Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Brookwood Cemetery Ltd (CEM 64)

  I am the owner of the largest private cemetery in Western Europe—Brookwood Cemetery.

  I have enclosed some information which I hope will be relevant to your enquiry.

  My cemetery has been in existence since 1854. It was opened by an Act of Parliament. However to-date the cemetery has been totally neglected by major funding bodies and also by local sponsors. Brookwood's importance in the Victorian celebration of death should be formally recognised by the Government and organisations such as English Heritage, and it should be acknowledged as a site of national importance.

  The cemetery requires vast financial resources to restore the important structures and the cemetery's unique funerary landscape. Restoration will also mean these structures remain for the benefit of the local and wider community for educational and historical uses.

  Although privately owned the cemetery does not generate enough income to maintain the grounds and monuments in a satisfactory manner. The grounds are approximately 450 acres.

  We receive no assistance from our local council—Woking Borough Council and in fact they oppose us at every opportunity. The cemetery is serving the local community as well as the wider population. In the past months the councils has taken action against the cemetery for cutting down dead and dying trees, self seeded trees, use of a caravan for staff purposes, public rights of way and illegal dumping of rubbish—changing the use of the cemetery, (we successfully defended this action albeit as great expense to the cemetery's purse.)

  We would like to seen an action committee set up within the government where cemetery owners and managements could seek advice and funding without having to rely on their local council.

  The enclosed information has been prepared with the assistance of Mr John Clarke of the Brookwood Cemetery Society.

Mr R H Guney

  I send comments on just three sections listed in the Press Notice:

  Comments by the Brookwood Cemetery Society


  Cemeteries provide valuable open spaces of infinite value to the environment. Due to their planning and design, the planting is often of historic significance in its own right as a unique landscape. Specimens of trees may be important for various reasons, for instance rarity, size or maturity, since cemeteries were often planted as miniature arboretums. Although no systematic study has yet been undertaken into the flora and fauna at Brookwood, the benefits of the cemetery in hosting significant species must not be overlooked or underestimated. Fieldwork so far suggests (for instance) that Brookwood hosts badgers, birds, deer, rare butterflies and fungi, to name but a few.

  By definition cemeteries are historically significant, yet curiously ignored by architectural historians and others. Brookwood was opened in 1854, and was designed as the sole solution to London's burial problem. Served by its own railway funeral service (1854-1941), with a size and grandeur quite unlike that of any other British cemetery, nevertheless it remains relatively unknown. Its historical significance covers not only the landscape (and its size: Brookwood is the largest cemetery in the UK), but the structure erected within the cemetery grounds. These may include chapels, lodges or other buildings designed when the cemetery was opened. These are often designed by architects of national importance. (For instance, the core of the old Superintendent's Offices at Brookwood were designed by Sydney Smirke, brother of Robert Smirke who designed the British Museum). Additionally there may be mausolea or other monuments or sculptures of similar significance. (At Brookwood it is suspected the memorial to the Vickers family in plot 33 was designed by Edwin Lutyens.) At present, Brookwood has none of these structures listed (along with the protection this might offer), with the sole exception of the Memorial Chapel in the American Military Cemetery.

  Cultural aspects cover many areas. Brookwood is a multicultural cemetery, and a walk through its different sections is a cultural education by itself. Brookwood includes the first Muslim burial ground in the UK, the only Zoroastrian burial ground in Europe, along with many other fascinating Muslim groups. The educational value of this is immeasurable, quite apart from its significance in the history of British thanatology. The Brookwood Cemetery Society conducts guided walks throughout all sections of the cemetery each year, and continues to promote the cemetery to local and not so local visitors and groups. Further details may be found on our Website at


  The Government should be more active in promoting and protecting historically significant cemeteries. Although Brookwood is acknowledged as an important landscape and garden cemetery design, so far Government's role has been merely to list or catalogue this fact. No promotion is given. No support (financial or otherwise) is granted to cemeteries like Brookwood that have never received any funding from any central source to restore or repair important memorials. (The few that have been restored by the Brookwood Cemetery Society have been undertaken with funds raised by the Society or by the Society approaching relevant private organisations for financial support.) Government has been consistently ignorant of the importance of historically significant cemeteries, and has had no co-ordinated approach from its various departments or agencies. Government should establish a key list of historically significant cemetery sites (which should be published) as a basis for building a policy to support (financially and otherwise) these sites so that they are preserved intact for future generations. This protection might be granted within (say) English Heritage or a similar national organisation. The current muddled situation has led for instance to part of Brookwood Cemetery being redeveloped with an office block and destroying part of a sensitive historic landscape. And this despite the local Council's so-called "Conservation" of the cemetery area. Despite opposition from the Society, this development went ahead with the Council's misguided blessing.


