The Quest to Honor Disabled Patients Buried in Anonymous Graves

This is a post from Atlas Obscura which discusses the burial places of large institutions in the US which were left behind when they closed. Patients records may have been lost and when they are buried anonymously how do their families know where they are? When I visited Netherne Hospital cemetery and also St Lawrence’s burial ground, there were very few markers but in recent years relatives have been reclaiming their loved ones. I thought this was an interesting post in light of disability rights campaigns. It also reminds us that these people are not fogotten.

Historically, institutions often interred their dead with simple markers. In Massachusetts, researchers are learning about the patients’ lives and the facilities’ fraught legacies.

BY ASIA LONDON PALOMBAJULY 1, 2021The Quest to Honor Disabled Patients Buried in Anonymous GravesThis marker in the MetFern Cemetery denotes the burial of Robert Comeau (1943-1959).This marker in the MetFern Cemetery denotes the burial of Robert Comeau (1943-1959). ASIA LONDON PALOMBAIn This StoryDESTINATION GUIDEWaltham

IT’S QUIET. The afternoon sky is draped in a blanket of clouds and a breeze weaves its way through the trees. Down a winding dirt path in the woods of WalthamMassachusetts, is a clearing peppered with hundreds of small, gray slabs of concrete. They sink into the earth as if pulled down by invisible hands.

These uneven stumbling stones serve as crass grave markers for the hundreds of people who died in two nearby institutions for people with disabilities. The cemetery is shared by the Metropolitan State Hospital, a former psychiatric hospital, and the Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center, the oldest state-run institution of its kind in the United States.

Between 1947 and 1979, these institutions buried 296 of their patients in simple, anonymous graves on a plot of former marshland now called the MetFern Cemetery, a portmanteau of the two institutions’ names. The grave markers are sunken and toppled, and have only two things etched onto their concrete slabs: “C” or “P,” for Catholic and Protestant (though records indicate that a Muslim man and two Jewish patients may have been buried there as well), and a number that denotes the order in which the patient was interred.

One of the buildings on the Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center campus, pictured in February 2020.
One of the buildings on the Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center campus, pictured in February 2020. ASIA LONDON PALOMBA

For the past seven years, Alex Green, a local disability historian, has worked to identify and research the lives of those buried at MetFern. By combing through birth and death certificates, he has come to know their names and stories. Today, most of Green’s advocacy focuses on working alongside the state to make the cemetery more dignified.RELATEDWhen Chinese Americans Were Blamed for 19th-Century Epidemics, They Built Their Own HospitalThe Chinese Hospital in San Francisco is still one-of-a-kind.Read more

The burial ground is a powerful symbol for the people who grappled with the institutions’ legacies. “It kind of provides a safe, central place where everyone agrees to come back together around it,” says Green, an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard University. “People are sharing stories more for the first time.”


THE WALTER E. FERNALD DEVELOPMENTAL Center, also referred to as the Fernald School, was originally called the Massachusetts School for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded Youth. Founded in South Boston in 1848 by Samuel Gridley Howe, it opened as a small experimental school to teach children and teens with intellectual disabilities life skills so they could live independently. Due to the popular perception that children with disabilities couldn’t learn, it proved to be the most progressive and radical institution of its era, says Green.

By 1888, the institution had moved to a sprawling, 196-acre campus in Waltham under the direction of superintendent Walter E. Fernald, where it quickly became the model for other institutions in the state and country. By the late 19th century, Fernald had become a custodial facility where those with disabilities might be locked away for life.

The national peak of institutionalization for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the U.S. was in 1967, when nearly 200,000 people were incarcerated in more than 350 large, state-run institutions. An additional 30,000 people were living in state psychiatric facilities, according to the National Council on Disability, an advisory agency on disability policy.

Protestant grave markers in the MetFern Cemetery, photographed in June 2021.
Protestant grave markers in the MetFern Cemetery, photographed in June 2021. ASIA LONDON PALOMBA

The Metropolitan State Hospital, also known as MetState, opened in 1930 and was the state’s last large-scale institution. Between 1924 and 1947, patients were buried in Waltham’s Mt. Feake Cemetery or were sent back to their original towns—though some are unaccounted for, and Green suspects there were additional burials around the institutions’ grounds. By 1947, both the Fernald School and MetState had fallen apart, and would eventually shutter (MetState in 1992, and Fernald in 2014). The onset of major crises such as the Great Depression and both World Wars caused the institutions to become severely underfunded and short-staffed. As conditions declined, an increasing number of patients suffered premature deaths, leading the institutions to open a shared cemetery, says Green.

