Further Information About Brookwood Cemetery
In 1850 Parliament ordered the closure of the more crowded churchyards in London, and a search was commissioned for a new site of sufficient size and splendour to serve the burial needs of the Metropolis for at least 500 years. To meet these demanding requirements Brookwood Cemetery was created, and, after incorporation by Royal Act of Parliament in 1852, it acquired more than 2,000 acres of land from the Earl of Onslow just 25 miles from the centre of London at Woking in Surrey.
With typical Victorian extravagance some 500 acres of Surrey countryside was carefully landscaped, and a wealth of exotic trees and shrubs planted under the guidance of the leading gardeners from Kew. Perhaps as a reaction to the crowded and unsightly burial grounds of London, every effort was made to ensure that Brookwood was beautiful, spacious and tranquil. The spot chosen was an ideal one for its purpose, and now that the natural charm has been enhanced by those early plantings reaching full maturity, there is perhaps no more restful cemetery in the world. Indeed, it seems impossible to realise that central London is no more than 30 minutes by train.
A distinguishing feature of Brookwood Cemetery was the cemetery railway. The London & South Western Railway was engaged to convey coffins and mourners from a private station adjacent to Waterloo down into the Cemetery. At Brookwood there were two stations, one for the Nonconformist sections, the other for the Anglican areas. The funeral trains stopped running after the private London terminus was bombed in April 1941
Brookwood Cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester on 7 November 1854 and opened to the public on 13 November 1854. At that time Brookwood Cemetery was the largest burial ground in the world. Today this is no longer true, but it remains the largest Cemetery in the UK, and is probably the biggest in Western Europe. Since 1854, over 235,000 people have been buried here.
Plots were reserved for use by parishes (eg: St Alban's Holborn), or by various guilds and organisations (eg: the Oddfellows' Society). Individuals had complete freedom over the site and position of their grave, provided they could afford the plot.
The cemetery includes a remarkably rich range of burials reflecting all levels of society. Burials include those of Charles Bradlaugh (the first atheist to sit in the House of Commons); Dr Robert Knox (one of Burke and Hare's best customers); Dr G.W. Leitner (who established Woking's mosque); the artist John Singer Sargent; the musician Carroll Gibbons; and the writer Dame Rebecca West. Other burials include St Edward the Martyr (a Saxon King of England), and Lord Edward Pelham-Clinton (sometime Master of Queen Victoria's household). Elsewhere lie thousands of Londoners buried at the expense of their parish in individual yet unmarked graves.
Today more than 150 years after its inception Brookwood Cemetery continues to provide a final resting place for people from all over the world. The quiet splendour of the grounds and the spacious setting cannot fail to impress the visitor, and the fine monuments, many of which commemorate once famous names, illustrate well the skills of stonemasons both past and present.
Brookwood Cemetery is vast and is quite unlike any of the other London cemeteries it was designed to surpass and replace. The bold imaginative planting (which includes several avenues of giant sequoia) has now matured. The Cemetery is now a designated Grade I Historic Park & Garden. It deserves to be recognised as a site of national historical importance and has the potential to become a World Heritage Site.
The Glades of Remembrance
The Glades of Remembrance were created over 50 years ago in response to the demand for a more permanent form of commemoration as an alternative for those who prefer cremation. The Glades, set in some 20 acres of magnificent wooded gardens with leafy glades and an ornamental lake, provide a truly private resting place in which ashes may be interred. The choice of each site, whether for the individual or the family, is a matter of personal preference and small monuments or memorials may be erected in the memory of those who rest here. For those cremated many miles away the management will always make suitable arrangements, in conjunction with Funeral Directors, for the transportation of ashes and choice of sites.
Needs of the Family
Special care and attention is devoted to providing an environment in which families can cherish the memory of their relatives and the selection of each site is a matter for individual choice to take account of personal wishes and requirements. Above all else, Brookwood Cemetery is spacious, so the natural desire for families to be close is more thoughtfully accommodated by allowing relatives to choose their own family site with sufficient space for the burial of each member next to one another. Family-areas may range from large privately screened sites to the simple double allotment. Arrangements may be made by reserving the site in advance of need or at the time of the first interment.
Community and Ethnic Groups
Brookwood Cemetery is perhaps unique in the way in which it is able to create private commemorative grounds within its great complex for special groups according to each one's particular requirements. At Brookwood today there are congregations who have privately screened areas to replace their own churchyards long since filled. There are areas for national groups like the Swedes and ethnic groups like Muslims, the Latvians, for the Chelsea Pensioners and for the Oddfellows, and there are large individual areas for almost all religious denominations. In addition there is a recently constructed green burial ground and selected areas for woodland burial.
The Military Section
Brookwood Cemetery incorporates an impressive Military Section which is run under the supervision of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Each nation has its own special area and these can be identified by the impressive national monuments in memory of those who died for their country. Perhaps the most impressive monument of all is the Brookwood Memorial, unveiled by the Queen in 1958 in memory of the Allied war dead who fell with no known grave and whose names are carved on panels of green slate inset upon the faces of the supporting piers.
Photographs © Brookwood Park Ltd
This site was last updated 13-04-11 © Brookwood Park Ltd 2007