Date:

The West Norwood Catacombs

The West Norwood Catacombs is a network of subterranean vaults and passages for the burial of human remains beneath West Norwood Cemetery, in London, England.

The area was originally part of the ancient Great North Wood, from which Norwood took its name, with 40 acres of land being acquired for construction of the cemetery within the Parish of Lambeth in 1836.

- Advertisement -
Image Credit : Margaret Flo McEwan

The catacombs and cemetery were opened by the South Metropolitan Cemetery Company (one of 8 private cemetery companies authorised by Acts of Parliament) and consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester in 1837 to alleviate the overcrowding of existing parish burial grounds as part of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries of London.

Image Credit : Margaret Flo McEwan

The cemetery was designed by the notable English architect Sir William Tite (attributed with the rebuilding of the Royal Exchange in 1884), who devised a Gothic revival in the architecture of West Norwood, in contrast to the traditional classical style of most precursor cemeteries.

Image Credit : Markus Milligan

Beneath the Episcopal Anglican and Dissenters’ chapels, an underground complex of six vaulted passages were constructed with a number of bays on either side. The passages branch off from a central vaulted spine corridor, culminating in 95 individual vaults with private and shared loculi (coffin spaces) to house up to 3500 coffins. Some bays contain gated vaults, or individual loculi with either cast iron gates or stone memorial tablets, or hold dozens of stacked coffins.

Image Credit : Margaret Flo McEwan

In 1839, a coffin lift designed by Bramah & Robinson was installed in the central vault to transport coffins from the chapel to the catacombs. The lift used a system of hydraulics and a swivelling catafalque to efficiently mount or remove the coffins for their final place of rest.

- Advertisement -
Image Credit : Markus Milligan

During WW2, the Dissenters’ chapel above the catacombs was damaged by a V-1 flying bomb, also called a “doodle bug”, whilst the Episcopal was levelled to make way for a memorial rose garden. Between 1978 and 1993, the cemetery achieved several levels of official recognition by being included in the West Norwood Conservation Area.

Image Credit : Markus Milligan

Header Image Credit : Markus Milligan

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 8,000 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Traces of Bahrain’s lost Christian community found in Samahij

Archaeologists from the University of Exeter, in collaboration with the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, have discovered the first physical evidence of a long-lost Christian community in Samahij, Bahrain.

Archaeologists uncover preserved wooden elements from Neolithic settlement

Archaeologists have discovered wooden architectural elements at the La Draga Neolithic settlement.

Pyramid of the Moon marked astronomical orientation axis of Teōtīhuacān

Teōtīhuacān, loosely translated as "birthplace of the gods," is an ancient Mesoamerican city situated in the Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico.

Anglo-Saxon cemetery discovered in Malmesbury

Archaeologists have discovered an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in the grounds of the Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury, England.

Musket balls from “Concord Fight” found in Massachusetts

Archaeologists have unearthed five musket balls fired during the opening battle of the Revolutionary War at Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, United States.

3500-year-old ritual table found in Azerbaijan

Archaeologists from the University of Catania have discovered a 3500-year-old ritual table with the ceramic tableware still in...

Archaeologists unearth 4,000-year-old temple complex

Archaeologists from the University of Siena have unearthed a 4,000-year-old temple complex on Cyprus.

Rare cherubs made by master mason discovered at Visegrád Castle

A pair of cherubs made by the Renaissance master, Benedetto da Maiano, have been discovered in the grounds of Visegrád Castle.