Cemetery_ZoeticaEbb_136_preview
Exploring London's gorgeous cemeteries | Haute Macabre

Life in Death at Tower Hamlets Cemetery

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_2

What better way to escape summer heat, than to lose oneself in history for a few languid hours, sheltered by centuries-old trees and occasionally tangled in overgrown ivy. Amidst the veritable cornucopia of London’s lush green spaces are some unlikely constituents: cemeteries. The most beautiful of these are known as The Magnificent Seven, and I’ve made it my mission to explore them all.

Cemetery_ZoeticaEbb_24

Tower Hamlets Cemetery park, like its six sisters, was established in the Victorian era to ease overcrowding in small parish graveyards. It’s home to hundreds of thousands of bodies (around 350,000, to be specific), due to the popularity of public graves at the time of its establishment – some graves are said to be forty feet deep and contain dozens of people, many of them complete strangers.

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_27

Just 55 years after opening its gates, the twenty-seven-acre plot began to show signs of the neglect that would spur its descent into ruin.

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_35

Still, it remained functional well into the 1960s, surviving five bombings during the Second World War and eventually becoming an official Local Nature Reserve.

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_47

Though many tombstones have been destroyed or fell victim to the ravages of time, carving connoisseurs can still admire gorgeous reliefs of clasped hands, weeping angels and falling doves.

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_34

And while some urns draped with stone flower garlands, Latin crosses, broken columns and other ornate, moss-grown Victorian monuments still stand, they’re slowly disappearing beneath vines, roots and blooms.

Cemetery_ZoeticaEbb_131

Today, Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is habitat to numerous plant and animal species, some rare and endangered – more a burgeoning woodland than a place of final rest. Visitors can unwind amidst wildflower meadows, observe wildlife, or even acquire permission to responsibly forage the grounds for natural offerings like herbs, flowers, berries and mushrooms (for personal use only and adhering to guidelines, of course).

Cemetery_ZoeticaEbb_73

On a summer day, the chorus of birds and countless sun dapples dancing across melting limestone make it easy to forget the somber origins of Tower Hamlets. Life has overtaken this place of death completely, in some cases quite literally. Yet the crumbling monuments remind us: the two flow side by side, and they both belong.

Cemetery_ZoeticaEbb_126

Many more photos from my visit to Tower Hamlet Cemetery Park can be seen here.

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_32

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_46

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_42

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_33

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_23

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_48

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_18

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_21

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_16

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_17

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_60

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_61

Cemetery_ZoeticaEbb_24

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_55

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_57

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_49

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_45

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_50

TowerHamletsCemetery_ZoeticaEbb_51

zoetica

3 Comment

  1. This is definitly a place to go where mother nature has been stronger than man’s print.
    First, it seems this is a cemetery of too many dead persons, 350 000 it is a lot !!!
    Secondly, as a stone engraver, I am always interested by old engraving and to look how they resist in time, and how they look like after years and years, even more in that case where the grass is on the gravestone.

    It is sure, I will visit it one day !

Comment

Shares