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London Cemeteries: An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer Hardcover – Illustrated, 1 Apr 2008
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About the Author
Hugh Mellor has just retired, having been Curator for the National Trust in Devon for twenty-six years, and architectural adviser to the Victorian Society.Brian Parsons is the editor of Funeral Service Journal and author of The London Way of Death.
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This must be in no small part due to Hugh Meller's book 'London Cemeteries'. First published in 1981, it provided not only a history of burial practices in London, but a comprehensive guide to burial grounds, leading visitors not only to the famous Victorian sites like Highgate and Kensal Green, but also to the quirky and sometimes very personal monuments to be found in more out-of-the-way places.
Fourteen years after its last update, Meller's seminal work was due for a revision, and Brian Parsons has done a superb job. The text has been completely revised, taking more recent developments into account. The most important addition is that of dozens more photographs and illustrations, in many cases showing memorials which have been lost, stolen or vandalised and so can no longer be seen. The twelve new cemeteries added are mostly newer ones, and therefore perhaps not the most interesting when compared to the high Victorian delights of their forebears, but it is useful to have them listed for the sake of completeness.
This frankness about the more mundane elements of twentieth-century cemeteries was one of the things I loved most about Meller's original text: "There is little to be said for poor Eastcote Lane, it is small, modest and dull" and "[Chiswick New] is not one of London's most appealing cemeteries and must be the noisiest, set down in a water meadow sandwiched between an arterial road and a suburban railway line." Parsons continues this dryly humorous tradition, with such gems as Hatton Cemetery which occupies "a flat site beyond some enormous greenhouses", and Hillside which is "not a cemetery worth a detour".
If I have a complaint, it is about the physical book itself, which is quite incredibly heavy (my hardback copy is over 1.2kg). This is not a book to tuck into your pocket as you go exploring (get Darren Beach's guide for that), but it is a superb and complete encyclopaedia which no lover of cemeteries, London or history should be without.
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