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Heritage - 62: Manor Park Cemetery, The Side Most Never See

Local knowledge and some further research helps Alan present these TRAVEL NORTH pages. Take a trip with him over familiar routes

Behind the facade... the forgotten heroes

You don't see much of these graves, of members of the Army Auxiliary Corps in WWI. Described as 'worker', Dorothy Annie Reed isn't easy to find, hidden away behind overgrown areas festooned with weeds... Not as bad as some but deserving of respect

You don't see much of these graves, of members of the Army Auxiliary Corps in WWI. Described as 'worker', Dorothy Annie Reed isn't easy to find, hidden away behind overgrown areas festooned with weeds... Not as bad as some but deserving of respect

A trio of seamen from two world wars, beginning with Petty Officer Bedman who almost made it to war's end, mid October 1918... Those that give orders take them from higher authority...

A trio of seamen from two world wars, beginning with Petty Officer Bedman who almost made it to war's end, mid October 1918... Those that give orders take them from higher authority...

Motor Engineer Coombes met his maker in April 1917, a technician who might have benefited society in peacetime...

Motor Engineer Coombes met his maker in April 1917, a technician who might have benefited society in peacetime...

L A Costa, Stoker First Class lived through WWII, only to succumb to fate almost a year after hostilities ended... see below

L A Costa, Stoker First Class lived through WWII, only to succumb to fate almost a year after hostilities ended... see below

"In Memoriam..."

I've picked out the grave of a woman who died in the course of manufacturing ordnance and three graves of military men:

Dorothy Reed almost survived WWI. Her fate may have been sealed by an explosion, by sickness (inhalation of fumes) or through a faulty fuse. It's not mentioned on the stone where she worked, although munitions factories dotted the landscape in both major wars.

Nor is there anything stated about Petty Officer William Bedman in the same conflict. Many explanations could fit what happened. His stone is not of the War Graves Commission as you can see, only his parents' grief is recorded on the stone. He may have met his fate in 'Civvy Street', i.e., away from the battle lines.

More is known of HMS 'Thrush', a gunboat designed by Sir Wm. H White, launched by Scotts of Greenock 22nd June,1889, commanded in 1891 by the future king, George V. In 1906 she was assigned to coastguard duties, was designated a cable vessel in 1915 and in 1916 a salvage vessel, wrecked 11th April 1917 off the Northern Irish coast near Glenarm. Her bell was salvaged and presented to her former commander. Being stationed below Assistant Motor Engineer Coombes stood little or no chance of survival. He died at his post.

Stoker 1st Class L. A. Costa survived WWII, only to take sick on the elderly Royal Navy vessel HMS 'Plinlimmon' in the spring of 1946, dying shortly afterward, 2nd April at the shore establishment of HMS 'Pembroke'.

Young fatalities of life's battle against the after-effects of war or disease - and more recently - include children, infants, some hardly having drawn breath

Margaret Bramley aged 14 in July, 1945 had survived the war - air raids, flying bombs - only to die perhaps during an epidemic or as the victim of an unexploded bomb

Margaret Bramley aged 14 in July, 1945 had survived the war - air raids, flying bombs - only to die perhaps during an epidemic or as the victim of an unexploded bomb

An infant of 11 weeks, Colin Farmer fell victim to life's inequalities shortly before Christmas, 1953 -  Coronation year

An infant of 11 weeks, Colin Farmer fell victim to life's inequalities shortly before Christmas, 1953 - Coronation year

Even younger, Vanessa Khan lost her fight after four days in July, 1988 and ....

Even younger, Vanessa Khan lost her fight after four days in July, 1988 and ....

... And hardly drawn breath - maybe didn't even do that - a week later in the same month Andrew Colmans is but a name in an overgrown grave out of sight but not far from the grand-looking entrance

... And hardly drawn breath - maybe didn't even do that - a week later in the same month Andrew Colmans is but a name in an overgrown grave out of sight but not far from the grand-looking entrance

Innocents...

It's always tragic when youngsters die, whether in dire circumstances or due to problems at birth. Four children here died, one at the age of 14 not long after WWII. We won't know the circumstances from looking at their memorials, we can only guess.

Margaret Bramley was 14 when she died only months after the end of WWII. Did she take ill, was she killed looking for 'souvenirs' (a lot of children went looking for shrapnel as 'keepsakes', some accumulating a 'hoard' from the 'Blitz' in 1940 to the end of hostilities in May, 1945, many risking their lives ) and falling foul of an unexploded German landmine or whatever.

