View Full Version : Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey - great book!

13-08-2008, 10:10 PM
Brookwood is a huge cemetery which opened in 1854, covered burials as diverse as the rich, the famous and the infamous and many faiths. It was served by the London Necropolis railway which took the deceased and mourners (in a variety of styles according to how much they were able to spend) from Waterloo in London to the cemetery's own station in Surrey. Approximately 235,000 people are buried there.

My own interest in Brookwood was sparked when I remembered that my Grandad had shown me a picture of his own Grandad's memorial. He could never understand how a lowly South London ironmonger's clerk could have ended up buried with such ceremony. All he knew was that his Grandfather had died in an institution "up North" and assumed it must have been a lunatic's asylum or that he had died a drunkard. Sadly Grandad passed away never knowing the truth, but my family tree research got me back in touch with a cousin who enlightened me and I started looking for more information.

Edward Victor Robbins had been buried in December 1903 in Brookwood's Ancient Order of Foresters plot and his memorial had been unveiled about 6 months later. It transpired that Edward was a very respected high up member of the AOF and had died in Smedley's Hydropathy in Derbyshire, where he had clearly gone for a cure, presumably at the expense of the Foresters.

I wanted to know about the customs relating to burials at the cemetery in late Victorian times and scoured the internet, which was when I found the most fascinating book. Called "London's Necropolis, A Guide To Brookwood Cemetery" (John M Clarke), it details a number of the graves, gives their plot numbers and descriptions and some information on the lives (and sometimes deaths) of the people buried there. It also goes into detail about the Necropolis Railway, the customs of the day and the charges for and styles of the various types of funeral.

I found the book on Amazon, which gave a preview of the index. There must be 1000 names there, a tiny fraction of the 235,000 buried in the cemetery but a good cross-section of individuals. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be if my own Great Great Grandad was amongst them, but he wouldn't be, would he... he was neither inventor nor condemned man, not actor nor soldier. I looked anyway... Roberts, Robertson... ROBBINS - Edward Victor!

There he was, with a description of the memorial, the plot number, the details of the friends and family who attended the unveiling (though not, I noticed, my Great Grandfather who had been excommunicated by Edward the philanthropist for daring to marry a girl whom he had met whilst she was working behind a bar!). The book even gives the eulogy to Edward, read by his dear friend Alfred Chapman, who was the AOF's Parliamentary representative and who is also buried in the AOF plot, though sadly in an unmarked grave.

With this information I was able to go further and contacted the AOF who gave me a copy of the magazine of the time which also detailed Edward's memorial ceremony and to whom I am eternally grateful. Even without finding my G G Grandad I can say that "London's Necropolis" is a really informative read and gives a great insight into the way people mourned and the characters laid to rest at Brookwood. Whether you are interested in Brookwood itself, the various types of memorial and their meanings or the lives of some of those resting there I can thoroughly recommend Clarke's book.

14-08-2008, 12:53 AM
How wonderful that you were able to find Edward, Spangle! I might have to look that book up.:)