Cemeteries always have a sadness about them but Woolwich Old Cemetery is also very peaceful and very beautiful. And it has a unique character; it feels like parkland of remembrance and more at rest than Greenwich Cemetery which I visited recently.
Entrance on King’s Highway
The Woolwich Burial Board laid out Woolwich Cemetery in 1856 on the edge of Plumstead Common and it was full within thirty years. Woolwich New Cemetery opened in 1885 nearby. The original Anglican chapel still remains (currently under scaffolding). But the second, non-denominational chapel has been demolished as has the original lodge.
The main cemetery
The cemetery stretches up the side of a hill opposite Bostall Woods. It doesn’t look like a cemetery. There aren’t many gravestones and those which do exist are spaced in the lawns. Some gravestones rest against the south east wall.
The Princess Alice disaster
On 3 September 1878 the Princess Alice steamer was returning from Sheerness in Kent with 700 passengers on board. Just after rounding Tripcock Point she took the wrong sailing lane along Gallions Reach and collided with the coal steamer Bywell Castle. Raw sewage had just been released into the Thames at this point. The steamer broke into three and 631 people died. The public contributed generously to a memorial which was erected in May 1880 and 120 victims are buried here.
CWCG and VC
A small CWGC site stands in the bottom south east corner of the cemetery. Other Kipling stones stand more informally around the cemetery.
John Taylor VC (1822-1857) served in the Naval brigade which took part in the siege of Sebastopol in 1854-55. He was posthumously awarded the VC in 1857 for helping a wounded colleague in battle. Two of his colleagues who were with him were also awarded the VC. They were Henry James Raby and Henry Curtis.
The trees in this cemetery are magnificent!
The wild area
Woolwich Old Cemetery is a very beautiful and calming place, and very well cared for.