by a memorial garden over its crypt. In 1842 a section of the cemetery was acquired by London’s Greek community for a Greek cemetery and chapel, and this filled with many fine monuments and large mausoleums. Between 1978 and 1993 the cemetery achieved several levels of recognition by being included in the West Norwood Conservation Area, while the entrance arch, the fine railings and 64 monuments were listed as Grade II and II* – more listed monuments than any other cemetery.


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