Laying in South London since 1840, the little-known Nunhead Cemetery is one of the most impressive ones amongst the Magnificent Seven.
As one approaches the north entrance, the imposing classical pillars and iron gates displaying some symbolic emblems such as the inverted torches and the snakes swallowing their own tails, remind one of the spiritual place that lies ahead.
The main entrance leads to a beautiful tree-lined pathway, the Avenue, at the end of which there is a precious Anglican Chapel. Designed by Thomas Little, the chapel was built in 1844, predominantly gothic in style.
In the 1970’s the chapel and crypt were victims of an arson attack that damaged most of the interior.
Originally known as The Nunhead Cemetery of All Saints, it was acquired in 1840 by the London Cemetery Company which was also the owner of Highgate Cemetery.
With its 52 acres of land, it is the second largest of the septet. It also counts with fine views over London; it is placed on a hill, 200 feet (61 metres) above sea level. Part of it is still completely overgrown, a woodland, and it has been declared a Local Nature Reserve due to the relevance of the flora and fauna.
Purchased in 1960 by the United Cemeteries Ltd, it was abandoned by the end of the decade as it became unprofitable. Eventually, the London Borough of Southwark acquired Nunhead Cemetery in 1975 by special Act of Parliament for just £1.
In 1981 The Friends of the Nunhead Cemetery (FONC) was founded as a charity to preserve and renovate the cemetery and nowadays work together with Southwark Council. FONC have converted it into a magnificent place to visit.
It was reopened in May 2001, after several years of extensive restoration and rehabilitation, as well as undergrowth clearing. The Heritage Lottery Fund contributed with £1,25 MM towards the overall cost of £2,14 MM, and the money was designated for essential repairs to the Anglican Chapel, restoration to the gates, walls and railings, 50 quality monuments in need of urgent repair (e.g. Vincent Figgins’ grave), improvements to access, and landscaping work.
Location (main entrance): Linden Grove, SE15 3LP, London. The nearest rail station is Nunhead, a 14-minute journey from Victoria Station.
For more information please visit the official website www.fonc.org.uk.