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John Clarke

Historian of Brookwood Cemetery

News: 2018

News 2018

This page posts news and comments about my continuing research into Brookwood Cemetery and related topics.

For other news items, see my News pages for 2021, 2020, 2019, 2017, 2016 and 2015

L’incredibile storia della London Necropolis Railway (20 January)

The Necropolis Station and the BBC World Service (25 January)

Remembering the SS Tuscania (5 February)

The Trial of Edith Thompson Revisited (2 March)

Rex v Edith Thompson (10 March)

Send Evening WI (28 March)

Under by David Wailing (April)

Frederick W Paine: Historical Lecture Series 2018 (19 April)

Update on London’s Necropolis (20 April)

Coffin Ticket Realises £300 at Auction (21 April)

Dracula Society Lecture (2 June)

London’s Necropolis Published (12 June)

Frederick Paine’s New Window Display (3 July)

Dracula Society Visit to Brookwood Cemetery (8 July)

Open House London 2018 (22-23 September)

Edith Thompson’s Body to be removed to the City of London Cemetery (26 September)

J H Kenyon Lecture: Burying Enza (27 September)

Brookwood Cemetery Receives Gold Recognition (2 October)

Preserving the History & Heritage of Muslims in Britain (13 October)

Woking Mosque Project Goes Online (14 December)

L’incredibile storia della London Necropolis Railway

I’ve been assisting Luigi Ladisa for an article posted on the Londonerd website on the Brookwood Cemetery Railway.

The article was posted on 20 January and is in Italian. It is further proof of the enduring interest in the railway funeral service not only here but overseas.

The Necropolis Station and the BBC World Service

I was interviewed by Pandita Lorenz outside 121 Westminster Bridge Road this afternoon for a programme yet to be broadcast on the BBC World Service.

121 Westminster Bridge Road

This is the first time I've revisited the former private station since the new hotel building (to the left of the entrance) has been completed. We did not have time to describe the surviving relics of the station at the back of the premises (off Newnham Terrace).

I was amused to be told that as Pandita and Tim (the photographer) were travelling onto Brookwood Cemetery, and planned to film scenery from the train, they had to be accompanied by the Press Officer from South Western Railways. I was even more amused to discover the said Press Officer had never heard of the Necropolis Train!

The date of the broadcast has yet to be confirmed.

Remembering the SS Tuscania

SS Tuscania

The BBC reports on a Service of Commemoration to remember those American servicemen who lost their lives on the troopship SS Tuscania 100 years ago. The service took place on the Isle of Islay.

The Tuscania, carrying over 2,200 soldiers, was sunk by UB-77 in the Irish Sea, some seven miles south-west of Islay. Although most of those on board survived, over 200 men lost their lives. Some of these casualties were subsequently buried in the American Military Cemetery at Brookwood. Only one of the American soldiers remains on Islay: Private Roy Muncaster.

In 1919, the American Government erected a memorial to those who lost their lives on the southern tip of the island.

The Trial of Edith Thompson Revisited

Edith and Percy ThompsonThe trial of Edith Thompson has been revisited by the BBC in episode five of its new series Murder, Mystery and My Family.

In the programme, barristers Jeremy Dein and Sasha Wass reassess a tragic case of love, infidelity, and murder that resulted in the conviction and execution of Edith Thompson.

However, now in 2017 Edith’s cousin Nicki Toay, has questions about how safe the original conviction of Edith was.

The programme is currently available on the BBC i-player until 29 March.

You can read a contemporary account of the trial edited by Filson Young Trial of Frederick Bywaters and Edith Thompson (London: Butterworth, 1923).

Rex v Edith Thompson by Laura ThompsonRex v. Edith Thompson

Following on from the BBC programme referred to above is the appearance of this new account of the Thompson-Bywaters case.

Written by Laura Thompson (no relation), Rex v. Edith Thompson was published on 8 March. The blurb states that, “In shattering detail and with masterful emotional insight, Laura Thompson charts the course of a liaison with thrice-fatal consequences, and investigates what the trial and execution of Edith Thompson tell us about perceptions of women in early twentieth-century Britain.”

Laura Thompson is stated to be the first person to have full access to the hitherto closed Home Office files on the case and the author appears unconvinced about all previous accounts of the horrific circumstances of Edith Thompson’s execution.

The publication of this new and compelling account of the life, loves and execution of Edith Thompson, the first major biography since Rene Weis’s Criminal Justice (1988), shows that this story continues to fascinate.

Press cutting of Edith Thompson's execution

Reviews of Rex v. Edith Thompson have appeared in the Big Issue and the Evening Standard.

