Big Fat Goths Explore Arnos Vale

‘It seems that there is a rise in tombstone tourism’ started the article. Within the past month or so, awareness to cemeteries as places to visit in the capacity of a social/educational form rather than as a place of remembrance has hit the headlines and I (as well as others) have spoken to various news outlets regarding this new form of so-called dark tourism. Many people are willing to give cemeteries a chance and see them as more than just a place to inter someone. They are, as I keep trying to stress, museums of people.

However the aforementioned Guardian article, written by Barbara Ellen, fell in to the unfortunate trap of making a dissapointing generalisation about those who visit cemeteries and even described those who do as ‘big fat goths’ embracing ‘an old hobby in brighter clothes’. Sadly, she misses the point of seeing a cemetery as somewhere more than just a place to bury a body and in this week’s blog I’m positing the questions; can a cemetery be more than a cemetery?


Darmon from the Bohemian Blog visited Arnos Vale Cemetery in 2014 so I’ll leave it to him to explain its foundation and local importance. But if you want a good example tombstone tourism? Come here and visit.

Mark invited me down for the weekend and as an archivist for Bristol Museum as well as being an awesome photographer, I jumped at the chance. Two BFG’s together.


What is remarkable about Arnos Vale is that they have successfully interepreted the open space as an open air exhibition and museum – infact more weddings happen here than funerals nowadays. Like an expertly manicured Classical churchyard; the chapels and the woodland backdrop makes this an attractive and breath taking place to take a stroll, have a cup of tea or re-engage with Bristol’s past.


The Cemetery in its heyday in the late 19th Century.  From the Arnos Vale website

IMG_20170529_175810_513There’s a fascinating display below the coffee shop; nestled alongside posters showing it operating in its heyday is the bare truth of a working cemetery. A catafalque and an old cremator that looks like it appeared in Home Alone. Happily a young boy was running around with his dad, fascinated by things like funeral biers. If you can fascinate a kid with things like this, top marks.


Mark and Janine from Arnos Vale discuss history stuff © Sheldon K Goodman 2017

_DSC0645_DSC0685I’m not sure if I like the term ‘tombstone tourism’ — I think it commodifies a genuine interest in what isn’t always appreciated as a remarkable cultural resource. But there is an interest there that needs to be addressed and be it a Friends Association, Instagram group, local council, Royal Park or private company, tourism is something that has always happened in a Cemetery right from the Victorian era  – Kensal Green used to sell guide books in the 1850’s to those who paid a visit and they weren’t alone.  Arnos recognises heritage, nature and education exist together and should be demonstrated to keep the site relevant and current to the local population.


‘At its peak Arnos Vale had seven cremation furnaces and held up to 30 cremations per day. With several furnaces running at once, conditions in the crematorium could be unpleasant. Temperatures reached up to 40 degrees…respiratory problems were a common side effect of the job.’ – info from a display board below the Cafe.

_DSC0677DSC_0382IMG_20170531_190239_573.jpgBut the real beauty of Arnos Vale (and any cemetery) looking at showing off what lies within is are its graves, tombs and monuments. The entrance lodge has a number of self-guided walks available to visitors as well as an official tour which highlights the former alumni of Bristol. James Hosken, the captain of Brunel’s SS Great Britain (which is docked in the nearby floating harbour); educational reformer Mary Carpenter and, intruingly, reformist Rajah Rammohun Roy, who basically helped create modern India and introduced the word ‘Hinduism’ to the English language in 1816.


This is on top of other things you can do within these alls – yoga classes, storytelling workahops, classroom activities, go on a pilgramage and even get married. As cemeteries fill up and burial space becomes constricted, why aren’t more people utiling them as community assets? We already have a number of other events in Churches/other faith centres already; can’t this use be extended to a cemetery as well?

DSC_0421_DSC0659_DSC0681So can cemeteries be more than a cemetery? Can a cemetery offer more than a grave? Clearly they can, as long as it done tastefully and in consultation with the local area so that its main purpose as a museum of people is preserved, protected and encouraged. Arnos Vale are doing good work and are able to appeal to everyone – many London Cemeteries are beginning to take note and explore the ideas they’ve implemented in their own way, for the benefit of two big fat goths like me and Mark (who happened to be wearing brighter clothes) who see these spaces as somewhere more than just a collection of skeletons.

