West Norwood Cemetery

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Friends Of West Norwood Cemetery

Registered Charity No. 1063450. Member of the National Federation of Cemetery Friends


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FOWNC Book Reviews

Listed below are extracts from book reviews published in recent editions of our newsletter.

  • The Subterranean Railway: How the London Underground was built and how it changed the city forever. Christian Wolmar. Atlantic Books, 2004. Hardback, 351 pp, £17.99. ISBN 1 84354 022 3.
    • Book review - Paul Graham
    • The first chapter of this survey of the history of London's underground railway system is entitled 'Midwife to the Underground'. This is a tribute to Charles Pearson (1793-1862) (Grave 5,534, square 52) who is recognised as having 'by far the best claim' to having first conceived of the notion of an underground railway. As City of London solicitor from 1839, he first set out his idea for a railway running down the Fleet valley to Farringdon in a pamphlet of 1845. He envisioned it as protected by a glass envelope and drawn by atmospheric power, thus avoiding smoke from steam engines. This proved to be the kernel of the idea that manifested itself two decades later in the Metropolitan Railway, which followed a broadly similar route. More practically, Pearson masterminded the financing of the Metropolitan, and thereby saved it at the eleventh hour, by persuading the Corporation to invest in it (against prevailing laissez faire assumptions) when its directors were on the verge of winding up the business
    • Full review in Newsletter 53 (May 2005)
  • London's Necropolis. A Guide to Brookwood Cemetery by John M. Clarke. Sutton, 2004. £30.00. Hardback, 320 pp, 100 b+w illustrations.
    • Book review - Bob Flanagan
    • John Clarke is well-known for his long-term efforts to preserve what remains of Brookwood Cemetery and for his book on the Brookwood Necropolis Railway. This new book brings together the results of his work on the cemetery over the last 20 years will I'm sure prove equally popular. In 1850 the idea of a great metropolitan cemetery, situated in the suburbs and large enough to contain all of London's dead for an indefinite period, was promoted. The outcome was Brookwood Cemetery, the largest burial ground in the world when it was opened in 1854 by the London Necropolis & Mausoleum Company. The cemetery, which now contains almost 240,000 burials, is still privately owned and administered - and a draft report by the Home Office suggests that it has the potential to become a World Heritage Site. London's Necropolis is a guide to the art and architecture of Brookwood, and also includes brief biographies of over 800 individuals of interest who have been buried here - reflecting all levels of society. It is hoped to be able to provide a more detailed review of the book in due course.
    • Full review in Newsletter 50 (May 2004)
  • Palace of the People. The Crystal Palace at Sydenham 1854-1936 by J.R. Piggott. Hurst & Co, 2004. £22.50. Paperback, 230 pp, 50 colour plates + 110 b+w illustrations.
    • Book review - Paul Graham
    • This book has been published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. Publication coincided with an exhibition at the Dulwich Gallery that ran until 18th April. It is an erudite, lavishly illustrated work that will appeal to anyone interested in the art, architecture, and design of the Crystal Palace. The illustrations are evocative, not just of the remarkable contents of the Palace, but of the men who built it, and of the men, women and children who visited it.
    • Full review in Newsletter 50 (May 2004)
  • The Father of Modern Sport. The Life and Times of Charles W. Alcock by Keith Booth. Parrs Wood Press, 2002. Hardback, £16.95, pp 289.
    • Book review - Paul Graham
    • This book, the first full-length biography of Alcock, is dedicated to Bryon Butler, the sports journalist, who did not live long enough to achieve his ambition of writing it himself. The title is an amalgam of two descriptions of Alcock, 'the father of English sport' (Butler) and 'the inventor of modern sport' (Eric Midwinter). Butler's article in The Daily Telegraph paying this tribute was reproduced in the FOWNC Newsletter No.13 (January 1993), whilst members may recall that Midwinter spoke about Alcock at a FOWNC meeting in March 1999. Given the multifarious nature of Alcock's career, the book is organised in four broad chronological bands: Sunderland childhood, Harrow schooldays, work in sports