LOCATION:The site is found in the London borough of Southwark. The site itself is found on Forest Hill Road, East Dulwich. The main entrance is on Underhill Road. The nearest stations are Honor Oak Park and Forest Hill. There are also plenty of buses that go that way.
FIRST OPENED:The site was purchased and opened in 1855 by the Camberwell Cemetery Board. Some state that the date however was either 1854 or 1856. This first date is the preferred one.
FAMOUS RESIDENTS:William Stanlake VC: An English recipient of the Victorian Cross.
Charles Walters: Founder of the International Bible Reading Association.
James John Berkeley: Chief engineer of the great Indian Peninsular Railway.
Albert Edward McKenzie: An English recipient of the Victorian Cross.
ALSO KNOWN AS:It was once known as just Camberwell cemetery but when the new one was opened, it became known as Camberwell Old cemetery.
SIZE & LAYOUT:The site is about 30 acres. It used to be smaller, but in 1874 it was expanded by a further 7 acres so that it could accommodate for the vast amount of burials taking place.
THE WALKABOUT:When you approach the entrance you are greeted by tall, rot iron gates with stone pillars on each side. The old lodge is to your left. This was destroyed by fire in the 1970s but was restored. There were apparently 3 chapels here also, but each one of them went into disrepair and where torn down. This was due to the new cemetery opening and this one not being used anymore. Originally, this site was a designated burial ground for St Giles church. You will also notice how well the place is looked after. There are flower beds and trees everywhere and even an old cobbled pathway that leads you up into the graveyard.
On your right is an older part. When you enter, it is almost like a maze. The graves are all of roughly the same shape and size and are all in a near perfect circle. Straight ahead you have, what I consider, as one of the most beautiful family burial spots I have ever seen. The site was about 4 meters squared and made of white marble. The family was Irish Roman Catholics (they could have possibly been travelers also). It had a little wall going around it with angels on top and at the back there was a big statue of the Virgin Mary with a little roof over her. There were about 9 graves in all and at the front was a small marble kneeling pad. It was very beautiful and I’m glad I got a chance to see it.
If you keep to your right then you will come to one of the few entrances for the nature reserve. This one is a lot like the one at Nunhead only the pathway is much bigger. Again, there are graves on both sides that are completely hidden away by shrubs, bushes and trees. Although it is very beautiful and almost peaceful, it does make me feel very sad. The walk is not massively long and it usually leads to a lot of dead ends, be careful of when you go also, I went not long after it rained and ended up a little bit on the muddy side!
The rest of the site is quite a simple format with the back part looking almost like a modern lawn site. I would have loved to have seen the chapels as they were a gothic revival structure (much like the lodge). This site was opened as part of the 2nd wave of 19th century cemeteries by London. When this became overcrowded, Camberwell New was opened. You can hardly tell that it’s overcrowded however. This could be due to how well the site is taken care of.
ANY GHOSTS?:Unfortunately I did not catch any ghosts this time which was a real shame as I believe that this place has so much potential to it. The woods alone, I feel, may hold a few surprises for me. They are very similar to the ones found in Nunhead in the sense that there are a lot of forgotten graves in there due to it becoming a nature reserve. I feel that if I go back and do a bit of an investigation then I may get more results.
FINAL (RESTING) WORD:What I loved most about this site was that it was full of surprises. For someone who loves to explore, I felt like I found a pot of gold. Even though when a site turns into a nature reserve, I still find myself in awe of how beautiful it actually is, despite how sad it makes me feel. I would encourage anyone who loves to hike to take a walk around. For those who aren’t that keen on going for long walks, there is plenty of little sections for you to explore also.
“Respect those who are not physically here, you can’t see them but they can see you, and disrespect is something they don’t want to see”
RATING: 4/5 – Full of lots of hidden little gems, this place will keep you on your toes for a few hours.