All photography © thehistoryb0yphotography 2017.

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The Alternative Top 10 Graves of London

by Sheldon

Google ‘famous graves in London’ and you’re assaulted by the usual suspects –  these lists generally include Emmeline Pankhurst, John Bunyan and perhaps the best known of them all – Karl Marx.

There’s no denying the above named peoples influence and legacy but there are others whose graves are just as interesting – be it architecturally, because of what the person achieved in life or just for the monument they chose to be remembered by.

After nearly four years of going around various Graveyards and places of remembrance, here are my personal top 10 graves that I’ve found…

1. The Lego Grave


This is always a favourite when I mention it to people, especially when you hear about the bravery of the poor little lad it acts as a marker to.

This grave in Highgate Cemetery remembers Sonny Anderson, a courageous young Gooner who died of Cancer in 2011; his treatment, experiences and untimely end are collected in this heartfelt blog written by his Mum. The Lego figures at the top seem to alternate; I assume visitors to the Cemetery or his family leave their own figures there as a token of respect. We left our own; Steve gave his Darth Vader keychain on our last visit.

2. Joseph Bonomi the Younger


A modest headstone in Brompton Cemetery, marked with the Egyptian God of the Underworld, is the marker of a man who promoted Egyptian influences in British Architecture. In 1824 Bonomi went on an expedition to Egypt via Malta; igniting a lifelong fascination with the ancient world.

In 1861, to much criticism, he was appointed curator of the Sir John Soane Museum in Holborn (a posting which was usually given to a practicing architect). Bonomi designed the Egyptian entrance to Abney Park Cemetery, the facade of the Temple Works in Leeds and supposedly, the Courtroy Mauseoleum, just a short walk from his final resting place.

It’s also one of the saddest headstones that you’ll ever see, as he shares the grave with his four eldest children who all died of Whooping Cough during the Easter weekend of 1852.

3. Samuel Broome


This grave must’ve been spectacular when it was new. Broome was a champion Chrysanthemum grower and gardener at Inner Temple gardens for over 40 years; considering the plant only arrived in this country in 1846, by the 1860’s he’d turned the formerly desolate gardens into a paradise filled with Roses and other flowers, to the extent the Royal Horticultural Society had a show there on a yearly basis. It was reported that ‘10,000 of the outer world, chiefly Children, who are always in search of the lost Eden, come here annually’  Now, his grave, sans Chrysanthemums, lies forgotten under a canopy of mature trees in Nunhead Cemetery and the gardens which he worked in for decades seem to lack the sparkle of their heyday.

4. The TARDIS of Streatham Cemetery

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It’s blue. It looks like a TARDIS-cum-Temple. What more do you want! This is the grave of Henry Budden and it was erected in 1907. It’s made out of Terracotta – not a very common type of grave material but a number of them are around, particularly in Hampstead (where we have a tour in June!)

5. William Booth


Booth’s grave in the 1920’s. (Via the Salvation Army Flickr page)

The founder of the Salvation Army is situated in one of the most picturesque parts of any Cemetery I’ve been to, the Booth grave in Abney Park fascinates me because historically, this spot has always been well captured, be it via British Pathe footage of the funeral or via various historical photographs. It’s interesting how the changing fortunes of the Cemetery (and to a certain extent, how Booth’s influence dims over the ensuing years) can be sampled from these images.

6. The Bronze Man of St. Marylebone Cemetery

Bronze Man of StMarylebone.jpg

Sam introduced me to this tomb and it’s easily one of the most beautiful bronzes I’ve ever seen. Very much in the same vein as the Lancaster and Greig tombs I wrote about a year or so ago, this is a draped Roman figure on a sarcophagus to Thomas Tate, sculpted by F Lynn Jenkins and was completed in 1909. I always advocate that Cemeteries are just as good as museums – how about this for an exhibit?

7. Brutalist Mausoleum


Tombs aren’t always classical or gothic Victorian affairs, as seen here in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Leytonstone. this is the mausoleum of the Ferrari family, a concrete structure originally built in 1965. It sticks out like a sore thumb amidst hundreds of sculpted Jesus’ and Our Lady – I can’t say I’m a massive fan of Brutalism but this is a must see.