  Cemeteries are by definition a wasting asset and many Victorian cemetery sites are now full and unlikely to yield any profit. Elsewhere, even where land remains for burial, the level of business may mean the future of the cemetery is by no means assured. It should be possible for historically significant cemeteries, whether privately owned or not, to bid for national funds like the National Lottery or from English Heritage. Brookwood remains privately owned yet, despite sympathetic management, it is impossible for the current owners to undertake major restoration work of important memorials and monuments, and indeed the landscape in general, out of current receipts. Government should recognise this shortfall and make appropriate funds available for restoration work, and allow national funds to be used for this purpose.



c1860. Bath stone(?) Architect unknown.

  Gothic-style gabled and lanterned memorial. Apparently constructed of Bath stone, this has badly weathered in recent years and much of the memorial is incomplete. It requires extensive reconstruction. Photographs exist showing how it used to look.


c1919-20. Probably marble. Architect unknown.

  Fine classical-style building. The bronze door (now hidden due to vandalism) includes a relief of Christ as the good shepherd. The roof needs attention and the glazing (at the rear) is broken.


  The Glades were officially opened in 1950 and the lake has always formed a prominent feature of the entrance area. The whole lake area should be restored and replanted. It might be possible to bid for the drainage channels to be cleared and repaired (eg the bridge over the ditch at the end of the main area of the Glades).


Late 19th century. Possibly York stone, although of an unusual reddish hue. Architect unknown.

  This obelisk is gothicised and the design is certainly unique at Brookwood. The obelisk has somehow shifted on its base, whilst the pedestal is also out of true. Unfortunately the inscription panels are starting to lift, so any remedial work would need to take possible damage to these panels into account.


c1898-9. Marble. Architect unknown.

  This mausoleum commemorates the founder of London's Cafe Royal (Daniel Nichols, died 1897). The wooden door and the windows need restoring, along with the interior.


c1890s. Marble. Architect unknown.

  The door and interior would need restoring. The roof may need attention. The bronze plaque commemorating the artist Henrietta Normand (nee Rae, died 1928), needs replacing since it has been stolen.


c1893-4. Bronze sculpture on marble pedestal. Sculptor unknown.

  Probably the most important memorial at Brookwood. It commemorates Lord and Lady Pelham-Clinton, members of Queen Victoria's personal household. The bronze is very early and a remarkable example of the Victorian celebration of death. The inscription panels on the base are missing, as are the chains around the grave space. The whole sculpture group is starting to lean forward, and requires setting upright. The surrounding trees may require pruning since these have been allowed to mature around this memorial.


c1910. Marble and bronze. Architect unknown.

  Small mausoleum that contained the ashes of Weatherley Phipson (died 1909) in a fine porcelain(?) urn placed on a shelf opposite the door. The interior has been vandalised and the urn smashed. The current state of the interior and the roof are unknown.


  A circular plot containing many interesting graves. This area might provide the core of a restoration of the cemetery landscape back to its Victorian finery. The Ring might be tidied up, memorials repaired and cleaned, and some of the planting restored (eg: replacing the ring of monkey puzzle trees).


Late 1930s. Rusticated grey granite. Architect unknown.

  Of massive construction, this structure would require its boundary hedge being trimmed back and the door being restored. It is not known if there are any stained glass windows to the structure, nor is the state of the interior known.


Date unknown. Pink granite. Architect unknown.

  Very little is known of this building. It is one of very few in the Egyptian style at Brookwood. The boundary hedge requires trimming to make the building visible again. The state of the roof and interior are unknown.


Late 1910s. Probably marble. Architect unknown.

  The door (probably wooden) and glazing requires attention, and also the roof. There is a very similar mausoleum near the entrance to the "new" part of Highgate Cemetery, although that design was constructed in pink granite.


Mid 1930s. Rusticated grey granite. Architect unknown.

  The door and roof require attention. The 1930s stained glass was smashed years ago—it may have been by Tiffany. The state of the roof and interior are unknown.


1890/1 (in gable). Polychrome marbles and granites. Architect unknown.

  The door has the family name cast in it. The roof requires attention, as does the doorway. This mausoleum is well-sited since it forms part of a vista as seen from the opposite end of St Jude's Avenue. The state of the interior is unknown.


Date not known. Marble? Architect unknown.

  Very little is known of this building. The door is believed to be wooden. The state of the roof and interior are unknown.


c1890. Polychrome marble. Architect unknown.

  Gothic style. This building used to have stained glass windows and the cast iron door has the family name cast upon it. The coffins are above ground level which may complicate any restoration work.


c1892-93. Pink granite, bronze and cast iron.

  This was the first public memorial to Bradlaugh, a prominent 19th-century politician (died 1891). It has been incomplete since c1938 when the bronze bust (by F. Verheyden) was mysteriously removed from the memorial. It has never been traced. A bronze wreath, which was affixed to the front of the plinth, has been removed in more recent times. A photograph is known of the memorial in its complete form, and the National Secular Society may have some information on this, although their premises were bombed in the last war.


c1935-6. Largely marble. Architect unknown.