Patients were buried in institutional cemeteries for a number of reasons. Some had no living family or couldn’t afford a proper burial. Institutions usually did a haphazard job of contacting family members about deaths, and in many cases families didn’t make an effort to collect their relative’s body. The unnamed gravestones were likely a measure taken to protect a family’s reputation in an era of overwhelming social stigma surrounding disabilities.

This was the case at similar institutions all over the state and country, and in the past few years, grassroots movements have been gaining traction from Utah to Minnesota to Georgia, aiming to bring recognition and justice to those buried under unnamed graves. These movements emphasize marking and preserving the final resting grounds of institutional patients.

“To ask for this history is not enough.”

Adam Rosenblatt, a professor at Duke University, has been studying this phenomenon for a book he’s writing—titled Cemetery Citizens and slated for publication in 2022—on people who care for places of the marginalized dead. One of his chapters focuses specifically on MetFern.

“The movement to try to commemorate mental hospital cemeteries is something that’s been around since the 1990s and seems to be slowly but gradually spreading,” he says. “There is a desire to contextualize and commemorate….even by just filling in the gaps on sites like findagrave.com with pictures of each grave.” Rosenblatt says there’s now “a lot of energy” around unearthing information and restoring dignity to deceased people who have long been overlooked.


SOME OF GREEN’S ACTIVISM INVOLVES working alongside students—especially 11th graders he once taught part-time at Gann Academy, an independent Jewish high school tucked between Fernald and MetFern. In 2017, Green, Yoni Kadden, and Kevin Levin—two history teachers at Gann—created a disability history curriculum focused on MetFern, Fernald, and MetState. Over the years, students have parceled through census data to research the individual lives of those buried at MetFern. In 2020, the students created a memorial book and an official website, coded by a 2020 Gann graduate, to house the names and biographies of each person buried in the cemetery. The website led to some relatives finally learning where their loved ones are buried after decades of speculation. In this way, these institutional cemeteries are “two-way streets to the past and into the present,” Green says. “They help [us] process the trauma and grief around them.”

When students learned about the burial ground’s legacy they “were horrified. They wanted to know more,” says Kadden. “A lot of them tied this to our responsibility to talk about other injustices.” Kadden will be leading another disability history class at Gann in the fall of 2021.

Alex Green and students.
Alex Green and students. COURTESY ALEX GREEN

The work surrounding MetFern echoes elements of the deinstitutionalization movement that gained steam in the early 1970s. The movement was spearheaded by a large number of parent advocacy groups who witnessed the squalid living conditions in these facilities and demanded court-mandated safeguards for those living in institutions. This work coincided with a rise in self advocacy, where people with disabilities agitated for their own rights, and was compounded by support from institutional staff members who witnessed the human rights abuses in these facilities up close. This advocacy reverberates into the present as activists continue to fight for this dark and overlooked part of American history.

“There is an enormous growing coalition of disability rights people who see this is a galvanizing example of why denying us the access to our history is in of itself a form of cruelty,” says Green, who has a history of mental illness which has closely tied him to his work and helped inform the way he processes what he learns. “I see another history where I’m just another person in that graveyard. There is a personal level.”


MASSACHUSETTS’S DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION AND Recreation (DCR) manages MetFern, and its groundskeepers trim the grass regularly and erected the cemetery’s first two signs in the early 2000s. These explain what the markings on the gravestones mean, and list the years the cemetery was operational. A makeshift shrine has been erected at MetFern’s center where family members and passersby leave statues, coins, and notes to the deceased.

In the summer of 2019, George Darcy, a Waltham City Councilor, applied for a $80,000 city preservation grant to restore MetFern. Over the coming year, the goal is to transfer those funds to the DCR through a matching grant program; if approved, the DCR will use the $160,000 to restore the cemetery with community input. Darcy’s grant aims to regrade the land, reset the headstones, and place signage at the cemetery’s entrances. Based on designs by Gann students, the signs will offer a brief history on the institutions, list patients’ names, and provide instructions on how to identify each person.

The DCR plans on keeping the gravestones as they are instead of installing new ones with names, as was done at other institutional cemeteries across the state. Being able to see these unmarked stones is fundamental to understanding how these institutions fit into the larger fabric of American society, explains Green.