8. Joseph Westwood


Joseph Westwood’s grave is the most impressive monument in Tower Hamlets Cemetery; indeed, it seems like it’s been airlifted from Highgate and decided to timeshare in this woodland for a while. Westwood was a ship builder who originally built yachts for the likes of the Prince of Egypt and others; however; an economic downturn in the 1860’s had him repurpose his business into building ships, bridges and railroads across the expanding British empire, which provided far more reliable work. A local guy, he was buried where he lived. Sadly the grave is a shadow of its former glory – it’s built out of Portland Stone (like St. Paul’s) and would have shone a brilliant white; small bells were once attached to it which would have quietly jingled in the wind.

9. Celtic Cross of Orbs


Not far from where Joseph Bonomi is, is this remarkable Celtic Cross which is studded with different rocks of astounding colour. Remarkably, it’s been untouched since 1897 and none of them have been pinched. Long may this continue.

10. A Father’s Love for his Daughter


Don’t blink…otherwise you’ll miss one of Kensal Green’s most beautiful monuments. This baroque number commemorates Mary Eleanor Gibson. She died at the Great Western Hotel by Kings Cross, possibly on a visit to London to see a medical consultant. Sadly she never got the chance to receive treatment; she died aged 18 in 1872. If you ever need evidence of a father’s love for his daughter, then point them in this tomb’s direction – it’s on the main boulevard with other equally impressive monuments such as that of William Mulready and Andrew Ducrow nearby. 

The four angels here originally held a crown. Now, they are frozen, almost mid dance, whilst she sleeps eternally below. 

Well that’s my top 10, but what are your favourites? I’d love to hear about them – feel free to comment below or on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!

All photos © Sheldon K Goodman, 2017. 

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Our Next Tour is Live!

by Sheldon

Hello everyone!

Here at the Cemetery Club mausoleum we’ve been busy sorting out events for the summer and we’re pleased to announce our next tour will be brand spanking new and will be around Hampstead Cemetery!


It’s a lovely place to have a stroll and you get a sense that in the 140-odd years that it’s been opened, its general look and maintenance hasn’t changed that much. It’s part of the second wave of cemeteries that opened after the likes of Highgate and Kensal Green – but more importantly, it has some remarkable people buried there whose stories have enthralled both me and Sam. It’s a different beat from Tower Hamlets – considerably less murder victims for starters.

The Horn player who memorised Mozart, for example – in the middle of concerts he didn’t have sheet music on his music stand, instead he had the latest copy of Autocar magazine as he was also a boy racer at heart. Then there’s the Tenor whose acting ability was a bit ropey, but had a voice that could call the Angels from Heaven. Then of course there’s a music hall star whose stardom is still known today and yes, naturally, I’ll be ending the tour with a song of hers (although perhaps another number than the one shown below!)

Of course, please feel free to Instagram/Facebook/Tweet/Fax whilst the tour is going on!

More tours are scheduled throughout the Summer but please book your tickets from the button below for a stroll around Hampstead Cemetery – every guest gets a free Cemetery Club badge!

We’d be thrilled to see you!


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Springtime in the Extra Mural

by Sheldon

I was making full use of my recent membership of the British Library and delving into their archives to explore ye olde books on Cemeteries. I came across one such book that was written in the 1860’s for the Brighton Extra Mural Cemetery; imagine Bradshaw’s Guide, which was written as a timetable and guide to the railways, but for graveyards. Armed with my new Nikon D3300 which my Dad got me for my 30th, down I toddled to the south coast to visit this seaside golgotha for a chance to be death’s answer to Michael Portillo.



John George Bishop was the author of the aforementioned tome and like me, took great pleasure in being incredibly geeky about something chronicling the lives of  the people buried in Brighton’s answer to Highgate. Over a period of three years he saw the Cemetery grow and develop and on a rare day off, I went back to this little valley in the South Downs to see what was left from his initial visit in 1864.

I originally called Brighton Extras Mural ‘Highgate on Sea’ – it’s obvious as to why. Impressive vaults, catacombs and tombs nestled into precariously hilly terrain, a cluster of  well to do monuments right at the front of the Cemetery boasting old financiers from London and an impressive gothic number which was ‘erected by Mr. Field, of 13, Parliament Street, London’ in the memory of J Collingwood Esquire. A number of tombs (bar one) were still where he said they were, all those years ago.