Colin Farmer was a babe-in-arms in December, 1953 - Coronation year - when he died. There were shortages due to rationing. His mother may have missed out on something although the National Health Service, established in 1948, should have provided the necessary medicines or care.

Vanessa Khan was even less fortunate in 1988 when she died less than a week after birth. Her parent(s) would have been grief-stricken. Maybe there were after-birth complications and she never left the hospital. She's been here, keeping Andrew Colmans company since that year. His existence was shorter still, a stone marking his passing.

The saddest part is the circumstances of their memorials, in ground that seems to have gone to waste, been neglected. Only thirty-two years have passed since the latter two infants were interred, the ground should surely have been kept tidy at least. The first two keep company some distance way from the main gate, but that should be no excuse for the state of the ground they were buried in. This area is scheduled to be filled in, any known relatives to register their wish for their family members to be remembered by some form of memorial.

Someone who returned from Australia and visited her father's grave found a shambles. She took exception and complained. More should have done so.

It's when you go off the beaten path - hardly further than the main roadway - that you see nature's work and man's neglect

The chaos of sunken earth, stones lain askew and weeds, growing around and from beneath stonework, some almost hiding the monumental masonry

The chaos of sunken earth, stones lain askew and weeds, growing around and from beneath stonework, some almost hiding the monumental masonry

... Some being overtaken by ivy where their 'neighbours' graves are untouched ...

... Some being overtaken by ivy where their 'neighbours' graves are untouched ...

... Others play hide-and-seek with you... Aah, there's one!

... Others play hide-and-seek with you... Aah, there's one!

... And one whose incumbent would certainly not smile at her surroundings -  Mary Chuckle is at rest, but would her relatives rest at this sight?

... And one whose incumbent would certainly not smile at her surroundings - Mary Chuckle is at rest, but would her relatives rest at this sight?

And then you come to this...

Some graves can't be seen properly, some names erased by the effects of weather. Memorial stones barely stand, skewed at an angle, some mutually propped up, others are barely noticeable in the undergrowth, more accurately described as overgrowth.

Holly and ivy are meant to be part of winter festivities, not deterrents to visiting family memorials. Some parts of the grounds are a trial for the fit to get around, let alone those with physical problems. Wheelchair-bound visitors are left unable to pay their respects, saddened by lack of access. To some it may be their last opportunity...


There are those whose graves are under threat, and deserve more attention

A trite reminder of a life past but definitely not forgotten... The first female member of the Trades Union Congress that has witnessed hallowed social changes

A trite reminder of a life past but definitely not forgotten... The first female member of the Trades Union Congress that has witnessed hallowed social changes

... Sarah Dearman led a strike in 1888 against pay and conditions at the Bryant & May match factory in Bow, London E3 - now the Bow Quarter, a very des res block of expensive apartments close to the main railway line to Norwich

... Sarah Dearman led a strike in 1888 against pay and conditions at the Bryant & May match factory in Bow, London E3 - now the Bow Quarter, a very des res block of expensive apartments close to the main railway line to Norwich

Sarah Dearman, nee Chapman

... Spoke her mind. Colleagues at the Bryant & May match factory in Bow, London E3 turned to her for support in raising their negligible wages. The directors' chauffeurs had cottages at the gates, on hand to take their employers to meetings... the opera... theatre...

She was also the first woman member of the Trades Union Congress based in Bloomsbury, London WC1. The pithy reminder of her activities does little as a reminder of her achievements, a small wooden cross with a rectangular plaque that gives the bare details, no more. It's plain to see the cemetery owners' priorities...

Manor Park Cemetery & Crematorium

Web page address is www.mpark.co.uk; address: Sebert Road, London E7 0NP (office). A gate that opens onto Whitta Road, Manor Park, London E12 is only opened for hearses to and from the Co-operative Funeral Services in Whitta Road opposite the east gate of the cemetery.

There are some graves that cry out to be tended, tucked away amongst the trees that have taken over this part of the cemetery (left of the main entrance)...

The names have long since faded, rain and damp having 'drawn' the lettering or eroded the surface to which it was attached

The names have long since faded, rain and damp having 'drawn' the lettering or eroded the surface to which it was attached

... Ivy, thorns and weeds grow over headstones in abundance...

... Ivy, thorns and weeds grow over headstones in abundance...

... Some stones are open to the light where the cemetery backs on to houses in nearby Ridley Road, Forest Gate...