The Metropolitan State Hospital's administration building, pictured here in October 2019, is the facility's last building standing. The rest were torn down in the 1990s to make way for luxury condos.
The Metropolitan State Hospital’s administration building, pictured here in October 2019, is the facility’s last building standing. The rest were torn down in the 1990s to make way for luxury condos. ASIA LONDON PALOMBA

In February 2021, a bill was introduced into the Massachusetts State House to study the history of institutions for people with disabilities in the state. Co-authored by Green alongside Representative Sean Garballey and Senator Michael Barrett, the bill proposes a disabled-persons-led commission tasked with locating records and graves and issuing a formal report. Green hopes this bill will help reconcile the different approaches taken at various cemeteries across the state to find the best way forward for MetFern.

While MetFern is just one of many institutional cemeteries across the country, it is emblematic of an era and an attitude that continue to exert influence. For Green and other activists, these defunct institutions and their cemeteries are not merely relics of a bygone era, but reminders that the past is never truly far behind us.

“To ask for this history is not enough, ” says Green. “To fight for this history as our history, as disabled people, is to fight for respect for [our] fundamental rights.”

©Asia London Palambo/Atlas Obscura

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The place that haunted me for nearly 30 years – the return visit to St Lawrence’s hospital burial ground

Scan as on film camera.
copyright Carole Tyrrell

 

Where were we?  We’d come into a neatly mown clearing with a small statue of a headless angel on a plinth at its centre.  There were large stones arranged around the perimeter with names and ages inscribed on them. I don’t recall seeing any signs anywhere that indicated what it was.   The tall black trees seemed to whisper to each other around us but otherwise it was silent.  My companion wanted us to move on deeper into the surrounding countryside and so we did.  We’d already roamed around Happy Valley and he was keen to do more. But I had enough time to take one photo and it became an important, and the only, reminder of our visit.

The black pines that I remembered from my first visit.
©Carole Tyrrell

This was in 1990 and I had no idea where we were. In later years I discovered that we had been on Farthing Downs, near Coulsdon in Surrey.   Although I made several return visits and tried to retrace our walk I could never find the exact place. What was it? A farmer’s cemetery for beloved animals? The ages on the stones had been very young but I could never find it or any information online about it. Was it attached to one of the nearby asylums?  Cane Hill Asylum wasn’t that far away across the valley. I was nearly there.  In 2013 a magazine article and a map reference revealed it to be St Lawrence’s hospital burial ground. At last I knew where it was and what it was.

As the wind blew eerily through the bordering pine trees and passing, but invisible golfers, chatted to each other I knew that this was the place that had intrigued me for nearly 30 years.  No tidy clearing now and any memorials were half submerged in the overgrown undergrowth. But at last I knew that  I was standing in St Lawrence’s Hospital burial ground at Caterham which was now in the middle of a very upmarket golf course.  The golf course hadn’t been there in 1990 but its manicured lawns, water features and clubhouse surrounded the burial ground.  St Lawrence’s long, late summer overgrown grass, straggling and profuse bushes of blackberries and rose hips and uneven ground made a sharp contrast.  I trod very carefully. There were now two black painted metal gates at the entrance and an information board with photos and pictures of St Lawrence’s Hospital and the chapel.  This had long since been demolished, but the foundations and base could still be found amongst the long grass and clover.  An overcast day and spits of rain combined with the mournful wind made the burial ground feel abandoned.

As I stood there it seemed impossible that over 3100 people lay buried under my feet in this spot underneath the tussocks and unkempt long grass.  A burial register from 1916-1948 records 3100 people buried in 276 plots with 10-15 in each grave. However, the 1949 -1965 burial register is still missing so there may be 1000’s more buried here. The burial ground is the only surviving part of the Hospital as it closed in 1994 and was demolished to make way for a housing estate.

St Lawrence’s was originally the Caterham Metropolitan Asylum which opened in September 1870. It had a sister asylum at Leavesden, Herts.  They both took in the pauper insane from London’s workhouses as it was felt that the country air would be good for them and help improve their condition. This is probably why there is such a concentration of asylums in the Surrey area. However their location often led to staff shortages due to their remoteness.