Bishop is a bloody good writer. Books like this you would expect to be a simpering, pious tome about how wonderful the cemetery is – let’s not forget that death was big business at the time of its writing but refreshingly, Bishop isn’t always convinced by what he sees. Take the Ray family Mausoleum next to the Anglican chapel.

For reasons best known to him, Mr Ray, a barrister from London,  decided to build a tomb that could hold up to 42 people. I’ve not yet checked the size of his family, or whether he was trying to compensate for something, but it’s a beast of a building and all it seems to house now are some fairly chuffed Pigeons. Never mind as a house of the dead, and Bishop muses:

‘Though on too large a scale for this Cemetery, and in a position which detracts from its general appearance, this Mausoleum is a handsome piece of work’. 


In the upper reaches of the Cemetery, lies the grave of Frances de Val. Time has swept away most of the graves that were once here but Bishop does his best even then to keep this guy’s story alive – de Val had the unenviable job of keeping George IV’s Pavilion tidy and furnished, a job he got after George heard he’d knocked a Frenchman out after a quarrel.

He was also in charge of paying a pension to Phoebe Hessel, the highly decorated and revered soldier who was eventually revealed to be a woman. When her exploits permitted her to receive a pension, George IV asked how much would allow her to live comfortably. ‘Half your income’, she dryly replied. George saw the funny side and through de Val received half-a-sovereign a week for the remainder of her life.


Then there’s the gigantic tomb of John Urpeth Rastrick. Rastrick was one of the first engineers to build a steam locomotive – in fact he was a judge at the Rainhill Trials which saw Stephenson’s Rocket pant and hiss to victory. Rastrick was also a key player in the building and construction of the London to Brighton Railway. How many Londoners must have secretly have thanked him for its construction, having a cheeky Caffe Nero down the Lanes every time the sun seems to promise a nice day out . His death in Addlestone, Surrey in 1856 posed something of a problem for the cemetery – his tomb was to be a massive block of granite resembling a locomotive turning circle, and it was to be situated on a steep hill on the cemetery.

The entrance gate had to be partially demolished to get it into the cemetery and then twenty horses had to try and lift the damned thing into position – that must have been a stressful day for all concerned. Now, it overlooks the cemetery yet despite its size, Bishop brings us back to reality with an observation he made whilst standing by it when it was new:

‘As we were standing beside the tomb, a child ran up to a gentlemen, and, in the simplicity of its innocence, asked-“How many men are buried here, Papa?” – “One, dear”. The little thing looked up – half incredulous with wonder – into the speakers face. “Human vanity” thought we, as we passed on, “might learn a lesson from this child”.


Realising it was nearing closing time and that I  hadn’t even made a significant dent in the writings of Mr. Bishop, I made my way to the seafront to have something one or two of the people here would have had as they strolled along the promenade – good old fashioned fish and chips.

Another stroll in the Extra Mural awaits.

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All photos © Sheldon K Goodman 2016.


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The Queen of Fire 

by Sam

Frederick Garibaldi Rogers broke down as he presented evidence at the inquest into the death of his estranged wife, Minnie Kate. Once so in love, Frederick would have done anything for her before she’d descended into alcohol and drug abuse, dying alone at the age of 53.  What caused this performer, once described as a public idol, to commit suicide?


Paddington Old Cemetery © Sam Perrin 2016

A Somerset farmer’s daughter, Minnie had far more glamorous aspirations in life and in 1898 sought professional engagements as Mademoiselle Ladora, “Queen of Fire”. Described as “divinely tall”, she was strikingly beautiful and used technology to create illusions that were projected onto her diaphanous dresses, creating a shimmering kaleidoscopic effect. For this she employed an Edison-Rodgers Electrograph (used to generate the white light required in magic lantern shows) operated by her husband.

By the 1890s skirt dancing had become hugely popular thanks to pioneers such as Kate Vaughan, Letty Lind, Loie Fuller and Ladora became known as the original Flame Dancer (not to be confused with Loie Fuller’s ‘Fire Dance’) as she twirled and weaved about the stage surrounded by a blazing ‘inferno’. Her ‘La Danse Illuminata’ featured fluttering butterflies, silvery moonlight, flowers and public figures that were projected onto her translucent skirts as she twirled “in the sheen of gold and silver”.