administration, and the consequences that flowed from it. Whilst it is well known that Alcock captained England against Scotland on the football field in 1875, Mr Booth points out that he was a double international (of sorts) as he once played international cricket, though curiously for France against Germany in Hamburg under an assumed French name! This was hardly 'playing the game' in the best Harrovian tradition. He also captained the first FA Cup winning side (the Wanderers, who beat the Royal Engineers in 1872) though admittedly they only had to win one tie to reach the final itself. Alcock was not an uncritical admirer of all ball games, regarding lawn tennis as 'an effeminate amusement' seducing the youth of England from the more manly summer game.
    • Full review in Newsletter 49 (January 2004)
  • Lord Hawke: A Cricketing Legend by James P. Coldham. Tauris Parke, 2003. Paperback, 224 pages, £11.99. ISBN 1860648231.
    • Book Review - Paul Graham
    • This is a paperback reprint of a work originally published in hardback by the Crowood Press in 1990. The title then was the slightly more sedate Lord Hawke - A Cricketing Biography. Quite why it was felt necessary to change the title is as mysterious as the decision to republish the work now, thirteen years after the hardback edition appeared. The career of Martin Bladen, Seventh Baron Hawke of Towton (1860-1938) may be familiar to some members. It was the subject of an article by cricket historian Tony Bradbury in Newsletter 29 that appeared following a talk he gave to us 1995. Lord Hawke also features in Bob Flanagan's Norwood Sportsmen booklet. As both titles of this work make plain, it is a book for those interested in the history of cricket in general and Yorkshire CCC in particular. Hawke the man remains elusive, as do the times through which he lived. The Boer war and the Great War feature only in so far as they disrupted the first class game. It is the cricket player, captain, administrator and promoter who dominates. The domestic seasons during which Hawke played (1881-1912) are chronicled, as are the winter tours to Australia, India, Ceylon, South Africa, the West Indies and America (North and South) which earned him the nickname of 'the Odysseus of cricket'.
    • Full review in Newsletter 48 (September 2003)
  • Douglas Jerrold (1803-1857) by Michael Slater. Duckworth, 2002. Hardback, 351 pp, £25. ISBN 0 71562 28240.
    • Book Review - Paul Graham
    • Douglas Jerrold has long been consigned to the footnotes of the lives of other eminent Victorians. However, Prof. Slater has produced an enthralling biography in which the playwright, journalist, novelist, and wit at last emerges centre stage, as befits someone who made his public bow as a child in the arms of the great Edmund Kean in his father's theatre in Sheerness. In the 1850s Jerrold was regarded with Dickens and Thackeray as the three greatest comic writers in the language. The latter both acted as pall-bearers at his funeral at Norwood on 15 June 1857, together with Sir Joseph Paxton and his editor on Punch, Mark Lemon. As Michael Slater records, thousands attended. Indeed, the funeral rapidly got out of hand as sightseers scrambled for a vantage points. Jerrold's literary stature was such that, in the words of G.H. Lewes, his death 'created a great sensation all over England'.
    • Full review in Newsletter 47 (May 2003)
  • Death and Architecture by James Stevens Curl. Sutton Publishing, 2002. Hardback, xxviii + 415 pp, 350 monochrome illustrations, £25. ISBN 0 7509 2877 8.
    • Review by Bob Flanagan
    • Much has changed since this book was first published under the title A Celebration of Death. For starters heritage and professional bodies alike - even Parliament - have accepted the need to plan not only for the continued use of graveyards and cemeteries for their intended purpose, but also to safeguard what remains of our outstanding legacy of funerary monuments. Professor Curl, together with other pioneers in their respective fields such as Chris Brookes (who sadly died recently), Julian Litten, Eric Robinson, Brent Elliott, Roger Bowdler, and Gavin Stamp, must take much of the credit for renewing interest in funerary architecture in general and cemeteries in particular, especially the development and subsequent fate of early commercial cemeteries such as The Rosary, Norwich (1820s), and Kensal Green (1834), Norwood (1837), and Highgate (1839) in London.
    • Full review in Newsletter 47 (May 2003)
  • Mausoleums by Lynn F Pearson, Shire Publications, 2002. 40 pp. £3.50