... Some stones are open to the light where the cemetery backs on to houses in nearby Ridley Road, Forest Gate...

... Others are spared the tendrils of ivy that have overgrown others, depending on the types of nearby trees. Visitors to their family graves may have abandoned their searches, moved away or emigrated...

... Others are spared the tendrils of ivy that have overgrown others, depending on the types of nearby trees. Visitors to their family graves may have abandoned their searches, moved away or emigrated...

A path was beaten and well-trodden to this grave and no further, the family of the woman buried here not put off by the effort needed to tend to her grave. The memorial stone and surrounds are fairly new although she died during the last year of WWI

A path was beaten and well-trodden to this grave and no further, the family of the woman buried here not put off by the effort needed to tend to her grave. The memorial stone and surrounds are fairly new although she died during the last year of WWI

Much of the lettering and numbers on this stone tell us the bare facts, deaths early in the 20th Century inter-war years. The undergrowth around has only taken root or claimed many of the memorials around the Millennium

Much of the lettering and numbers on this stone tell us the bare facts, deaths early in the 20th Century inter-war years. The undergrowth around has only taken root or claimed many of the memorials around the Millennium

There's a small wood on the western side of the cemetery, a naturally grown copse really..

... Memorial stones seem to vanish under layers of vines, thorns and tree roots, although there's a good crop of brambles to be had on the southern edge of this natural copse. A path has been well trodden to one memorial stone and surrounds that tell of a woman who died in 1918, and the mention of two others cremated since. The grave and surrounds look almost new, the inscriptions in good condition.

The path ends there but there is an older one that can be followed that leads away at a right angle back to one of the better defined roadways.

Gravestones stand amid the trees, out into the sunlight by the wall that backs onto houses in nearby Ridley Road (a number of the roads around here are named after Protestant martyrs, bishops burned by 'Bloody' Queen Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon).

Others lie flat, almost covered by roots, nettles, thorns. The ground is covered by ivy in many places, an eerie place you wouldn't want to be in the dark on a moonlit night ... or even a moonless night! Imagination can do strange things to the mind and I had a strange feeling as I left the trees on the eastern side of the copse toward the narrow roadway. A cemetery worker operated a digger on the other side of this road. Things are being done but the copse has been left untouched.

... And in close proximity of the encroaching trees...

Stones rest, sometimes cracked, sometimes broken across. You sometimes think maybe here it would benefit from a 'cloak' of ivy...

Stones rest, sometimes cracked, sometimes broken across. You sometimes think maybe here it would benefit from a 'cloak' of ivy...

... The stone memorial lies flat, the iron railings rusted, the top has been removed - it's said at times satanists enter these grounds as well as the City of London Cemetery not far away to the north of Newham

... The stone memorial lies flat, the iron railings rusted, the top has been removed - it's said at times satanists enter these grounds as well as the City of London Cemetery not far away to the north of Newham

Faint traces of the surrounding grave-top stonework can be made out, ferns and ivy are encroaching. The trees will be next unless the cemetery groundsmen work faster to keep it at bay...

Faint traces of the surrounding grave-top stonework can be made out, ferns and ivy are encroaching. The trees will be next unless the cemetery groundsmen work faster to keep it at bay...

... Often soft sandstone has been used - a token gesture toward the departed - but names and dates are lost to the extremes of summer and winter...

... Often soft sandstone has been used - a token gesture toward the departed - but names and dates are lost to the extremes of summer and winter...

Is the battle lost, or won? Pardon my paraphrasing of Shakespeare, but the background could soon be the foreground within months if the ferns, thorns and saplings are not removed.

Is the battle lost, or won? Pardon my paraphrasing of Shakespeare, but the background could soon be the foreground within months if the ferns, thorns and saplings are not removed.

As I walked along this road, back to the main thoroughfare that leads from the main gate to the chapel and crematorium I felt some relief.

It's just my imagination, I know, but I felt there was something there. More stones outside the copse lay jumbled, some broken. Ferns seemed to march from the copse to the roadway, gradually taking over that side. A grave, surmounted by low, rusting iron railing lay open enough to show the stone sides that overlay the bare earth. The grave had been filled in but still looked in a sorry state. As I came to the corner where the flower stall, the 'Flower Cabin' stood I passed where the last two children's graves lay close together, keeping each other company.