The effect was very pretty and enchanting to watch. The Electrograph was a high tech bit of kit in those days with Ladora boldly claiming “Where we go others cannot follow. We challenge the world for a finer and smarter worked show”.  Other popular routines were her interpretations of the ‘She’ and ‘Flame of Life’ characters from Rider Haggard’s novels, described as both “original and sensational”.

Touring the north of England from 1898-1901 her reputation grew and she gravitated south to London, performing at the Tivoli on the same bills as music hall royalty Marie Lloyd and Joe Elvin in 1902. At the Islington Empire, Ladora elicited feverish applause for projecting General Redvers Buller’s portrait during her performance (described as one of the most triumphant on the programme). As Ladora, she added ‘La Papillon’ and ‘The Spirit of the Storm’ repertoires and later performed on the same bill as Little Tich in 1903.

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Could Ladora have made it as a superstar in her own right? Probably not. While reviews of her performances were favourable and her routines inventive, the self-proclaimed Queen of Fire sensationally quit dancing altogether in 1903. It later transpired at her inquest that Ladora wasn’t all sweetness and light: her temper was volcanic and she was prone to storming offstage mid-performance in fits of pique.

In the following years, Ladora descended into chronic alcoholism and drug addiction which had a catastrophic effect on her mental health. Her temper worsened and she became increasingly jealous, accusing her husband of affairs with the female clientele at his car dealership.  She caused, in his words, “all kinds of trouble” and the couple’s relationship soured horribly.

Frederick was crushed on discovering a letter to his wife from an army officer that clearly indicated their relationship was sexual. Worse still, he arrived home early one day to discover his wife enjoying the company of another man in her bedroom.  He waited outside with a loaded gun for an hour, listening, but opted instead to address the pair calmly after which the other man left.  Relaying this betrayal at the inquest, Frederick burst into tears and sobbed:

My wife was a magnificent woman when she was alright. I would willingly have returned to her if only she’d gone straightWhen I had plenty of money I denied her nothing. I bought her a houseboat on the Thames but she would not go and look at it. I gave her a yacht but she went on it once.  She was always one of the best dressed women in London”.


The Queen of Fire, via 

The pair separated, with Frederick living on Upper Westbourne Terrace and Ladora in Blandford Mews (now known as Broadstone Place) near Baker Street. To her neighbours she was just a well-attired middle aged lady who’d “come down in the world” but one who still loved animals and fed the pigeons from her window daily.

Any desire to reconcile on Frederick’s part was extinguished after his wife’s letters to him became increasingly abusive and delusional and in January 1925, Ladora’s daughter received a worrying letter from her mother suggesting suicide and so called the police. At the same time Ladora’s neighbours noticed, despite the abundance of bread crusts left outside her windows, that the famished pigeons refused to land anywhere near the sills to eat them. As police officers climbed a ladder to reach her apartment window, they were hit by the overpowering smell of gas. On entering they found Ladora dead on the floor.  A nearby letter in her handwriting read:

Jan 14 – I suppose the end of my life. The usual thing – temporary insanity.  They always screen the man who is to blame”.

Verdict: suicide while of unsound mind.

At her funeral in Paddington Old Cemetery the lone mourner was her long-suffering husband, who dropped a bunch of white flowers onto her coffin as it was lowered into the earth. Despite his wife’s dependency and mental health issues, not to mention the heartbreak she’d caused him, part of Frederick clearly never stopped loving his wife. She lies in an unmarked common grave; the fire that illuminated her life and career extinguished into obscurity.

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The Albion Disaster

by Sheldon

Now that I’m working amongst the glass towers of Canary Wharf, the history of Docklands is of particular interest to me at the moment. I regularly find myself stalking the exhibits of the Museum of London during my lunch hour and last week I paid a visit to Tunnel, the Archaeology of Crossrail where I learnt more about a Victorian disaster most of us have never heard about. Remarkably, bits of it were filmed.

On June 21st 1898, close to where Royal Victoria Dock DLR station is now, the first of six Canopus class battleships named the HMS Albion was preparing to leave her dock and enter open water. It would be the sixth ship to bear that name for the British Navy since 1763 and what better way to christen this battleship than with an almighty party?

Grandstands were prepared, local children were given the day off from school and an estimated thirty thousand people lined the river banks to watch the spectacle. What should have been a time of celebration was marred by calamity.