  This mausoleum has an attractive green pantiled roof and is constructed of marble(?) The bronze door (now hidden) has a 1930s style domestic front door. There was a circular stained glass window at the rear, which is almost certainly broken.


1858. Sone unidentified. Architect J. Johnson. Mason W. Boulton of Guildford.

  Probably the earliest mausoleum in the cemetery. It may have been designed as a chapel of ease before use by this family as a private chapel and burial ground. The chapel was last restored in 1924 (see inside building). The structure includes fantastically fine carved figures of knights in armour on the exterior gable ends. The floor has partly given way, the doors are incomplete, and the burial vault is prone to flood in winter. Requires extensive restoration and repair.


c1890. Marble? Architect unknown.

  The largest mausoleum in the cemetery and used as the Society's logo. Built originally for the 4th Earl Cadogan (died 1915), it was sold back to the Necropolis Company in 1910 and then converted into a columbarium. In desperate need of major repairs to the dome and roof. Inside, there is an underground vault which is prone to flood in winter.


c1890. Marble, pink granite columns, bronze, wood, copper clad roof (largely decayed), and mosaic (largely lost). Architect unknown.

  Italianate style building. The roof requires complete rebuilding and the barrel vaulting over the structure is suffering from water penetration and will collapse in time. Bronze plaques on the rear wall have been stolen over the years—these recorded details of the family buried blow. The mosaic frieze ("Because I Live Ye Shall Live Also") was executed by the Salviatis (see below). The pathway leading to the mausoleum from St George's Avenue might also be repaired. Its boundaries were marked by small granite stones set in the ground, some of which survive.


Completed 1899. Brick, stone, slate, wood and metal. Architect almost certainly Cyril B Tubbs (died 1927, plot 32).

  Although the original design was burned down in about 1990, the structure could be completely restored inside and out. Photographs exist of the original design and it may be possible to track down some of the architect's drawings from appropriate archives or the architectural press of the time.


c1893-4. Brick, slate and wood. Architect unknown.

  Erected as a memorial to a parishioner who dies in 1892, this most attractive structure could be repaired and restored to its original condition. Some tiles need replacing, but generally speaking the structure appears to be sound.


1855. Cast iron. Supplied by Messrs Cottain & Hallow of Oxford Street, London.

  The only surviving pair of unusual cast iron obelisks that marked the burial grounds of St Anne's Soho (Westminster). They require setting upright and one requires some attention at the top, whilst the plates at the bases (which identified the parish ground) are missing. They should be restored to their original sand colour, so they appear to be made of stone rather than cast iron.


1900. Marble. A copy of the obelisk in St George's Circus, Southwark.

  It was erected over the plot where reburials from the church in London were placed in 1899. Unfortunately the plot has sunk over the years and consequently the obelisk has toppled over. The ground should be levelled and stabilised, and the obelisk rebuilt.


c1899. Marble, pink granite and mosaic. Mosaics by Salviati & Company.

  Guilio Salviati died in 1898, and this remarkable memorial was erected to his memory. The base, supporting an angel figure, has four separate mosaic panels. Each is showing signs of damage from damp, moss, and similar ageing. Each panel is of the highest quality of craftsmanship. The memorial used to have some sort of cast iron decorative fence to it, but it is not known what the exact design was.


1854. Brick and tiled roof. Architect Sydney Smirke (1798-1877).

  The core of this much-altered building, with the two chimney stacks, is believed to be the original "Parsonage House" constructed for the opening of the Cemetery in November 1854. Smirke was Architect to the London Necropolis Company, the founders of Brookwood Cemetery. The Company's chaplains disliked the cottage and it was subsequently occupied by the Cemetery Surperintendent. The porch is a later addition. The structure has been renovated and altered (eg a replacement roof destroying the original decorative tiling) with the very regrettable adjacent office development. However this building could be re-used as the cemetery office, forming a focal point once again in the cemetery. It could also be used as a visitor's centre and as an educational resource.


Date unknown. Largely marble. Architect unknown.

  This tiny mausoleum has been vandalised in the past and requires restoration and renovation. It is believed the coffin(s) are stored above ground which may complicate restoration work.


c1897. Terracotta and marble. Designed by Emmeline Halse (died 1923, believed to be buried in plot 36).

  Unique memorial with unusual terracotta base and relief profile portrait of the deceased on top (van Laun died in 1896). Some general renovation of the memorial is required.


Late 1850s?. Largely marble. Architect unknown.

  Classical style mausoleum which requires fairly extensive repairs. The roof is damaged and parts of the stone decoration on the walls has decayed badly. The coffins are stored above ground which may complicate restoration work. The glass window at the rear has been smashed (although it is bricked up). The family at one time lived at nearby Ottershaw Park, so this mausoleum is of considerable local interest.


1890s. Largely marble. Architect unknown.

  Apparently quite sound from the exterior, nevertheless it may well require attention to the roof and interior.

John Clarke


R H Guney


October 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 29 March 2001