On 11 May a small but very keen group was taken around the Grade II listed City of London Cemetery and Crematorium by the Superintendent & Registrar, Gary Burks. The 1200 acres located on the edge of Epping Forest and across from Wansted Flats and originally farmland, was originally purchased by the City Corporation in 1853 to provide more space for the already overcrowded burial grounds in the City. The cemetery design was laid out by the well-known City Surveyor, William Haywood, and opened in 1856.
Gary gave us a very thorough background history of the cemetery before the tour and we were also able to briefly view the burial registers. As the registers are in date order, anyone wanting to have a search done would need to know the approximate date of death in order to find someone in the registers. Searches can be done for a fee, contact the City of London Cemetery for further details. The registers are currently being digitised and the Corporation of London hopes to make them available on the internet in the near future.
Within the cemetery are 7 miles of roads, 600,000 internments, not including the re-interred remains from the burial grounds of 38 historic City Churches . The grounds are very well kept, with extensive gardens, including a 600-bed rose garden, which require 10 staff to maintain.
As the cemetery is becoming full, Gary explained the cemetery’s policy of reusing graves for modern burial. Families are contacted about existing graves (which are known to have depth for at least two more burials). For example, some of the older graves were dug to accomodate around twelve bodies, but may only have two bodies interred and this leaves space for modern burials. A marker is left on the existing grave to notify the public of the intention for planning further burials. On one gravestone we saw, the stone had been reversed in the ground, and the back side (now facing forward) was used to inscribe the name of the newer, additional occupant of the grave.
Surprisingly, the cemetery also has a small cafe on the premises where one can have lunch or a cup of tea after a long trek around the grounds, something which our group happily took advantage of.