    • Book Review - Don Bianco
    • I have lying over me in Helicarnassus a gigantic monument such as no other dead person has, adorned in the finest way with statues of horses and men carved most realistically from the best quality marble. (King Maussollos, Lucien's Dialogues of the Dead). Lynn Pearson provides the briefest history of the mausoleum as a building type, but nevertheless offers a tantalising invitation to study further this extraordinary legacy of symbolic dynastic pride, pious respect, and love. She shows how aspirations to the important fin de siècle have been achieved in the varied, emotionally charged and irreplaceable part of the built heritage. The study ranges from early Neolithic burial mounds to the first acknowledged mausoleum as an architectural form - the sepulchre of King Maussollos of Caria by his wife and sister, Artemisia, at Helicarnassus, Asia Minor in 352AD, the fifth of the seven wonders of the ancient world - through the golden age of the second half of the 18th century and on into the exuberant and prolifically inventive Victorian period which was burdened by its overt preoccupation with death, until the Edwardian era when, with cremation on the ascendant and the vogue for statements of wealth in funerary art in decline, interest all but abated.
    • Full review in Newsletter 45 (September 2002)
  • The London Way of Death by Brian Parsons. Sutton Publishing, 2001. Paperback, 128 pp. Many b+w illustration, £10.99.
    • Book Review - John W Brown.
    • The history of London's funeral industry is beautifully illustrated in this book. Through some 200 photographs the story of the deceased's journey to their final resting place in the capital's leading cemeteries and crematoria is chronicled. For those seeking photographs of black plumed horses and top-hated funeral directors, this book contains a fine collection. Illustrations of all of London's major cemeteries are also included, with Norwood being represented by a view of the Anglican Chapel and justly described as 'south London's most distinguished cemetery'.
    • Full review in Newsletter 43 (January 2002)
  • The Roupells of Lambeth - Politics, Property and PecuIation in Victorian London by Judy Harris. London: Streatham Society, 2001. £7.99.
    • This book gives the history of the Roupell family, culminating in the rise and fall of William Roupell, MP for Lambeth 1857-62. He was one of four illegitimate children of Richard Palmer Roupell, a wealthy land-owner who developed Roupell Street, SE1 and Christchurch and Palace Roads, Streatham Hill, in the mid 1800s. William Roupell lived in Aspen House, a mansion on Brixton Hill, and became MP aged 27 after an election campaign described as one of the most corrupt in London's history. By 1862 he was on the verge of bankruptcy, having squandered a vast sum and lost most of the land it had taken his father and grandfather 50 years to acquire. At trials in 1862 and 1863 he confessed to destroying his father's will at his death-bed and forging a new one and was sent to prison for 14 years.
    • Full review in Newsletter 43 (January 2002)
  • The Dinosaur Hunters by Deborah Cadbury, Fourth Estate, London, 2000, Hardback, ISBN 1 85702 959 3, £15.99.
    • Book Review - Paul Graham
    • Gideon Mantell is the tragic hero of this riveting account of the rivalries between nineteenth century scientists who were seeking to make sense of the fossil record of long extinct creatures that was almost daily being uncovered. Mantell's struggle to overcome his humble origins and modest education to win a place amongst the scientific elite, whilst fulfilling a heavy workload as a doctor, is sympathetically told. To this end he sacrificed his marriage, by filling much of the marital home with prehistoric bones, his health, his finances and his peace of mind. Even the discovery and naming of a giant herbivorous lizard, Iguanodon, failed to earn Mantell the recognition he deserved from the metropolitan learned societies.
    • Full review in Newsletter 41 (May 2001)

West Norwood Cemetery is one of the metropolitan cemeteries founded to deal with the expanding population of London in the early 19th century. It was opened in 1837. It has 65 Grade II and Grade II* listed monuments and includes memorials to Mrs Beeton, Sir Henry Doulton, Dr William Marsden, Baron Julius de Reuter, Charles Spurgeon and Sir Henry Tate.

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© Friends of West Norwood Cemetery

Registered Charity No. 1063450. Member of the National Federation of Cemetery Friends