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John Clarke

Historian of Brookwood Cemetery

News: 2021

News 2021

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

For earlier news items, see my News pages for 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 & 2015

Researching Cemeteries, a one-day Zoom seminar (January)

Further Restoration Work on the Columbarium (January)

90 Years of the Oakwood Press (March)

Coffins by Corpse Van (April)

St Magnus the Martyr Memorial Restored (April)

80th Anniversary of the Destruction of the Necropolis Private Station (16-17 April)

London Cemeteries in Old Photographs (May)

Charles Bradlaugh’s Monument Restored (17 October)

Researching Cemeteries: exploring a shared and living heritage

Researching cemeteries - exploring a shared and living heritageWoking Asian Business Forum has arranged a Zoom-generated seminar on cemetery research, on Saturday 23rd January 2021. The seminar forms part of the Lottery-funded project The living and the dead: Exploring minority burial grounds in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey, and is open to everyone with an interest in Brookwood Cemetery.

The seminar will provide an introduction to cemetery research, with emphasis on Victorian cemeteries, the early history and development of Brookwood Cemetery, and the particular role of minority burial grounds in contemporary cemetery landscapes.

Speakers will include

Julie Rugg, leader of the Cemetery Research Group, University of York.

John Clarke, foremost authority on Brookwood Cemetery, and author of ‘London’s Necropolis: A guide to Brookwood Cemetery’.

(Please note my presentation has since been added to The Brookwood Cemetery Society website.)

Avril Madderel, Reading University, leader of research project on ‘Deathscapes and diversity: Making space for death and remembrance in multicultural England and Wales’.

Susan Buckham, Kirkyard Consulting, specialist in the interpretation of cemetery landscapes


The seminar will take place on Saturday 23rd January 2021, 11:00-16:00. Due to the current Covid situation, it will be held online, using Zoom.


Ole Jensen, 07838 132521, o.jensen at open.ac.uk Registered participants will be sent a zoom link ahead of the seminar.

Further Restoration Work on the Columbarium

The Columbarium, Brookwood CemeteryWoking Borough Council has announced that Brookwood Cemetery has received a grant from the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help meet the cost of ongoing repairs during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The fund - administered by Historic England - has been made available to protect the country’s ‘at risk’ heritage sites while also supporting the highly skilled businesses that form a key part of the heritage sector.

Brookwood Cemetery has received £25,000 (the maximum grant) towards the ongoing restoration of the Columbarium. The full press release can be read here and you can read more on the restoration project here.

However it is disappointing that the Council alleges the Columbarium was “blocked up and closed off to the public” and fails to acknowledge the emergency restoration work to the roof undertaken by The Brookwood Cemetery Society in 2009. This was undertaken in collaboration with former owners of the cemetery who arranged the first of several security gates to be installed at the entrance, thus revealing the doorway for the first time in many years. These gates are still in place at the entrance. Further details of the Society’s restoration project can be read here.

90 Years of the Oakwood Press

Oakwood Press is celebrating an astonishing 90 years of specialist transport publishing. It remains the oldest publisher of its type still in business.

My first book was published by Roger Kidner, Oakwood’s founder and owner, just before he retired in 1984. The firm was sold to Jane Kennedy (ex-OPC) and she remained in charge until 2016 when Stenlake Publishing took charge.

I am fortunate indeed to have worked with all three owners. Happy 90th!

Coffins by Corpse Van

Coffins by corpse van, Backtrack April 2021

My article on corpse vans has recently been published in the April 2021 issue of Backtrack.

The article describes and illustrates a number of hearse vans used on Britain’s railway system.

The restored monument over the human remains from St Magnus the Martyr Church, Brookwood CemeterySt Magnus the Martyr Memorial Restored

It is good to see the fully repaired and restored monument over the St Magnus the Martyr plot at Brookwood. The human remains were removed on sanitary grounds to Brookwood in 1893-94.

All credit to the church and Skillingtons for undertaking this work.

The photograph is courtesy of Michael Cooper, Parish Clerk.


80th Anniversary of the Destruction of the Necropolis Private Station

South Western Circular April 1981 John Clarke80 years ago tonight (16-17 April 1941) the private terminus of the London Necropolis Company was largely destroyed by enemy action. This marked the end of the Necropolis Train which for nearly 90 years had operated funeral trains to Brookwood Cemetery. You can read more on the destruction of the station here.


40 years ago (April 1981) my first substantial article on this railway funeral service appeared in the pages of "The South Western Circular", starting with the sentence, "1981 marks the fortieth anniversary of the cessation of traffic on the Necropolis branch."

The article in "The South Western Circular" was followed by my dissertation on the origins of Brookwood Cemetery (1982) and the first edition of what has become the standard history of this unique railway service (1983).

London Cemeteries in Old Photographs

London Cemeteries in Old Photographs by Brian Parsons

Published in May 2021 by Brian Parsons

Price £12 (paperback), including UK postage

94pp. with nearly 190 illustrations

Only available via www.brianparsons.org.uk

You can read my book review here.

Charles Bradlaugh’s Monument Restored

I was fortunate to be invited to the official unveiling of the fully restored authentic replica bust & wreath on the memorial to Charles Bradlaugh in the North Cemetery. This event took place on 17 October 2021. The project was jointly supported by the National Secular Society, the Brookwood Cemetery Society and Brookwood Cemetery. We owe them a great debt for making sure this iconoclastic Victorian politician’s grave was restored so magnificently. It should be admired and appreciated for years to come - as was the intention when the original bust was placed in 1893.