You can read a contemporary account of the trial edited by Filson Young Trial of Frederick Bywaters and Edith Thompson (London: Butterworth, 1923).

Send Evening WI: 28 March

Church Rooms SendAn enjoyable evening speaking to members of the Send Evening WI on the history of Brookwood Cemetery.

The Evening WI meets in the Church Rooms in Send Village.

Under by David Wailing

Under by David WailingI was delighted to receive a signed copy of David Wailing’s latest novel in the post. He comments that my Brookwood Necropolis Railway “was a real inspiration” for his novel.

The blurb states “Nobody ever sees the abandoned ‘ghost stations’ of the London Underground. Nobody except Jake’s crew of urban explorers. They think they’re infiltrating another disused Tube station tonight, but he hasn’t told them the truth. Jake is haunted by a secret. An untold history that connects Black Death plague pits, the Necropolis Railway, the Moorgate disaster and some of London’s darkest legends. Tonight, Jake will discover what’s under the Underground. What’s under us all.”

David is using Kindle Direct Publishing to produce is book. This means that Kindle Direct will print and deliver individual copies of the paperback on request. This means you can order it directly from Amazon. The book is available at the introductory price of £7.99 in the UK, €8.99 in Europe and $8.99 in the US.

The Kindle eBook version of Under is also still available from the same page on Amazon.

Signal Failure, a short story which serves as a prelude to Under, remains permanently free to download from Amazon, Nook, Kobo and iTunes. Signal Failure also appears as the opening section in Under.

Frederick W Paine: Historical Lecture Series 2018

This year’s lectures at Frederick W Paine, Kingston, have no been finalised. You can also download a copy of this poster:

Historical lecture series Frederick W Paine 2018

Update on London’s Necropolis: 20 April

Londons Necropolis by John ClarkeAn unexpected parcel received today was my advance copy of London’s Necropolis.

My publishers have confirmed that the main shipment is now en route from China to the UK with an anticipated publication date of mid-May.

This has been the longest journey with any of my books, but I can assure you the finished tome has been well worth the wait.

Here is the back cover, which is similar to that of the first edition.

Coffin Ticket Realises £300 at Auction: 21 April

Southern Railway coffin ticket

Lot 72 at today’s Paddington Ticket Auction was an unissued Southern Railway third class coffin ticket partly overprinted “Specimen” and numbered 0000. It sold for £300. In January 2011 an audit copy (without the overprint) of a similar ticket sold for £520.

Paddington Ticket Auctions specialise in rail, tram and bus tickets, railway letter, parcels and newspaper stamps, labels and other transport ephemera. They hold regular auctions at the Royal National Hotel off Russell Square. The catalogue for the April 2018 auction can be viewed here.

Dracula Society Lecture: 2 June

This evening (which was very hot) I gave a lecture on the Necropolis Railway to members of the Dracula Society.

This meeting was held in the Function Room of The Rugby Tavern in Bloomsbury, which brought back happy memories for me as I used to work close by.

The meeting was very well attended and there were lots of questions. I look forward to hosting a walk for the Society next month.

London’s Necropolis Published! 12 June

Londons Necropolis by John ClarkeAt long last, and after several delays (the final one caused by the consignment being sent to the wrong publishers), the new expanded edition of London’s Necropolis is available.

As previously noted, this has been the longest journey with any of my books, but I can assure you the finished tome has been well worth the wait.

Further information on the new edition are posted here.

Copies can be ordered direct from the publishers, Stenlake Publishing, and you can order a copy here (post free to UK addresses).

Signed copies can be supplied by contacting me direct.

Frederick Paine’s New Window Display: 3 July

Many thanks to my friends at Frederick Paine’s in Kingston for their new window display promoting my book. If you happen to be in Kingston, you may like to take a look.

Dracula Society Visit to Brookwood Cemetery: 8 July

Following on from my lecture, a scorching Sunday 8 July saw members of the Dracula Society congregating on the concourse at Waterloo Station for their visit to Brookwood Cemetery. However before boarding our train, we first looked at the remains of the former private terminus at 12 Westminster Bridge Road. Later, at the cemetery, we largely followed the route of the railway through the cemetery grounds, finishing at the site of South Station. We were also afforded access to the Exhibition Room and inside the church courtesy of the St Edward Brotherhood. Afterwards we adjourned to the Brookwood Cemetery Society’s Lodge for welcome refreshments.