According to Lost Hospitals of London:

 ‘There were 1560 patients which were housed in 6 three storey blocks for 860 females and 5 blocks for 700 males. The sexes were segregated as they were in all asylums. Children were also admitted and in 1881 St Lawrence’s also become known as the Caterham Lunatic Asylum for Safe Lunatics and Imbeciles.  The Victorians weren’t very PC and we would now say that these people had ‘learning difficulties’.  In 1913 under the Mental Deficiency Act it became responsible for mentally defective children pauper children or again children with learning disabilities. Children from another hospital and a Training Colony were also sent to Caterham.  It also had a large proportion of older patients who had no chance of improvement. 23.6% of its patients were epileptic. (Treatment for epilepsy was non-existent in the 19th century and even 40 years ago it was still in its infancy)

In 1981, St Lawrence’s and another hospital featured in a documentary called ‘Silent Minority’ which drew attention to the poor conditions in these places exacerbated by staff shortages. The media took an interest and patient care, amongst other areas, were investigated by government Inquiries.  It focused on the scant and impersonal natures of the wards, deficiencies in nursing care and staffing ratios for profoundly disabled patients. It was said that the hospital management had sanctioned the programme in the hope that public awareness of the extent of the problem might bring about change for the institution. Patients began to be moved out into homes and hostels and into the community.’

 When the burial ground was closed for burials in 1965 the memorial stones were removed from the main burial area and placed on the perimeter so that the grass could be mown. This is how it looked when I saw it in 1990 when the hospital was still in operation.  Like Netherne, the burial ground was almost forgotten and became overgrown and abandoned until in 2008, concerned locals took matters into their own hands and started tidying it up. Local residents, cub packs and schools all wanted to be involved and in 2010 13 memorials had been located either intact or in pieces.

Here is a selection of the memorials that I saw:

The overgrown uneven ground was obviously due for one of its two annual brush cuts and I trod carefully as I explored. I found a few memorials which were clustered in the overgrown memorial rose bed. I could make out dates and names on some of them and they were poignant reminders of the hospital’s patients.  According to the information board, these were the memorials that were found in 2011:

John                                                                  1945-1960

Valery Muriel Ann Howcroft                       1953-1962

Graham W Cleghorn                                     1936-1957

Brian W Udy                                                   1889-1917

Frederick Albert Houghton                        1948-1957

Ann Margaret Hazell

Bobby Wise

Terry                                                             aged 6 years

George Henry Hale                                    1884-1961

Edna Phyllis Millward                              1909-1953

Percy Herbert Goddard Barnes              1891-1963

Leslie Charles Alfred Nash                     1924-1963

Pattie (Patricia) Hill                                1912-1934

Donald Douglas Chamberlin                  1907-1924

Joseph H Wenderott                              1926-1942

Malcom Dow                                           1929-1938

 

I am indebted to The Downlander for information on two of the memorials:

‘Percy Barnes was in the 1890 Census where he was living at 98 Farringdon Road where his parents kept a coffee house.   By 1911 he was a kitchen porter and lived in Shoreditch with his parents, 2 sisters and 3 brothers.  But nothing is known of him from 1911-1963 so how did he end up being admitted to St Lawrence’s?

Leslie Nash’s memorial is under the black pines but I didn’t see it on my visit. ‘The burial ground restoration team were contacted by a cousin. He told them that Leslie’s brother was still alive and had been searching for Leslie’s memorial for many years. You can imagine how thrilled he was to know its location at last. Apparently Leslie had epilepsy and cerebral palsy and was sent to St Lawrence’s in 1938 when he had become too heavy for his parents to lift. They had three other children as well. Leslie’s epitaph reads:

Leslie Charles Alfred Nash

Born 6.6.24 – Died 20.9.63

Sweet the sleep you so much needed

Free from suffering care and pain on thy face so peaceful.’

The restoration team managed to make contact with a small number of relatives of those buried here so that they are not forgotten. As I wrote this, a relative was trying to trace her aunt who had been admitted to the hospital aged 18 and died there at 35. I was glad that the burial ground had been reclaimed by local people and that a few of the relatives had been located. As at Netherne they seemed to vanish once they were in the system unless a determined relative decided to look for them.

However, there would have been very few memorials and these would originally have been wooden markers which rot or simple metal markers bearing a number. Originally there were two angels marking the graves of two children and the one that I saw in 1990 may have been one of them. I found another one in the luxuriant undergrowth but it wasn’t the one in my photograph. .  The bodies of those who died without friends or family were given to the School of Anatomy to help doctors with medical research and training.

The information board also records:

‘that the Chapel was demolished in 1971 (and from the photo wasn’t a particularly decorative building). However it was large enough to house 8 coffins. The burial service took place in St Lawrence’s Hospital Chapel. A horse drawn hearse with a tarpaulin cover was led by the hospital porters through the gate at the back of the hospital farm and crossed the field to the burial ground. In later years the Head Gardener’s truck was used. It had an iron frame with a hood over the top and rollers for the coffin. But a former head Gardener recalled that the burials were ‘always done with dignity, never rushed.’

