Monthly Archives: December 2011

I didn’t know this until today but apparently Kensal Green Cemetery stood in for Berlin in the opening sequence of a Midsomer Murders episode – Secrets & Spies. Does anyone have this sequence so I can see it?


A few years ago I used to own a house with lead on the roof above the bay window.  Three times we had the lead stolen; along with other thefts of the lead amongst the other owners of similar houses near by.  This was obviously annoying, expensive (our insurance stopped covering it after the second theft) and inconvenient.  Unfortunately the theft of metal has increased over the past year across the UK, including a sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, cables from our railways and plaques from war memorials.

However the thieves have sunk to new lows – they are stealing plaques, statues and other metal work from our cemeteries and graveyards.  This story broke my heart about a grave in Mitcham cemetery – the theft of a bronze sculpture costing thousands. This man died suddenly at the age of 35 and the memorial was erected by his wife and parents.  I can’t imagine what this must have felt like for the family – regardless of what you personally feel about the outlay of £10,000 as a memorial to a loved one – to visit his grave and find the sculpture gone would break your heart and anger you beyond belief.  Apparently the statue would probably fetch around £1,000 scrap.

In September there was a  mass theft of bronze plaques in Beckenham Crematorium and Cemetery – around 80 were stolen.

I don’t understand what is wrong with these people – I know that we are in a recession and ‘times are hard’ – however – are times really so hard that people have to resort to this?

Sometimes I have internal arguments with myself; that really the living need to be cared for, have money spent on them etc.  After all I’m a humanist, a socialist, a vegetarian (not sure how much that counts in my argument but I thought I’d throw it in there for good measure) and when I die I want to be buried in a cardboard, biodegradable coffin and have a tree planted on top.  On the other hand there is my love of cemeteries; the historical and social significance, the tranquility, the calm I feel when I am in them.  They are outdoor art galleries.  They are now frequently becoming wildlife conservation areas.  So I counter-argue against myself that what are we without our history?  What are we without our art? What are we without our wildlife (I guess the last argument falls within my original stance of providing for the living not the dead – but I think you might be following my argument?).  A society doesn’t have a culture worth saving if there is no respect for its own history and its own art (in my humble opinion).

So the cemeteries need saving from these vandals and thieves.  There needs to be education about why these areas are important, why they need preserving and why they should be enjoyed and not desecrated.  I try to do my own little bit – at first when my pupils find out that I photograph cemeteries they’re a bit taken aback.  After a while, they ask questions.  They want to know why.  They discuss their own experiences of being in cemeteries or graveyards (usually as dares etc.) and then I start to explain why I am fascinated by them.  Why I spend (or spent) so much time in them and why they’re important to us as a society.  Most of the time they understand and start to respect them more.  I hope.  I really believe that education really is the way forward.

Right – enough of my ranting – back to editing.

I’d love to know your opinions on this matter – what do you think?  Should we be worrying about cemeteries when our public buildings are falling apart?  When money is tight?  When our schools, hospitals, roads etc. are ‘in crisis’?  When children are living in poverty?  It’s an issue I really battle with so talk to me!

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery

Similar news articles:

Cemeteries targeted in French metal theft spree

Plaques stolen from war memorial in Portsmouth

Peter Ackroyd has a passion for London that has now gone underground.  His new book, London Under, explores the hidden city that runs beneath our metropolis.

I can’t wait to read this book – London (not just its cemeteries) is a constant source of intrigue and fascination for me.  Not only does this deal with ‘hidden’ London but it  also discusses the hydraulic device that lowered bodies into the famous catacombs of Kensal Green Cemetery.  These catacombs are definitely worth a visit – check tour details here for times.


It’s been a while!  2011 wasn’t an easy year and unfortunately my camera and I didn’t get to go into a cemetery once!  I know I actually have 4 days left and I’m hoping that I can break the curse of 2011 and do what I love doing.  Capturing the beauty of cemeteries.

This is to let you know that London Necropolis will be coming back with a vengeance in January 2012.  Until then you can find galleries at the links below.  A lot of my old photographs are going to be re-edited;  I discovered different actions and presets on PS and Lightroom and for some reason went a bit crazy with them!  So that’s my plan in between visiting London’s cemeteries and sharing my finds with you.

Cemeteries Gallery on Smugmug

Cemetery Collection on Flickr