Hello readers. Today I thought I’d interview Cemetery Club co-founder and all-round wonderful chap Sheldon, so that you can all get to know a little more about him and what makes him tick. Turns out he’s an old fashioned sort who’s concerned about cholera and would love to break bread with Sir Christopher Wren. He’d also quite like to go to Paris to visit the grand old cemetery that began it all…
Sheldon at Brompton, June 2011 – our 1st ever joint cemetery visit.
What’s the first thing you’d do if you woke up tomorrow and it was London in 1860?
I think most people who woke up in a different time would be straight out of the door savouring the delights of a world long dead. Hearing how differently people spoke, looking at long demolished buildings and experiencing life at a slower pace. I’d panic: there were several nasty things going around at the time – Cholera, Consumption and Typhoid which struck fear and panic into the lives of many, and certainly contributed to a large number of people buried in our Cemeteries of old. As attractive as it would be to wake up in 1860, I’d prefer to have some vaccinations before that happened.
When we started Cemetery Club, what were you hoping to get out of it?
I was initially hesitant when we started the blog. I wasn’t sure if I’d able to come up with the subject matter. I was aware of one or two other Cemetery-based blogs but I think what we tried to achieve was to highlight the beauty of these places and not just take straightforward pictures of endless lines of graves. I often refer to them as ‘Suburbs of the Dead’. Imagine if all these long-forgotten people were resurrected. What stories would they tell? What information could we get about every life from their time?
Sheldon at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, August 2013
What’s been your favourite CC visit and why?
It’s hard to choose a favourite. I liked West Norwood: it was such an inviting place. It felt like, as you’d stepped through the old spice-brown gates, it was trying to hug you. It strikes me as being a very cheery place. And there are some very handsome tombs, such as the grave of Charles Spurgeon, Mrs Beeton and Sir Hiram Maxim, inventor of the Machine Gun.
What would be your dream CC visit if money and travel etc. were no object?
Pere Lachaise. It was Genesis as far as the revolution to burial as far as I’m concerned. Without Pere Lachaise there’d be no Kensal Green. Without Kensal Green, lord knows what we’d have done to deal with the graveyards of Britain, which were all bursting at the seams.
Why do you like peering into mausoleums so much?
It’s like indulging in forbidden fruit. These are private, intimate spaces that only the closest members of the family were really meant to see. It’s remarkable the expense which was invested in these places that weren’t even open to public view.
Sheldon peering into the past at Kensal Green, January 2013
What songs would you put on a Cemetery Club playlist?
I’d say Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ‘Songs of Travel’ would be a pretty good playlist.
What would you ask Monty if you could meet him – you get 3 questions.
I don’t think I could ask him three questions. I’d ask him one. ‘What do you drink?’ and then we’d have a lovely evening in the pub.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party, living or dead?
Sir Christopher Wren, so I could find out more about his genius. Bob Monkhouse for his wit and charm. And then of course, the Reverend Sir Montague Fowler, to hear about his life first hand rather than research it.
Laura Pursey interviewing Sheldon for her radio documentary, West Norwood Cemetery January 2014
Little known Sheldon factoid:- the first day I ever met Sheldon, he promised to cook me an amazing curry. As he’s half Indian, I thought that this would be something excellent and delicious, cooked up by an experienced and learned Indian chef. Readers, I’m still waiting for this meal nearly 5 years later. It better be a good ‘un…
All photographs taken by Christina Owen. See more of her quite frankly lovely photography here.
For more information on Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, have a look here.
For more information on ‘Monty’ – Montague Fowler, have a look here.
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