The Unknown Mourner of West Norwood – update on blog published on 31/10/15


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

6 thoughts on “The Unknown Mourner of West Norwood – update on blog published on 31/10/15

    1. Dear Jo

      Apologies for taking so long to reply. But thanks do much for sending me this photo – she looks very neglected and abandoned. I wonder which grave in the cemetery that she belonged to? Also if there was originally an epitaph on the rock on which she rests?
      A mystery that may be solved on day – thanks again!
      Best wishes


      1. Dear Jo
        There was a large clearance in West Norwood Cemetery during which monuments and memorials were destroyed with no records being kept before it was halted. The unknown mourner is a fantastic piece of sculpture and I’ve thought that she must belong to someone but we may never know. I’m just glad that she’s survived more or less intact.
        Best wishes


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