Hidden History

History is often all around us, hidden beneath our feet, if only we know where to look…

Walking around the beautifully kept memorial rose gardens in the City of London Cemetery, you may come across a small circular plaque set in concrete in the grass verge by an access road. Around the edge it reads ‘City of London Cemetery Heritage Trail’ and in the middle ‘Mary Ann Nichols, Died 31st August 1888’. A little further along on the opposite side of the road lies an almost identical plaque, this time bearing the name ‘Catherine Eddowes, Died  30th September 1888’

Mary-Ann-Nichols

Catherine Eddowes

Marie-Jeanette-Kelly

And if you were to wander around St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery in Leytonstone you may find a small and rather plain grave with an almost constant supply of flowers. The current headstone reads ‘In loving memory of Marie Jeanette Kelly – None but the lonely hearts can know my sadness, love lives forever.’

None of these grave markers are original, and after all these years the actual grave sites are approximate, but all three of these unlucky women were murdered in Whitechapel in London’s East End by Jack the Ripper – Polly Nichols at the end of August, Catherine Eddowes at the end of September, and Mary Jane Kelly on 9th November 1888.

Jack the Ripper’s two other known victims were Annie Chapman (buried in Manor Park Cemetery) who was killed on 8th September 1888, and Liz Stride (buried in East London Cemetery) who like Catherine Eddowes was murdered on 30th September.

With all the myths and legends and conspiracy theories surrounding the mysterious identity of Jack the Ripper (who was never caught), it is all too easy to forget that the basic story is factually true. Almost 130 years ago in the space of a few short weeks five real living-and-breathing women were brutally murdered, and it is important that they are remembered with respect as more than just incidental bit-part-player prostitutes in some misogynist madman’s murder-fest…

Daily Prompt: History

Thursday Doors: Funerary Doors

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These delicately designed doors to the catacombs and columbarium in the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium in East London are made of metal – a narrow-guage mesh layered diagonally behind a stamped-out patchwork  pattern. I had to look up what a columbarium was – apparently whereas catacombs store coffins on cool, dark, underground shelf spaces, a columbarium stores funerary urns containing cremated remains, also underground.

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There are two crematoria on site, a more traditional building (main door shown above) and a modern 1970s low-profile concrete design (not pictured).

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As well as the two crematoria and catacombs, there is a purpose-built Anglican church and also a non-conformist (Dissenters) chapel on site for accommodating funeral services – these are the beautiful chapel doors (above).

The City of London Cemetery and Crematorium is the largest municipal burial ground in the UK, covering 200 acres and with seven miles of road throughout. It has been in use since the mid-19th Century, when London’s city churchyards were full beyond capacity and creating a health hazard – in fact, many old remains were re-intered here as the old parish graveyards were unconsecrated and repurposed, with large communal gravestones commemorating the occasion.

Additionally there are also beautiful and well-kept Memorial Gardens within the cemetery grounds, including formal rose gardens… not a picture of a door to end with, I know, but it certainly brightens up my otherwise rather sombre post! 🙂

rose-garden

See more images of doors on Norm’s Thursday Doors

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

gravestone-bed

Although it’s not unusual to find me wandering around a cemetery taking pictures of whatever captures my attention, this particular gravestone in East London is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before – it seems to be kind of like a stone four-poster (but with six posts) canopy-less ‘bed’ (designed for eternal rest, perhaps?) with both carved headstone and footstone and a strange kind of pillow-effect domed ‘cover’ between the two, like you might find in some fictional fantasy film 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual 

A Grave Reality…

old-gravestone

A Grave Reality…

My death once brought me peacefully to rest

Six feet beneath the ground kept safe from harm

Dark fertile soil packed tight across my chest

A covering of leaves to keep me warm

I’ve lain beneath my heavy quilt of green

Tucked up in Mother Earth’s last warm embrace

Till gravestone legend, weathered and worn clean

Shows few marks now on roughened blasted face

I’ve lain here for what feels eternity

My empty sockets staring up in vain

No living soul exists who once knew me

No memory of mortal life remains

As seasons change, I watch each passing year

Whole centuries roll by while I lie here…

Happy Halloween…

stake-through-the-heart

This old dilapidated gravestone always intrigues me. I don’t think its somewhat startling appearance is due to vandalism, as the cemetery is generally well cared for – I think it’s more an attempt to keep all the broken pieces of an old crumbling grave-marker together in some fashion, rather than have them scattered to the winds.

The cross has obviously come off from the top section of the headstone, and rather than leave it lying around I assume it has been carefully placed into the wide crack on the large covering stone to keep it reasonably upright. However, to me it looks just like someone has desperately driven the cross with huge force into the centuries old body below to be absolutely sure they’re not coming back…

Happy Halloween everybody! 🙂

Daily Prompt: Eerie

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transmogrify

Gravestone-Tree

Whatever names and dates were originally carved onto the front face of this old gravestone, it’s long since eroded away leaving only the epitaph ‘R.I.P’ on the back. So perhaps the best way to guess how long it’s been there is to judge the potential age of the still-growing tree, which over the years has consumed one side of the gravestone to the extent that they now appear as one, a symbiotic siamese twin of living wood and corroding stone conjoined for eternity…

St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Leytonstone, East London

Weekly Photo Challenge: Transmogrify

Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers

gravestone-oct-1761

This old Scottish grave marker is quite clearly dated October 1761, making it almost 255 years old – when I was younger these flat stone slabs were raised up on low stone plinths top and bottom, looking a bit like stone coffee tables, but nowadays they are all laid flush with the surrounding grass, presumably for safety and also for ease of upkeep of the graveyard itself.

Many are now sadly covered almost completely with mossy grass, but thankfully the original carving on some is still visible – and in some cases (like this stone below) the moss actually helps in making the lettering clearer to read.

stone-slab

When we were kids we used to wonder about the skull and crossbones carved into some of these old stones, making up all sorts of wild and wonderful stories about potential pirates and plague, but it is far more likely that their presence was no more than a simple memento mori, a reminder that sooner or later death comes to us all…

skull-and-crossbones

Weekly Photo Challenge: Numbers