Friday, December 23, 2011

3 Melancholy London Sights

This list features three of London's arguably more morbid attractions, sights that have a strong connection to an individual's end of days. Yes, death is at the heart of each entry and while that might sound a little grisly, it isn't necessarily so. Besides, I'm sure you've already ventured through the infamous London Dungeon and witnessed enough terror and torture from ages past? This trio of places is more about reflection on the act of departing this mortal coil.

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery in London
Photo Credit: Thegirlwho
The most well known of the three entries Highgate Cemetery, is situated in Highgate beside Waterlow Park. Swain's Lane runs right through the middle of it and divides it in to two parts known simply as the West and East cemetery. It opened in 1839 and was designed by Stephen Geary. It was created essentially to create more graves because the inner city cemeteries were struggling for space as the burgeoning population required more and more room for burials.

The cemetery, seen as a desirable location to be placed to rest, quickly became fashionable and the graveyard flourished with the Victorians creating beautifully crafted Gothic tombs. And it really is a place of natural beauty with trees and flowers planted, but allowed to grow without human intervention. As such Highgate cemetery is given a Grade 1 listing on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. This means that although one can tour the East Cemetery freely, the West section can only be viewed now as part of a guided tour.

Sir Richard Francis Burton's Bedouin Tomb

Sir Richard Francis Burton's Tomb
Photo Credit: Svarochek
Our second entry is a single tomb, that of Sir Richard Francis Burton. Burton was a British explorer best known for his excursions to the continents of Asia, Arica and America. He truly was a remarkable man, among a life full of adventure and achievements are many examples of his desire to learn and educate in relation to cultures from all over the globe. These include travelling to Mecca in disguise, publishing the Kama Sutra in English and translating word for word, One Thousand And One Nights. It is also thought he spoke as many as 29 languages.

Burton's tomb fittingly reflects his life. It is built of stone but shaped like a Bedouin tent, though this common description is not entirely accurate. The tomb is actually modelled on a tent that Burton had made for his travels with his wife Isabel to Syria. Apparently it's most important attribute was that Burton could stand upright when inside. The tomb is located in Mortlake, South West London, and both Burton and Isabel now rest there. It is extraordinary and befits the man whom it now houses perfectly.

The Necropolis Railway

Necropolis Terminus

Photo Credit: Self
In the mid 1800s the Brookwood Cemetery was located 25 miles outside London. The only convenient method of getting bodies from the centre of the city to their final resting place was by train. In 1854 the Necropolis terminus was opened and the deceased and their mourners would travel to the cemetery together. However during the renovation of Waterloo station, to which the Necropolis terminus was attached, the dedicated station was demolished.

This led to a new station being built at 121 Westminster Bridge Road and this provided transport to cemetery as before. Unfortunately in April 1941 a bomb destroyed the building and it was never rebuilt. The facade and entrance of the building remain however and although the stone carved words London Necropolis have been covered and hidden it is very much as it was when in use. It remains a point of interest for anyone with a penchant for the macabre.

Copywriter David James writes on offbeat topics for the online gifts company Find Me A Gift, the online store for unique and affordable gift ideas for any occasion.

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