Question: Do I believe in ghosts? The jury's still out on that one. Put another way, I'm not tempted to dismiss them altogether. A walk through this cemetery with its memorial stones in good order along the way through to Whitta Road and Manor Park station leaves you with a feeling all's well in the world. Come away from the well-driven road, around the back, and the feeling leaves you uneasy.

These folk deserve better.


Comments

Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 17, 2020:

It is sad Bill, and then - as Charlene below says - that sort of neglect is more widespread than we'd expect. It's in private hands and, as shown in another page on Manor Park Cemetery and the nearby City of London Cemetery, there is an amount of 'show'. In the other Manor Park page I've shown the front row along the main thoroughfare with 'Jack' Cornwell's showpiece grave (cf) that features in local Remembrance Sunday services annually on November 11th.

The company that owns the cemetery now has embarked on a general clear-up, processing areas of neglect as has the City of London (owned by one of the richest bodies in the country, the 'Square Mile' established in the 1st Century AD by the Romans).

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 17, 2020:

That is profoundly sad, my friend, one of the saddest things I've seen in quite some time. You summed it up perfectly - they deserve better than that neglect.

My wife and I like to roam cemeteries from time to time, and I've never seen anything like what you just showed. It's beyond comprehension for me.

Charlene Gallant from Cape Town, South Africa on September 14, 2020:

We do have that sort of neglect as well Alan, but not at the public cemeteries, more so the private cemeteries and none as photogenic, I think. I have to admit I have not exactly roved a lot of cemeteries to be a good judge and I'm not sure ours have been used in any movies:)

Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 14, 2020:

Good to see you got here, Charlene. Welcome to 'Blighty'. Do you have this sort of neglect in SA? There are lots of cemeteries in this part of the world - and in my own neck of the woods, north near Middlesbrough, that could do with some TLC. Very photogenic nonetheless. Some in this borough have been turned into 'nature parks'.

The most famous one is Old Highgate Cemetery in North London, that's open a few times a year - in normal times - and was used in more than one Dracula film, notably "The Blood of Dracula" with Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.

Charlene Gallant from Cape Town, South Africa on September 14, 2020:

Always good to respect the dead...to remember the ones we loved and lost. Great article Alan. Thank you:)

Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on August 02, 2020:

There's always something you've never come across, Peggy. I can imagine if you've got a big family and the local boneyard shuts shop, you're left with a collection of your relatives' remains. you'd have to hope they'd have the nous to be cremated in the first place.

Keep safe ladies...

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 02, 2020:

It is always interesting to visit cemeteries, and I have seen well-tended ones, and also ones that seem neglected. In Germany, I learned that after a set number of years, the graves are either reused or something like a park, for instance, is made of the cemetery. Survivors have the option of collecting the bones of family members if they wish to do so.

Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on August 02, 2020:

You're welcome Heidi. I did a 'Storyline' page based on Old Highgate Cemetery not long ago if you're interested (there's the 'New' one as well, where Karl Marx was interred, with a monster of a bust of him on a massive chunk of stone). This place is eerie enough in winter though. Maybe I'll take some more pics in a few months' time...

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on August 02, 2020:

This place would be the inspiration for a thousand books! So many stories that could be woven from even the scant details these memorials show. Thanks so much for taking us on the tour!

Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on August 02, 2020:

There is a 'stream' of history Liz, with unlimited yesterdays. For these folk there were no tomorrows. Another side of the 'human condition': it's a one way road.

Fran, nice to 'see' you here. People have paid the cemetery owners good money over the years for the upkeep of their family's memorials. Not far from here, less than a mile north is the City of London Cemetery. A bill comes periodically for the upkeep of the small memorial and accompanying rose bush for our first son's ashes. When someone no longer pays their memorial plaque is removed and the plot becomes 'vacant'. Their small army of gardeners is everywhere, although they have neglected corners (I created a page for that cemetery some time ago). The condition for inclusion is the 'incumbent' or members of the family lived or worked in the Square Mile (the City of London, EC1- 4). In the case of Manor Park cemetery it's residents and family on the north-east corner of Newham, London East. There's also less money available.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on August 02, 2020:

Such a sad story about the neglect of our cemeteries. Although one must realize families have died, moved away or are unable to care for their family stones. Perhaps some volunteers need to make this a project for all cemeteries. I'm sorry to see such neglect but I also realize the cost to care for these cemeteries. Wish there was a solution. Thanks for your article.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 01, 2020:

This is a moving, interesting and vivid tour of the graveyard. It offers a mix of history and sadness to read the inscriptions, especially of lives cut short.