All 1,000,000 records of nearly 400,000 burials and cremations from 1858 to 1999 for the burial and cremation records of Lewisham Borough Council are now on the database.
|Hither Green Cemetery|
Hither Green was opened in 1873 - 15 years after Brockley and Ladywell. Hither Green Cemetery is laid out next to Lewisham Crematorium - formerly, the Hither Green Crematorium (opened 1956), whose records are also in the database. The cemetery's official address is Verdant Lane in Grove Park. Originally known as "Lee Cemetery", Hither Green was designed by Francis Thorne (buried here in 1885) with ornamental iron entrance gates, an entrance lodge (demolished in the 1960s) and two gothic chapels.
Last week I looked at Brockley's Victorian years. This week I had planned to move into the 20th century, but I was contacted by Geri Newell in Canada who has an amazing tale to tell of her 19th century ancestor who, like many of those buried in the cemetery, had a fascinating life but is not well-known today.
|Painting of William John Newell (1894)|
Geri's great grandfather, William John Newell, was born in Bermondsey in 1853. Geri told me that Will (as he was known) set up the W.J. Newell Estate Agency and Auction house at 487 New Cross Road, in Deptford, where he lived above the shop. A few years after his marriage to Alice Rebecca Attfield, and having two daughters and two sons, he bought a house around the corner on Florence Road, and let out the flat above the shop.
|Photograph of William John Newell (1895)|
|487 New Cross Road|
One of Will's great nieces grew up hearing anecdotes about him from her mother, such as, “Will regularly enjoyed a pint,” and that whenever one of his staff would sell a house, he would take everyone in the office out for dinner and a few drinks at the local pub near Broadway and New Cross Road. His wife, Alice, suspected that this was a ploy to go to the pub more often and would often comment that his top hat was “at a precarious angle on his head whenever a house was sold”.
|Grave of William John Newell in Brockley Cemetery|
|Extract from the Brockley burial register for 1896 showing the entry for 43 year old William John Newell, Auctioneer & Surveyor of Dovedale, East Wickham Lane, Welling & of 487 New Cross Rd (taken from the Deceased Online database)|
Will was given a splendid funeral at Brockley on 3rd March 1896. One newspaper commented:
The cortege left Dovedale at one o’clock, consisting of an open car
and pair containing the body which was covered with wreaths
<and crosses, and four carriages and pairs, proceeding via Shooter’s
Hill to New Cross by deceased’s offices, then via
Florence Road to Brockley Cemetery, arriving there at 2:30.
There the funeral was met at the entrance gates by the mace bearer
and Chaplain, being attended by about 100 masons,
wearing acacia, who lined the entrance to the chapel and then followed deceased to
the family vault. There was also a very large company of friends present.
A large number of Freemasons, who were present, filed
past the grave and dropped the customary sprigs of acacia on the coffin.
Although Geri lives in Canada, whenever she travels to London she makes time to call at her great-grandfather's grave at Brockley. In 2010, Geri also visited his former home and workplace in New Cross Road.
|Geri visiting Will's former shop at 487 New Cross Road in 2010|
In next week's blog, I'll be exploring both Brockley and Hither Green cemeteries in the twentieth centuries.Come and meet us! Members of the Deceased Online team are looking forward to meeting you at the Brockley & Ladywell Open Day on Saturday 17 October. The team will be demonstrating records and this will be your chance to explore the Lewisham Collection and to ask any questions you may have about Lewisham (or any of our other records) face-to-face. For more details, see Lewisham Council's Events Page.
Don't worry if you can't make the open day. If you have any comments or questions about any of the cemeteries or crematoria in the Lewisham Collection, just drop us a line in the Comments Box below or on our Twitter and Facebook pages!
London Gardens Online http://www.londongardensonline.org.uk/gardens-online-record.asp?ID=LEW025