It’s no secret that I’m a Victorian cemetery fan. Some people may find them eerie, and I get that, but I love the history quiet beauty. Plus, they make for nice atmospheric photographs.
London has some of the best old cemeteries in the world. Just over 200 years ago, the dead were all buried in inner-city churchyards, a situation that quickly got out of hand as the city’s population doubled in the early 19th century. To accommodate the new demand for space (and help combat disease), seven grand cemeteries were built on what were then the outskirts of the city. Today, they reside in zone 2.
The so-called “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries include Highgate, Abney Park, Brompton, West Norwood, Nunhead, Kensal Green and Tower Hamlets. Each has its own unique features, from grand burial architecture (Highgate), to an underground crypt for plague victims (West Norwood), to a site that has largely gone back to nature (Abney Park), making each an unique visitor experience.
I’ve now been to six of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries. This past weekend, Robbie and I took the overground up to Whitechapel and changed to the District Line east to Mile End for a visit to Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park (otherwise known as Bow Cemetery). Opened in 1841, its occupants hailed from London’s East End. We noticed a large amount of graves citing locations like Limehouse and Bow. The cemetery was heavily bombed during the Second World War. Both of its chapels were destroyed and never rebuilt. Today, it is exactly as its name indicates. Maintained by the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, it’s been turned into a community space for leisure and learning. You can literally spend hours in there walking amongst the overgrowth. It’s a perfect place for a weekend walk and photo session, especially this time of year when the leaves are changing colors.