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wood Cemetery, is situate in the beautiful vil. lage of that name, in the county of Surrey, and occupies about forty acres, chiefly lying on the north and north-west sides of a hill to the east of St. Luke's church, Norwood. The entrance to the grounds is close to that church.
Immediately upon passing through the entrance gates you ascend the hill, upon the summit of which two chapels are erected—the one for the use of Episcopalians, the other for Dissenters.
The former of these is about seventy feet by thirty-two feet; the latter sixty by thirty feet: and, though varying slightly in detail, they are similar in style--which is a sober but correct Gothic.
The design is exceedingly good, and the effect very pleasing. The architectural arrangements of this cemetery will bear criticism without injury; the boundary wall is also a fine piece of masonry, and is surmounted with a handsome stone coping, fortified with buttresses at equal intervals, and extends in length one mile and a quarter.
In some places, where the effect either from within or without required it, iron railing has been let into the brick work; and this arrangement tends greatly to lighten the otherwise heavy appearance of the continued boundary wall.
It has been correctly observed, that the wall is too high and too solid. When the metropolitan cemeteries were first established, the public had hardly forgotten the sacrilegious acts of the body-snatchers, as they were termed; and we suppose that it was with the view of giving the appearance of security that this heavy style was adopted. It is, however, wholly useless, excepting for the sake of appearance-as gravebreaking has long ceased to be practised. The wisdom of the legislature has made other provision for the necessities of medical science, and had it not done so, a wall twelve or fourteen feet in height would have been found a very imperfect protection against those savage desecrators of the dead.
This cemetery is well planted with shrubs and flowers; but, in common with all the metropolitan cemeteries, except that of Abney Park, is sadly deficient in that most characteristic and appropriate of all sepulchral ornaments—well-grown and stately timber.
The prospect from the chapels is extensive and beautiful.
It was supposed by many, that the distance of the South Metropolitan Cemetery from town would prove very prejudicial to its interests as a commercial speculation, and the interments were, for some time, but few; it is now understood to be advancing in public favour, and it should be stated, that the nature of the soil is well adapted to burial purposes.
This cemetery is also established by an act of parliament, passed in the 6th and 7th year of the reign of William IV.
The capital of the company consists of £75,000, divided into 3000 shares of £25. each, but we do not think the stock of this company has become so favourite a species of investment as that of the General Cemetery.
The outlay in the building department has been very heavy; and if it has exceeded that which some might have thought a prudent amount, it has not been without a substantial result, as the attractive chapels, with their spacious catacombs, abundantly testify.
This cemetery is situate in the diocese of Winchester, and was consecrated by the respected bishop of that important see. In this feature of its plan, I speak of consecration, it possesses a great advantage over its more successful rival, or rather competitor, at Kensal Green ; inasmuch as, at Norwood, no offensive visible line of demarcation separates the Episcopalian from the Dissenter. Whether this advantage may have been the result of the superior liberality, and the Christian feeling of the excellent prelate in whose diocese it is; whether it was adopted as a commercial expedient; or from what other source it may have arisen, I am unable to state ; but the fact soon caught the attention and received the approbation of all intelligent and rational persons who had visited the two cemeteries.
The following accounts of this cemetery are extracted from two popular statistical worksthe “ Penny Magazine” and the “ Companion to the Almanac;" but the author would not wish to be understood as altogether coinciding with the criticisms of either.
From the Companion to the Almanac, for 1839: “ The site occupies about forty acres, chiefly on the north and north-west declivities of a hill to the east of St. Luke's church, near which is the entrance to the grounds of the cemetery. Had there been here a gateway instead of a mere open arch, the character of the design would have been greatly better, there being no wall requiring such aperture through it; and so far the entrance to the Highgate Cemetery is preferable in plan, although this gate, with the lodge adjoining it, are in much better taste than the other. There are two chapels, one for members of the church of England, the other for Dissenters. The chief fault is their tameness of outline, produced by their parapets being quite plain and without any breaks or markings. The greatest objection of all is, the injudicious position of the two buildings with regard to each other ; for they ought either to have been placed so far apart as to form two distinct architectural pictures, or else so combined as to form one design ; whereas at present they do not group together, or form parts of one general scheme, but appear to have been placed quite accidentally, and almost to have recoiled and wheeled about from each other. Had they been united merely by placing them back to back, having the respective entrances at the opposite ends, considerable effect as to length would have been obtained; while a something would have been saved by one partition wall being substituted for two gable walls, something more could have been afforded for decoration. The one building being somewhat lower and narrower than the other would have been rather an advantage than the contrary. In regard to accommodation, it may be observed, that there is no shelter for hearses and mourning coaches in bad weather, which is the more to be regretted, because the adjunct of a spacious porch and cloister for such purpose might be rendered a very appropriate distinction to chapels of this description. The architect is Mr. W. Tite."
From the Penny Magazine of 21 Dec., 1839: “ The South Metropolitan Cemetery is much larger than the Highgate, but its situation is neither so beautiful in itself, nor so eligible to the inhabitants of London, on account of its greater distance. Its site is, however, decidedly picturesque, and the distance from the city is not much more than six miles. A considerable portion of the road to Norwood is skirted with stately and beautiful villas, and presents here and there some charming landscapes. The gateway of the cemetery is on the east side of the road, and with the building attached to it on the right, forms an elegant piece of architecture. This building contains a public office and the residence of the superintendent. The handsome wall which entirely surrounds the cemetery is no less than a mile and a quarter in length, of brick, with stone mountings, and incloses a space
of above forty acres. It is about twelve or fourteen feet in height, with openings of ironwork in parts where it has been considered desirable to open the view into or from
* The reader will afterwards perceive that this defect has been completely provided against in building the Abney Park Cemetery chapel.