Below we can see the Albion, all 12,900 tonnes of her, slip into the water. It’s hard to imagine that this footage is over 119 years old and is almost certainly one of the oldest ship launching’s ever captured on film.

The Duchess of York, latterly Queen Mary, tried three times to break a bottle of wine against the ship. The third time, the ship was just slightly out of reach for the bottle to be broken so Mr Arnold Hills, chairman of the Thames Ironworks, instead smashes it on one of the struts of the Royal Box where esteemed guests have been watching the pageantry.

A number of onlookers – roughly two hundred in number – had gathered on a wooden bridge which had been built across the stern of the Shikishima, a neighbouring battleship which was being built for the Imperial Japanese Navy. The bridge, 130ft long and supported with piles set deep into the mud, was built to enable workers to get to and from the ship/docks more easily and also happened to be a perfect platform to watch the massive iron ship float proudly down the river. It was a temporary structure and labelled ‘dangerous’ – it certainly shouldn’t have had as many people on it as it did, despite Police intervention warning them to move on.

As the Albion sailed past, a mini tidal wave, created from the sheer weight of the boat crashed into the bridge, flinging all spectators into the murky waters. Exacerbated by a high tide, only when a ship returning visitors to Westminster passed a number of boats with people standing up in them clearly looking at something, was there any indication that things were dreadfully amiss.

In the film below, the bunting and merriment soursfrom 1:16 onwards as dockers scramble in boats, trying to save the poor souls washed into the river. Thirty nine people ended up losing their lives.

Look at the bloke clearly shouting ‘turn that camera off’ as people try and stage a rescue operation, as well as the guy to the right of the shot of the gentleman at 1:25 blowing bubblegum.

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Cover of the Illustrated London News, Saturday 25th June 1898. ©The British Newspaper Archive/British Library Board.

The search for survivors carried on until dusk. As night gave way to day, the bodies of five men, eighteen women, six girls and six boys were taken to a shed for identification. The Morning Post commented:

“The most heart rending scenes were witnessed, parents and other relatives anxiously waiting for information of piteously inquiring for missing friends.

An inquiry into the disaster recorded ‘accidental death’ and twelve of the victims were buried in a mass grave in East London Cemetery, under a giant anchor. Their funerals were covered by Mr Arnold Hills, chairman of the Thames Ironworks, who also contributed to a fund which was set up by West Ham Council to financially support the survivors and their families – Queen Victoria herself donated fifty pounds towards it.

Whilst this wasn’t the first river tragedy – memories of the Princess Alice in 1865 still lingered in people’s minds – it was a stark reminder of the dangers of the river; something we’re not free from even in today’s times – look at the marchioness, for example. And yet, the event, despite having footage of parts of it, is largely forgotten by Londoners.

The Albion herself saw just over twenty years active service. Stationed in the China Station after her commissioning in 1901, she then served in the Channel and saw action in the Dardanelles, as well as landings at Gallipoli. She was then used for accommodation and then scrapped in Morecambe in 1920.

My thanks to Tincture of Museum for informing me about the Albion.


References & Source Material

The Morning Post, 22/06/1898 – The Hampshire Telegraph, 25/06/1898 – The Diss Express, 01/07/1898 – via The British Newspaper Archive/British Library Board.

The Isle of Dogs Life

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Meet the (Real) Eastenders

by Sheldon

This Saturday, let us take you on  trip back in time (without a TARDIS, sadly) to the East-End.

This isn’t the East End of coffee shops, vintage stores and cereal cafes. This is the East End where war heroes lived above shops, mourning achievements of yesteryear, where philanthropists makes it their life mission to improve the living conditions of countless children and the medic who was to uncover what Jack the Ripper did to what we now understand to be his first victim.


Meeting at the War Memorial in Tower Hamlets Cemetery (nearest tube, Mile End on the Central and District Lines) at 11am, let us bring this blog to life with tales of animal importers, the owner of the Cutty Sark and a music hall legend who’s star has long since dimmed.

Led by myself and Sam Perrin, who guided around Highgate Cemetery for twelve years – we’ll personally introduce you to a bunch of characters that make the ones that appear in soap on BBC One look tame.

Book your tickets here, it will be great to see you! (We’ll also be going for an after tour drink in the Rusty Bike, do feel free to come along!)


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