Site of South Station and the Monastic House, Brookwood Cemetery

Edith Thompson’s Body to be Removed to the City of London Cemetery

Rene Weis Criminal Justice the true story of Edith ThompsonMany readers may be aware of my long-standing interest in the tragedy of Edith Thompson, executed at Holloway Prison on 9 January 1923. 25 years ago I was involved, with Mary Lucas, Rene Weis, and others, in the project to place a permanent memorial on her grave at Brookwood. You can read an account of the Special Service of Dedication that took place in November 1993.

Now it seems her story will come full circle and her parents' wishes will be carried out. Licences have been issued to allow her to be reburied with her parents at the City of London Cemetery. This was not possible when her remains were exhumed from Holloway Prison and removed to Brookwood in 1971. Why? Because the Home Office and Prison Service didn't bother to check if there were any living relatives. Consequently her sister Avis (who died in 1977) and brother Harold (who died in 1978) never knew she had been moved from Holloway and therefore were unable to request that their sister’s remains be reburied with those of their parents.

(You can read more on Edith Thompson’s reburial).

J H Kenyon Lecture: Burying Enza

Last night I attended the highly topical J H Kenyon Lecture (aka "The Wreath Lectures") on "Burying Enza - London and the Spanish Flu". This is one year on from my own lecture. Brian Parsons’ survey, which concentrated on London, showed the enormous increase in burials during October-November 1918 which was far greater than the increase earlier in the year. He used a wide variety of sources to illustrate his themes and a fascinating range of illustrations.

Burying Enza lecture by Brian Parsons

Brookwood Cemetery Receives Gold Recognition

Brookwood Cemetery has been awarded “Gold” recognition for its high industry standards and good practice at the prestigious National Cemetery of the Year Awards. It won the 2018 Gold award in the Large Cemetery category at the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management Learning Convention and Exhibition at the Oxford Belfry Hotel, on Tuesday 2 October.

Philip Potts of the Memorial Awareness Board, who have been promoting and organising the Cemetery of the Year Awards for nearly 20 years, said: “The awards are an excellent opportunity to reward hard-working staff and demonstrate the central role cemeteries and churchyards can play in the community. They provide places of peaceful contemplation and beauty, as well as their historical, social and ecological importance. The team at Brookwood Cemetery performed exceptionally throughout the extensive judging period which is focused on industry standards, good practice and freedom of choice.”

Preserving the History & Heritage of Muslims in Britain

Prof. Edward Madigan’s presentation on The Centenaries of the First World War, British Identity and the Muslim Experience of the Conflict

Prof. Edward Madigan’s presentation on “The Centenaries of the First World War, British Identity and the Muslim Experience of the Conflict”.

Following on from last year’s Heritage Open Day event at the Shah Jahan Mosque at Woking, the Everyday Muslim Project organised a one-day symposium on Preserving the History & Heritage of Muslims in Britain. This took place at the Shah Jahan Mosque on Saturday 13 October. (More photos are posted @Everyday_Muslim)

The The Muhammadan Cemetery: Britain's First Muslim Cemetery by John Clarkepapers covered a wide range of topics and included contributions by Prof. Humayun Ansari (Royal Holloway, University of London), Dr Jamil Sheriff (East London Mosque Archive), Shahed Saleem (Bartlett UCL & University of Westminster), Prof. Edward Madigan (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Elias Kupfermann (Archivist, Shah Jahan Mosque).

The event also launched a special edition of The Islamic Review featuring a wide range of articles embracing the theme of the symposium, including one by myself on “The Muhammadan Cemetery: Britain's First Muslim Cemetery”. The special issue will be available online in due course.

A further element of the project, a Muslim Trail for Woking, will be launched in due course.  

Open House London 2018: Frederick Paine

Over the weekend of 22-23 September I supported the 26th year of Open House London by assisting showing visitors around the Frederick Paine Funeral Museum in Kingston. This is the second year it has been included in Open House London. Details of the first year’s opening are posted on my 2017 news page.

Virtually the entire ground floor of the F W Paine premises was on view, including the museum area. The interior, which is panelled oak throughout, dates from 1908 and is now listed Grade II.

 Frederick Paine Open House London 2018

The Woking Mosque Project Goes Online

Woking Mosque

The Everyday Muslim Project has now launched its project website on the Woking Mosque Project. The site is populated with some of the outcomes including: The Special Edition Islamic Review, A Guide to Preserving the History and Heritage of Muslims in Britain, a draft Muslim heritage trail and educational resources.

Please do have a look at www.shahjahanmosquearchive.org

A further element of the project, the (full) Muslim Trail for Woking, will be launched in due course.