Right; roll up sleeves time, people.
An accident befell my friends at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park not too long ago; a ruddy great tree decided it was time to collapse and in the process it took out a monument that is now in pieces on the floor. Tower Hamlets doesn’t have the most spectacular tombs but what it does is act as a repository of the honest Londoner; it’s a reminder of a time when this part of London wasn’t the nicest of places to live and work – airs and graces are left at the cemetery gates. For that reason I love it and its why I feel very deeply for it; its heritage has to be protected which is why I’m throwing my weight behind this.
Tower Hamlets is a lovely cemetery and it is also the most densely filled Valhalla in all of London; an equivalent population to the London Borough of Newham reside within it. Many of the locals who ‘made it’ upped sticks and moved elsewhere; their bodies deposited in far more affluent environs. A faithful few stuck close to home though, such as civil engineer and yacht/bridge builder Joseph Westwood whose company football team would go on to become West Ham United and the family of the tomb that battled the tree and lost – the Burdicks.
The Burdick tomb is on what’s known as ‘Millionaire’s Row ‘ a not strictly true title but to appear attractive to potential residents, all the wealthy swanky tombs were placed on the main path from the gates to the (sadly now demolished) cemetery chapel to appeal for business. The neighbours of the Burdick’s include infamous pub Landlord-cum-museum curator Charlie Brown, with his bric-a-brac museum above his pub filled with art and curious from all over the world (the nearby docks – his market for all things weird and wonderful) and White Hat Willie, the original owner of the marooned tea-clipper and now partial-greenhouse the Cutty Sark.
Whilst there is a little bit of information about them; we know nothing of the Burdicks; an East-End family who there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of information about. They clearly did well for themselves on account of their obelisk – as with many of those who are buried here, their families have either moved away or died out and seeing how massively important the cemetery park is to the local community, why not turn this accident into something positive – let’s reconnect with the Burdicks and see who they were?
The park is a charity which needs donations to continue its invaluable service to the local community. If you can, please donate to the cause here and let’s see what we can find out. Where they lived, what they ate and so on – turning a mishap into an exciting glimpse into the past life of someone long gone. Ready your archives and open those books!