This week's post looks at the history of Manor Park Cemetery from its opening in 1874 through to the end of the First World War in 1918.
We are delighted that almost all the remaining records for East London’s Manor Park Cemetery are now online; the last ones for the period 1875-1898 should be available next week.
Manor Park Cemetery opened in
1874. Owned by the Manor Park Cemetery Company, which continues to manage the
cemetery and crematorium today, Manor Park was then one of the largest graveyards in
London. The Company bought the land in 1872 from neighbouring Hamfrith Farm. The cemetery remains a haven for wildlife, with two
woodlands, lawns and gardens of remembrance.
|The entrance to Manor Park Cemetery and Crematorium|
|The Cemetery Chapel|
The first person to be buried was a Mr. Wiliam Nesbitt. His burial took place on 25th March 1875, and his headstone can still be found on the right hand side of the cemetery's Remembrance Road. Two years later, the Cemetery Chapel was built. Sadly, this was largely destroyed by enemy action on 23rd July 1944. Only the spire remained. This was later rebuilt into the current chapel, which opened in 1955.
|Plan of the Cemetery and Crematorium|
Victorian East London was a populous area, with a large underclass population and a high death rate. In 1888, the East End became front page news as a serial killer, known only as ‘Jack the Ripper’ stalked its streets, killing ladies of the night. Amongst his victims was 47 year old Annie Chapman, who was killed on 8 September 1888, the second of five confirmed Ripper victims.
|The grave of Annie Chapman|
The cemetery contains many remarkable Victorian monuments representative of artistic and architectural styles that were popular through the period. One memorial, dating from 1894, is dedicated to 10 year old John Clinton, who drowned near London Bridge whilst trying to save a fellow child. More details can be found in F. J. Cross's Beneath the Banner (1895).
A year later, the cemetery became the final resting place of Winston Churchill's nanny, Elizabeth Ann Everest. Known by the future Prime Minister as 'Woom' (his childish approximation of 'Woman'), Everest was remembered by him in his autobiography, My Early Life (1930): 'I loved my mother dearly - but at a distance. My nurse was my confidante. Mrs. Everest it was who looked after me and tended all my wants . .'
Another celebrated nanny, Mary Ann Orchard (1830-1906), who is buried in the cemetery, tended to the children of Princess Alice (Queen Victoria’s daughter). In honour of her care, the now grown-up children arranged for a beautiful cross headstone to mark her grave. Tragically, the youngest of these children, Alexandra (Alix) would be dead by the end of 1917. She married Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and was executed alongside him on 17 July. Alexandra's body only received a proper burial in 1998.
|This cross marks the grave of Mary Ann Orchard|
Between 1914 and 1918 hundreds of East End men were killed at war, or died later from their wounds. Manor Park is home to 226 official Commonwealth War Graves from the First World War. One of the most well-known of those who died is the 'Boy Soldier', and the second youngest holder of the Victoria Cross, John 'Jack' Travers Cornwell (1900-1916). Cornwell's grave, number 13, can be found in the West Section 55. Cornwell was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. He died of intestinal perforation caused by the wounds he received in action.
|The grave of John Travers Cornwell V. C.|
Also in this period was the burial of William Thomas Ecclestone. Ecclestone was renowned for being the second heaviest man in the world before his death in 1915. Weighing in at 38 stone, Ecclestone was nicknamed the 'Jolly Jumbo'. He worked as a publican, surrounded by food and drink, and his favourite meal is rumoured to have been a whole pig's head. An ornate monument stands in his memory.