Before and after cleaning
I recently visited West Norwood Cemetery to see their celebrated catacombs. They are well worth seeing if you have the chance but please note that you must be a member of the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery to be able to visit them. This is for Health and Safety and insurance reasons. While I was waiting for the rest of the participants to arrive I looked around for the recumbent statue of the Unknown Mourner.
This is a large statue of a naked, prostate mourning woman which was, when I first saw her, was under some bushes on the forecourt in front of the main entrance gates. Then she moved inside the gates and I next saw her lying on some waste ground during renovations. No-one knows, or is probably ever likely to know, to which grave she belongs. The Unknown Mourner is undoubtedly a victim of Lambeth Council’s notorious clearances of West Norwood during the 1960’s. They just bulldozed anything , including listed memorials and monuments, without any recordkeeping until they were stopped by an ecclesiastical court.
But this time the Mourner was a gleaming pristine white which has revealed details of the sculpture that I’d never noticed before. I had always assumed that she was meant to be the uniform dull grey as that was the colour of the stone but what a difference a good clean has made. However, it’s unfortunate that discoloured water has gathered by her feet which make it look as if she’s stepped in something nasty. But it’s such a pleasure to see her looking so good and basking in the sunshine in the middle of rose bushes. Wherever her owner is within the cemetery I’m sure they would be pleased.
©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell – no reproduction without permission