Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park: A Guide to London’s Urban Nature Reserve

London is home to many beautiful and historic cemeteries, each with its own unique story to tell. One such cemetery is Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, located in the East End. While not as well-known as some of its Magnificent Seven counterparts, this small-but-mighty cemetery is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

In this article, readers will learn about the history of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, why it’s worth a visit, and practical information for planning a trip. From its humble beginnings as a burial ground for the poor to its current incarnation as a nature reserve and community space, the cemetery has a fascinating story to tell.

Key Takeaways

  • Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is a lesser-known member of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries.
  • The cemetery has a rich history, from its origins as a burial ground for the poor to its current role as a nature reserve and community space.
  • Visitors can enjoy the peaceful surroundings and learn about the cemetery’s history through guided tours and other events.

Why Visit Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park?

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries, offering visitors a chance to explore nature away from the hustle and bustle of the city. While it may not be the biggest cemetery in London, it provides a peaceful atmosphere for visitors to enjoy. The park’s tranquil ambiance makes it an ideal spot for a relaxing stroll, bird watching, or a picnic. Visitors can also learn about the cemetery’s rich history and the stories of those buried there through guided tours.

The History of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

London’s Magnificent Seven

In the early 1800s, London was undergoing an industrial revolution that brought multitudes of people into the city to work in factories. This raised new problems and posed new challenges to city planners, one of which was what to do with all the dead. By the start of the Victorian era in 1837, London’s dead were too numerous to be stuffed into the small urban churchyards that supported pre-industrial London. As a solution, the Victorians proposed the building of seven vast cemeteries on the outskirts of London that could hold plenty of graves and be safely away from the urban population. These became known as the Magnificent Seven, and Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is one of them.

The other six cemeteries are Abney Park Cemetery, Highgate Cemetery, Kensal Green Cemetery, Nunhead Cemetery, Brompton Cemetery, and West Norwood Cemetery.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery

Tower Hamlets Cemetery opened in 1841 under the lengthy name of The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery. The people that ran the cemetery and paid for it to be opened were a board of eleven big wigs that had fingers in the big industrial pies of the day: shipbuilding, corn shipping, and many other things that involved the word ship as both a noun and a verb. One of them was also the Lord Mayor of the City of London.

The cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of London on the morning of the 4th of September 1841, and by the afternoon, the first burial was complete. By 1889 the cemetery housed just shy of 250,000 dead.

Up to 80% of the dead buried in the cemetery are said to have been public burials, which were paid for by the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Company in the case that the deceased were too poor to buy a plot themselves. However, the reality of these burials was a far cry from the peace one might want from their final resting place. In some places, multiple people, unrelated, were buried in the same graves in a matter of weeks. Rumors have it that some of the graves run deep underground, sometimes containing as many as 30 or 40 bodies.

Gone, and Also Forgotten

By the 1890s, the cemetery was said to be “in a state of neglect.” This was how it would remain up until Tower Hamlets Council took the cemetery over in 1986. As with most of London, the cemetery was not without taking a beating during The War, a beating that is still visible on the graves in the northwest corner of the cemetery, near the Soanes Centre.

The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

The cemetery had its last burial in 1966. In the present day, and like many of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries, Tower Hamlets Cemetery is more of a nature reserve than a place to bury the dead, which is partly why the word “park” is now included in its name. It’s not a wide-open green space, and visitors should avoid activities such as BBQs or kicking a football around. However, it does offer some very nice spaces to get away from the heave and rush of the city.

The stewards of this fine park are The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, who are supported by thousands of volunteers every year running everything from guided tours to conservation training programs and even birthday parties.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park: Practical Information

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is a large and historic cemetery located in the east end of London. It is a popular destination for visitors who are interested in history, nature, and outdoor recreation. Here is some practical information to help you plan your visit:

  • Location: The cemetery park is located at Southern Grove, London E3 4PX. It is easily accessible by public transportation, with several bus and tube stations nearby.

  • Hours: The park is open every day from 8am to 7pm, except on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

  • Admission: Admission to the park is free, but donations are welcome to help with the upkeep and maintenance of the park.

  • Facilities: The park has several facilities for visitors, including public toilets, picnic areas, and a visitor center with information about the history and ecology of the park.

  • Activities: Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities in the park, including walking, jogging, birdwatching, and nature photography. Guided tours are also available for those who want to learn more about the history and ecology of the park.

  • Accessibility: The park is wheelchair accessible, with paved paths and ramps throughout the park. However, some areas of the park may be difficult to access for those with mobility impairments.

Overall, Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is a unique and fascinating destination for visitors who want to explore the history and nature of London’s east end. With its rich history, diverse ecology, and convenient location, it is a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience the best of London’s outdoor attractions.