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Rose garden opening at West Norwood ceremony

Saturday 7 June 2008

Several previous Mayors had told me how the role of Mayor helps give you an in-depth knowledge of Lambeth. After a few engagements I already agree with their view and my visit to West Norwood Cemetery & Crematorium was clear evidence – revealing to me an amazing historical gem that I had passed many times never knowing the enormous historical heritage just inches away as a cycled by.

Here is a description of the Cemetery from the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery website:

“West Norwood Cemetery is one of the metropolitan cemeteries founded to deal with the expanding population of London in the early 19th century. It was opened in 1837. It has 65 Grade II and Grade II* listed monuments and includes memorials to Mrs Beeton, Sir Henry Doulton, Dr William Marsden, Baron Julius de Reuter, Charles Spurgeon and Sir Henry Tate.”

West Norwood Cemetery

I was attending to open the new memorial gardens which have been created following a £232,000 project which started in June 2007 ending in January 2008. Prior to the event I had used the internet to learn about West Norwood Cemetery and it was fascinating to then be given further insight to a chequered history including where years ago mismanagement resulted in many monuments, including those listed, being destroyed.

It was clear through the work of the management committee, Lambeth officers and the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery great work was now being delivered. The Rose gardens are an example of this and are beautiful. I urge you to visit the cemetery to see them, but also to spend time in 42 acres full of history that is being preserved for us all by a small number of hard working and dedicated people.

When I was researching, prior to the visit, Wikipedia said ‘Although the crematorium is open for normal services all the burial plots have been allocated and hence it is closed to new burials, under current burial legislation.’ However I am told that there are still some burials on family plots including one I passed on the way to my opening of the gardens.

I noticed in the very large gathering that had come to see the gardens officially opened that Councillor Andrew Gibson, who was Mayor of Lambeth for 2007 – 2008 was among them. Only a little pressure for one of my first opening ceremonies 🙂

I will certainly be returning to the cemetery in an unofficial capacity to spend some time soaking up the amazing history contained within the walls of the cemetery.

The Archdeacon of Lambeth re-dedicated the renovated memorial garden unveling a wall plaque for VC holder Spencer Bent.

I was in good company for the visit and opening – both alive and dead. The work of all involved should be applauded and the gardens are testament to what can be achieved when we work in partnership.

You can discover more about the cemetery at the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery website and at the Significant Cemeteries of Europe.

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