The burial ground is in an isolated spot and is reached by walking up a long, secluded lane. So unfortunately it attracts vandalism.

The memorial seat with the black pines behind it. I was able to confirm that this was the place by the trees.
©Carole Tyrrell

The lovely, very solid seat that I saw on my visit in 2017, surrounded by carved wooden animals, was set alight in an arson attack in 2019. It had been carved with a chainsaw by a local sculptor, Andris Bergs and weighed over a ton. The main seat was made from London Plane and its supports from oak wood. The animals were created from Douglas Fir and it seemed sad that these lovely creations were destroyed for no reason.  They had been part of the burial ground’s restoration.  It’s also seen as a haven for wildlife and newts have been found here.

However, I’m always surprised that asylum graveyards and burial places survive at all. Netherne Hospital Cemetery is also located in an out of the way place and maybe this is why it’s survived. The hospitals to which they were attached no longer exist and in time they might have been forgotten or just built over. In 1990 on my first visit all the big asylums in the area were about to close due to ‘care in the community’.  They had become too large, too overcrowded and once inside people seemed to find it difficult to get out of them and so became institutionalised.

But I had finally found the place that had haunted me since 1990. The Royal Surrey Golf Club didn’t open until 1999 and at that time it was just countryside for miles.  Paupers surrounded by posh golfers. It seemed almost ironic. Maybe after lockdown it’s time to make a return visit and pay my respects to the permanent residents of St Lawrence’s Burial Ground.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

References and further reading

The Downlander issue 51 Spring-Autumn 2011

http://www.caterham-independent.co.uk/latest-news/56-work-on-st-lawrences-hospital-burial-site-begins/

http://www.countyasylums.co.uk/caterham-mental-hospital/

http://www.aim25.ac.uk/cgi-bin/vcdf/detail?coll_id=11891&inst_id=118

http://www.caterham-independent.co.uk/latest-news/1466-nhs-gives-burial-ground-to-chaldon-village-council/

https://www.countyasylums.co.uk/caterham-mental-hospital/

https://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/stlawrence.html

 

 

As anonymous in death as they were in life? Part 1 of a visit to Netherne Hospital cemetery

Close-up of the cemetery gates showing NETH over the top of them. May 2007.
©Carole Tyrrell

I first visited Netherne Hospital cemetery on an overcast day in May 2007.  It’s located at the edge of a large farmer’s field and is a broad, sloping strip of land bordered on three sides by huge, majestic, spreading horse chestnut trees.  You can look across the cemetery to the local beauty spot Farthing Downs in the distance. The trees were luxuriantly leafy on my visit and the graveyard certainly looked more appealing than in the photos I’d seen of it on an urban explorer’s website.  He had visited it in January when it looked very desolate and forgotten.  But on that day in May I saw large white candles of horse chestnut flowers in abundance as I peered through the two elegant, probably Victorian, iron gates.  Once they must have had Netherne Asylum in large iron capital letters over the top of them but now only ‘NETH’ remained.   They were almost being engulfed by large branches and leaves trying to force their way through. ‘Someone will steal them for scrap.’ I thought to myself as I pushed one of the gates open and entered.

Inside Nature had taken over with a thick carpet of green brambles and undergrowth covering the entire site and it looked as if no one had been there in a very long time.  Without the gates the cemetery would have just looked like a fallow field.  It was impossible to see any monuments or memorials but I did find a raised concrete plinth in which 2 tombstones and a smaller Book of Life memorial had been inserted possibly to preserve them. The Book of Life was dedicated to a 7 year old named Betty Trotman and I wondered why a child was buried here.  Little did I know as I closed the gate behind me that it would take me nearly 10 years to find out.

Netherne was sited at Hooley in Surrey  and was originally known as the Surrey County Asylum or Netherne Asylum before being renamed Netherne Asylum.. It closed in the 1990’s along with the other large asylums and hospitals in the county.  Surrey has always been seen as an affluent region with its exclusive golf clubs, Tudorbethan stockbroker houses and the rolling hills of the green belt. But it has another, less publicised claim to fame. For over a century at least it was also home to several lunatic asylums originally intended for paupers and also homes or children with learning difficulties.  It was felt that the incurable or mentally ill might improve if taken out of the city and into what was then countryside.

