Nature-ist: Brockley Cemetery

By Lindsey Last edited 107 months ago
Nature-ist: Brockley Cemetery
Bee grave
Bee grave
Monument to Jane Clouson, paid for by public subscription such was the strong local feeling for poor Jane who was battered to death my her aristocratic lover, the son of  her employer.
Monument to Jane Clouson, paid for by public subscription such was the strong local feeling for poor Jane who was battered to death my her aristocratic lover, the son of her employer.
Purple overgrowth
Purple overgrowth

What is it? Brockley Cemetery, formerly known as Deptford Cemetery, established 1858.

Where is it? Entrance on Brockley Road, SE4. Ladywell Cemetery borders it, divided by a wall. Nearest station is Crofton Park.

Why has it tickled our fancy? We were out vising a 'Magnificent Seven' cemetery earlier in the day and stumbled across Brockley Cemetery on the way to tea. It struck us as beautifully Victorian and gothic, a la West Norwood, yet more overgrown, meadowy and wistful, despite the catholic sections being rigorously cut back. Adding to the romanticism, at the heart of the graveyard is a monument to 17 year old Jane Coulson, topped with a praying child. The story being that she was seduced by her employer's son in the belief that he would marry her but subsequently was betrayed and battered to death by the aristocratic lad who was acquitted of her murder. The monument was raised by public subscription to her memory and the story cut into the stone with the tragic legend that her last words were "Oh, let me die".

Nature notes: Parts of the cemetery are treated as meadowland and lots left to grow wild. We spotted blackberries, thistles, willowherb, daisies, other wild flowers and lots of lovely grassland, all of which attracts the butterflies (cemeteries really are bonanza habitat for lepidoptera). Ivy creeps over tombstones and hangs from the many trees and there's a mix of good paths for walking and buggies and some 'off roading' sections through brambles and undergrowth for the more adventurous. Then, there's the bee grave. Bees are big environmental news at the moment with many efforts to set up hives and increase the bee population but the bees have sorted themselves out in Brockley, taking over a tombstone as a smart new hive.

Check out the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries for more. Thanks to Cathy for showing us round!

Last Updated 23 July 2009


As a founder member of FOBLC (Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries), I was intrigued by your visit (in July). I have spent many years to present (and prior to foundation of FOBLC at the end of 2007) documenting with digital camera the fauna and flora of the twinned cemeteries you visited. I have amassed a large library year on year.

Indeed, the cemeteries are wonderfully unique; not wholly appreciated by the very municipality in which the cemeteries are sited, even, with 'nature reserve listed recognition and supposed protection' that Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries are reputed to own. Lewisham management is woefully ignorant about species with a constant ad hoc propensity toward strimming and cutting of important meadow areas and other habitat pockets, which support surprising flora and creatures. Consequently, species struggling to thrive in their season may too often be frustrated of survival with yet another rampant rampage of municipal strimmerman scything through the terrain regardless. –

For example, I have observed over recent years a beautiful, if startling to note, non-native spider (Wasp Spider - Argiope Bruennichi) already colonising the South of England take up home in confident numbers the cemeteries of Brockley & Ladywell. They have always precariously ‘held on by a thread’ so long as their grassy habitat was not unseasonably whipped from under them during the summers of their visitations.

Sadly, for the first time this year 2009 I have spotted only two spiders so far, scour as I might over several warm propitious days of the weeks of the spiders later summer appearance in July and August and [I will continue into the opening of] September when a Wasp Spider builds her remarkable sculpted pod of eggs only to have it dashed away by blasé Mr. mowerman yet again.

If an appreciating group like yours might consider the particular wants of the cemeteries you enjoyably visit I make a plea for you and your kind to lobby the authorities to take full regard toward ‘intelligent management’ which, frankly, as far as said cemeteries are concerned, exhibit minimal value where fauna and flora might lend to aesthetics and joy of the frequenting locals if less zealous cutting, chopping, strimming was practiced ‘out of season’. As for dogs, lately having full access to the cemeteries with Lewisham’s New Dog Control Orders, adds, as far as I am concerned, a particularly obnoxious addition to the cemeteries.