What is it? The second largest Victorian cemetery in London. Nunhead Cemetery was consecrated in 1840.
Where is it? Entrances on Linden Grove and Limesford Road, the former a short walk from Nunhead Station, SE15. Ever been to Nunhead before? There's really not a lot there except this wonderfully imposing semi-wild cemetery surrounded by iron gates, branded with symbolic upside down burning torches.
Why has it tickled our fancy? The Linden Grove entrance leads you straight up an avenue of mature lime trees, flanked by impressive memorials, some disappearing into the undergrowth and others crumbling and fading. At the head of the avenue stands an awe inspiring Anglican chapel which, despite having lost its roof to arson, has been beautifully restored and is still used for open day events, hosting choirs and visits. Bits of the cemetery reflect the wild magic of Abney Park and the more manicured recall West Norwood but it has a grandeur all of its own.
Nature notes: Part of the cemetery is now a nature reserve and walking away from the grand centre the paths turn into country lanes meandering among graves covered with vines and blackberries with trees sprouting everywhere, even out of the burial plots. Tombs are handy perches for pigeons, squirrels run rampant and there are apparently 16 species of butterfly flapping about. Some patches are formally maintained - a group of military graves and the 3 war memorials are kept in smart lawn and the more recent plots are more recently tended, including an area dedicated to Islamic burials. 853 puts it succinctly: "From the Victorian tradesmen around us to the first generation of immigrants in this corner, here was the changing nature of London, encapsulated in its burial grounds."
To find out more visit the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery. There is a conducted tour of the cemetery, open to all, on the last Sunday of each month, starting from the Linden Grove gates at 2:15 p.m.
Photography by Dean Nicholas
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