Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

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Things to do


Date of travel

April, 2021

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According to Time Out a good spot to find spring bluebells was the “Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park”:, in East London. Despite working in the area many years ago, I’d never heard of it, so a little research was required before setting off. We discovered that Tower Hamlets was one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries as they became known. We’d also visited “Abney Park”: in Stoke Newington several times.

The nearest tube station was Mile End, one I’d used regularly for two years, and it was a 10-minute walk from there. As you approach you wonder slightly whether you’re on the right track as the cemetery is surrounded by both high, and low rise, residential developments. At the entrance, we found the Soanes Centre and although it wasn’t fully open, a young volunteer kindly found us not only a map but change from a fiver (the maps are £1). Although you can download a “map”: onto your phone, we found it much easier to use a paper map especially as it was a gloriously sunny day. She told us we’d chosen a good time of year for our visit as there were not only bluebells, but many other species of wildflower. She said it as the last of the Magnificent Seven to be built and was the poor relation to the more famous Highgate which boasts the grave of Karl Marx. By the time it was established and consecrated in 1841 many of those with money had moved from the area and so apart from a number of graves at the entrance, many belong to the working classes.

The Heritage Trail is well marked by a series of 21 purple posts which point you in the right direction and we found it pretty easy, to follow. Amongst other parts, they took us around a circle, which had been a turning point when hearses were horse drawn.

I won’t describe each of the areas as the full details can be accessed via the map and trail notes but we looked out for Masonic graves (denoted by the Masonic compass), a brick memorial commemorating 190 Poplar residents killed in the Blitz and the distinctively shaped graves of the Charterhouse Brothers.

With the help of the map, we managed to find most of the sights mentioned apart from the French graves which were a legacy of the Australian Gold Rush and others remembering the Bethnal Green tube station disaster in 1943 when 173 people were crushed whilst try to enter the station.

It was relatively quiet, although we did keep crossing paths with a couple of ladies doing the same as us and we eventually caught up with them on one of the many benches having a lunchtime picnic, complete with Bucks Fizz to celebrate a 60th birthday. The park is also obviously a popular dog walking spot for residents of the surrounding buildings.

The bluebells and wildflowers were beautiful in the spring sunshine and there were huge clumps of wild garlic and signs about foraging. Towards the end of our visit, we came across a path lined with bright red tulips which really stood out amongst the blue and yellow shades.

We spent nearly two hours in the cemetery, but it would be easy to spend longer.

Helen Jackson

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