As 2020 hurtles towards us with the speed of an oncoming freight train, its time to see what the most popular articles on the blog were!
This was the year Cemetery Club started stepping outside its comfort zone. Amazingly well received tours of the women of Hampstead Cemetery, a brand new tour around the sylvan Barnes cemetery and the birth of a project myself and Sacha Coward were brought in to consult and develop Queerly Departed, which has been marvellous to work on. Queer histories are even trickier to find than those of your regular deceased; it’s an honour to bring their stories back to life once more.
So what were you reading on here in 2019?
Undoubtedly the most popular story I wrote about this year was the sad farewell we made to the Cedar of Lebanon in Highgate Cemetery which, after poor weather and disease, had to be felled. Predating the cemetery, thousands of long dead eyes have gazed upon it and taken shade under its enormous branches: Dr. Ian Dungavell invited me to a select ‘goodbye’ before the tree surgeon gave it a dignified ending.
Cemetery Club’s deliciously camp offspring! Brompton Cemetery approached me in regard to working on an LGBTQ tour that looked at their queer dead from an idea sparked by volunteer Floria Lundon. I dragged Mermaid Expert and fellow heritage person Sacha Coward on board to examine the lives of those buried in Brompton Cemetery, involving drag, performance and storytelling. So successful was the event it ran a further two times: hopefully we can revisit it in 2020 but watch this space as we set up a similar event in the south west of England shortly…
By July of this year I was feeling worn out, brow-beaten and a bit unsatisfied, so I decided to look at full time study and indulge my passion for history and heritage by applying, and, remarkably passing the admission for studying Public History at the University of Birkbeck. Here I write about what led me to make a complete life change!
Utilising the fact I used to work right beside the building, I examined the history of the former Newgate Prison and reached back into the past using an old photo showing Dead Man’s Walk, a gloomy passageway within the guts of the prison where the condemned would stagger towards the hangman’s noose. On the walls were random initials – betraying a ghastly truth known to all whom walked down that dreaded corridor.
Probably my favourite blog of the year and the entry that I’m most proud of. Not too far from the former Newgate Prison, just behind Smithfield Market infact, is a wonderful building which is now a Pret A Manger. This was the former HQ of the Sausage King, a legendary London figure whose premises was essentially a prototype Greggs. Going to the Lambeth Archives, I then track down his final resting place…and discover the remains of an empire reminiscent of Ozymandias.
A revolution in death is happening in Liverpool and the KLF band are behind it. How would you like your ashes interred in a mighty pyramid? Have a read to learn about the process of Mumu-fication and how you could be involved.
Earlier this year one of the original trees planted when Tower Hamlets Cemetery opened in 1840 blew over and as it fell it toppled one of the grander monuments that line a major avenue in the cemetery.
Seeing as over 80% of those buried in Tower Hamlets went into unmarked paupers graves, the small number of ‘big tombs’ is precious and so a fund to restore the Burdicks monument was started. There are 13 days left to reach its total of £5000: the tour myself and Sacha did for Halloween helped contribute to the grand total but more money is needed to repair the damage. If you can, please donate to help preserve precious east end history.
The newest recipient of Heritage Lottery Funding, Willesden Jewish Cemetery is looking to open its gates and share its history. The local Jewish community has all but moved on, so how do you get people actively involved again? I paid a visit with Mark and Jake to find the graves of Kurt Geiger, Michael Winner and fresh tributes to remarkable scientist Rosalind Franklin.
I researched a tour for the Women’s Environmental Network looking at the history of Bromley – but not the one I lived in. Bromley By Bow is now an odd little backwater, a collection of flats, houses and a churchyard without a church. I found out it was once a sleepy little hamlet that was once the gay hidey-hole of King James I, as well as a place where Gandhi stayed in the 1930’s. Remarkable history now lost amidst unforgiving redevelopment and post-war planning.
Finally, I visited. In November 2018 the other half took me to Paris – well, I couldn’t simply go to Paris and not visit the cemetery that started it all. British cemeteries don’t come close to the opulence and grandeur of this place, which I am hoping to make a second visit to. Beautiful architecture, jaw-droppingly lavish monuments, my visit only cherry picks the key stand out monuments I saw on my first visit.
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