The War On the Hill
by Sheldon & Steve
According to Hugh Mellor’s Gazetteer of London Cemeteries, the chapels here are the biggest in London. In the double chapel style of Hampstead, his design here is a nod to the old style you’d expect from a cemetery to a newer ideal which reflected a more low key, perhaps even municipal approach to cemetery planning.
Another notable burial is that of George Cornell, who was murdered in the Blind Beggar Pub in Whitechapel in 1966 by Ronnie Kray. The story goes that Cornell (who had grown up with the Krays) ended up working with the notorious Richardson brothers, scrap metal dealers who ‘ruled South London’. After visiting a friend who’d lost a leg in a shooting in a hospital nearby, he called into the Blind Beggar Pub for a drink.
His presence there was brought to the attention of the Krays. There and then, Ronnie decided to kill him. He, along with Reggie’s driver John ‘Scotch Jack’ Dickson and right hand man Ian Barrie, picked up some guns en route, calmly walked into the pub to find Cornell. Ronnie then pulls out a gun and shoots him point blank in the head. Kray would later write:
‘In front of a table full of villains, George Cornell called me a “fat poof”. He virtually signed his own death warrant.’
Another more modern conflict is currently underway (this time involving local council rather than London’s gangland), the controversial plan by Southwark to reclaim parts of the New and Old Cemeteries for burial. According to the website, Southwark will run out of burial space by 2017. Out of borough burials have been deemed more trouble than they’re worth – why should one travel to some far off place to be buried; don’t the deceased have a right to be buried where they lived? A number of sites within the Cemetery have been identified for ‘redevelopment’.
Local groups have campaigned passionately against this, citing numerous social, historical, and environmental losses which will inevitably be caused by a proposal to tear up yet another of London’s rare green spaces including: loss of habitat for wildlife; poor, waterlogged ground conditions; and historical loss/disrespect for the people already buried there. The scheme, despite the plethora of well-founded concerns (and theres the business of it only providing resources for 6 months), has received backing from councillors.
P.S. What better way to leave such a fascinating Cemetery than by meeting some adorable locals on my way out – photos of kittens is what the internet is for, after all!
Sources & Reference Material
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