Brockley Cemetery in Lewisham

Years ago a cemetery would have been an unlikely place to include amongst gardens, but as the years have passed they are increasingly seen to have potential as wild gardens as well as gardens of remembrance. Brockley Cemetery in particular certainly fits this bill. The two cemeteries, Brockley and Ladywell, cover an area of 37 acres in total and I am going to talk about them over two posts.

London Gardens Online tells me that from 1852 Brockley Cemetery was the ‘overflow’ cemetery for St Paul’s Church in Deptford, and was originally called ‘Deptford Cemetery’. The Burial Board in Lewisham had already bought the adjoining piece of land and it was decided at the time to appoint a single architect to create unity of design for the two adjoining cemeteries which were separated by a low wall until 1948. The Cemeteries opened in 1858…’. In 1893 an additional 1.21 hectares were bought and added to the south of the cemetery. In 1965 the Borough of Lewisham was formed and both cemeteries came under this authority while maintaining their separate records. LGO tells me that Brockley was closed to burials in 1966, but I found new graves when I visited.

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Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries Plan (https://www.nwkfhs.org.uk/images/2016/03/23/ladywellmap.gif)

Ordnance Survey Map 1895 (https://maps.nls.uk/os/)

3D map of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries (Google)

Using the map of 1895 I could easily follow the original paths in Brockley (previously Deptford) Cemetery and the Google map shows that the layout has not changed. The cemetery is heavily treed with beeches, oaks, poplars, and plane trees as well as smaller indigenous shrubs and ivies.

The cemetery lodge and the entrance to Brockley Cemetery at the corner of Brockley and Ivy Roads

The path along Ivy Lane with oak, ash, and beech trees.

The gravestones under the trees alongside Ivy Lane

Dense undergrowth between the trees

The path along the wall (removed) between the two cemeteries

The path along the wall (removed) between the two cemeteries

Large old London plane trees along the line of the wall

The triangle near the large circular section of the cemetery with a old beech tree

The circular section of Brockley cemetery. Apparently this round bed used to be planted with flowers

The avenue across the circular section of the cemetery

There are always heart-rending sights in a cemetery, such as this gravestone which lists the deaths of several babies in one family.

Family deaths

The War Graves Commission have a simple memorial in Brockley Cemetery, inscribed with the names of 195 soldiers, some of whom also have headstones scattered in the cemetery. The memorial includes an additional panel with the names of those killed in WWII and buried somewhere else in the cemetery. Civilians killed in air raids are also remembered in the cemetery.

The War Graves Commission Memorial

On the edge of the large circular section of the cemetery are the ruins of the Church of England and Non-Conformist Chapels, which appear to be being excavated, or perhaps removed.

The site of the Mortuary Chapels (CoE and Nonconformist)

Just beyond the site of the Mortuary Chapels is a rectangular plot bounded by a long avenue of trees on one side and a wall on the other.  This is the Roman Catholic Cemetery and originally it was all walled and included a Chapel designed by Pugin.  The Chapel was destroyed in WWII, and I couldn’t find any sign of it on the ground.

Looking from Brockley Road up the avenue with the RC Cemetery on the right

The gates into the Roman Catholic cemetery

The gate into the Roman Catholic Cemetery

The top corner of the avenue

The very grand tomb of a Belgian husband and wife

In the RC Cemetery

Alone in the RC Cemetery

I am always sad to see broken graves but there is a lot of work happening in the cemetery, with clearing, mending and general tidying up. Yet again local people are taking an interest in the site and the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries are obviously very active.

The path in the RC Cemetery along the wall backing on to housing on Merritt Road

This must have been a separate entrance into the RC Cemetery from Brockley Road

On the edge of the cemetery is a little woodland burial plot – small, quiet, and very poignant.

The new area added in 1893 is alongside Brockley Grove. It is a mass of graves and untreed – very different and very bleak.

The boundary between the originals Brockley Cemetery and the additional land

The ‘new’ part of Brockley Cemetery

The ‘new’ part of Brockley Cemetery

Many notable people are buried in the cemetery, including Sir Charles Groves of music dictionary fame, but there is no public plan showing where the graves are. By chance I found the grave of Margaret and Rachel MacMillan who are remembered in another of the parks I have visited.

The grave of Margaret and Rachel MacMillan

And a final look at the woodlands of Brockley Cemetery.

Brockley Cemetery

Further information
The layout and information

Graves

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