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Newport – London Cemeteries

We had a most interesting talk from Keith Jones which showed us that cemeteries are not only places to visit and remember relatives but have an intrinsic interest of their own.

In the early nineteenth century the population of London was increasing rapidly which, of course, led to more deaths and hence more burials. The churchyards used at the time could not cope and so the so called ‘garden’ cemeteries were created. They were specifically designed, usually in green field sites outside of the city. Hence the term ‘garden’ cemeteries. The idea caught on and some 123 now exist- with seven major sites.

Mr Jones concentrated on two such cemeteries- Kensal Green (the oldest, having opened in 1833) and Highgate (the most famous having the tombs of Karl Marx and Michael Faraday.

The Garden cemeteries were a commercial concern and often used underground catacombs to provide more space for burials and hence more profit. Unfortunately as burials were in perpetuity in time, as descendants passes away, the graves and the cemeteries themselves deteriorated and the private owners could not afford their upkeep and looked for profitable sale.

Happily for Highgate a ‘Friends of Highgate Cemetery’ organization was set up (Keith Jones being a member) and this cemetery, at least, looks to have a stable future.

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