The creation of the asylums also reduced the workhouse population as they were designed for paupers.  Cane Hill in Coulsdon, Netherne in Hooley, the Epsom cluster, Earlswood in Redhill and St Lawrence’s Hospital in Caterham were amongst them.  Iain Sinclair in his book, London Orbital, described them as mandalas of madness. All now gone; either demolished or converted into upmarket housing estates.

In 2007 Netherne  Hospital as it later became known was still in the throes of being transformed into an instant village; Netherne on the Hill.  The developers later stated that they were ‘leaving the cemetery well alone and allowing the wildlife to take over.’   It would be another three years before relatives of those buried there would start to come looking for their last resting place. At that time I had no idea that there were 1350 people buried there and that these included children, ex-soldiers, epileptics, the elderly as well as the mentally ill and those who had nowhere else to go.  The people buried in the cemetery seemed to be as anonymous in death as they had been in life apart from the memorials embedded on the plinth.

The cemeteries and burial grounds attached to these asylums and hospitals can be difficult to find. Often the markers on the graves have gone and so there’s no sign of their original purpose and as a result they can often become overgrown and look abandoned.  For example, in 2000 the Somerset & Bath Lunatic Asylum, or the Mendip Hospital as it later became, burial ground in Wells was put up for sale by the NHS as a freehold development opportunity. Nearly 3,000 people, patients and staff,  are buried here with the last burial having taken place in 1963. The grave markers had long since been removed.  However there was a public outcry from the local populace, some of whom may have had relatives living or working in the hospital and they formed a group to stop it.  There is a now a thriving Friends of Mendip  Hospital Cemetery group and so the burial ground looks safe.

I started researching the cemetery and discovered that asylums had a varied population.  In Rachel Lichtenstein and Iain Sinclair’s book Rodinsky’s Room they go in search of a man, David Rodinsky, who vanishes suddenly from a room above a back garden synagogue in Spitalfields and discover that he ended up in Warlingham Hospital, another Surrey asylum, where he died.  They speculated that his Eastern European Jewish scholarly background and language of codes and cabbalism may have led to him ending up there as it would have been incomprehensible to anyone unfamiliar with it. Other patients may have suffered from what we now term learning difficulties which the Victorians classed ‘idiots’.  There were also the elderly with dementia or people with degenerative diseases such as syphilis.

The soldiers appeared in asylums after the First World War when the authorities devised a scheme to treat the almost half a million wounded and shell shocked soldiers.  This involved decanting the current patients elsewhere and then re-designating the asylums as ‘war hospitals’.  By 1920 over 250,000 soldiers had been treated with 9% of them with psychiatric problems.  It saved lives but caused upset and distress to the decanted patient population.  However, not only soldiers were admitted to the ‘war hospitals’ but also their families.

There was an asylum in every county and in 1914 there were 102 in the UK with a total population of 108,000 men, women and children living within them – some permanently.  The sexes were strictly segregated and only met at events such as dances or sports days. Men usually worked on the hospital farm and women in the laundry or kitchen.  Women could be admitted as a result of having an illegitimate baby, rape or post-natal depression.  Asylums were often overcrowded and an epidemic such as flu could kill many patients.

I’d read on the urban explorer website that Netherne that there had been a campaign by a local amateur historian to have the cemetery cleared and accusing the developers of neglect. It was time for a return visit especially as my research had enabled me to put names to some of those buried there and their poignant, often heart-breaking stories.

©Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

 Apologies for the quality of the colour photos of the cemetery.These were scans taken from hard copy film prints.

References and further reading:

London Orbital, Iain Sinclair, Penguin 2003

Rodinsky’s Room, Rachel Weinstein & Iain Sinclair, Granta Books, 2000

http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/10494304.Campaign_victory_after_cemetery_with_war_dead_finally_cleared/

https://billiongraves.com/cemetery/Netherne-Asylum-Cemetery/292853

http://www.simoncornwell.com/urbex/hosp/n/e140106/1.htm the urban explorer site on which I found Netherne Cemetery.

http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/indepth/nostalgia/8392020.Forgotten_graves_of_the_war_dead/

http://www.suttonguardian.co.uk/news/8437328.Diaries_of_Catholic_nun_reveal_tale_of_child_buried_at_Netherne_asylum/

http://beyondthetrenches.co.uk/the-other-war-dead-asylum-patients-during-the-first-world-war/

http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/8421298.Developer_s_broken_promise_over_asylum_cemetery/

http://www.mendiphospitalcemetery.org.uk/

Part 2: Betty, Jean, Gunner William, Jessica and a German POW – a return visit to Nethene Hospital Cemetery August 2017.