Necropolis Line

London has several transport links, but did you know that there was one that used to carry dead people and their mourners?

The London Necropolis Railway was opened in 1854 and carried coffins from the Waterloo station to Brookwood cemetery. There were separate hearse cars for Anglicans and Dissenters, and three classes of carriage for the living and the dead.

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A First Class corpse received a higher level of customer care and nicely decorated carriage. Trains ran straight into the cemetery grounds, there were two stations, each for different parts of the cemetery, North for Dissenters and South for Anglicans, adjacent to the corresponding chapels. The South Station was licensed and in addition for funeral parties, offered afternoon tea to visitors strolling in the cemetery, it also operated as a pub, which did much to reconcile the locals to the giant cemetery on their doorstep.

Brookwood received the dead from overcrowded London parishes, in a series of subdivisions, many of which resemble old-fashioned churchyards with their hedges and lynch-gates. As well as accomodating Anglicans and Dissenters, Brookwood was one of the first cemeteries in Britain to offer burial facilities to Muslims and Sikhs.

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The two stations in the cemetery were demolished during the 1960s and the ruins later caught fire. The tracks were long since lifted away to be melted or reused elsewhere. In London, the entrance building to the private station at 121 Westminster Bridge Road remains largely intact, but the name Necropolis Cemetery Station that was once inscribed is no longer there.

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I love living in London, so many unusual things to discover that make a weirdo like me very happy!

Elle. xx

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Creepy Fact #9: Buried Alive

Sometimes creepiest tales and urban legends really happened to real people, proving once and for all that nothing is more terrifying than everyday life.

The famous urban legend goes that a person is committed to his or her eternal resting place, even though they aren’t quite ready to take that final rest. Scratch marks are later found on the coffin lid along with other desperate signs of escape.

Apparently, this not only happened, but back in the day it happened with alarming regularity. In the late 19th century, William Tebb tried to compile all the instances of premature burial from medical sources of the day. He managed to collect 219 cases of near-premature burial, 149 cases of actual premature burial and a dozen cases where dissection or embalming had begun on a not-yet-deceased body. The general fear of premature burial led to the invention of many safety devices which could be incorporated into coffins, most consisted of some type of device for communication to the outside world such as a cord attached to a bell that the interred person could ring should he revive after the burial.

Unfortunately safety coffins aren’t in “vogue” anymore, so if you’re at the cemetery and hear a voice from the underground it might be a good idea to inform someone with a shovel… quickly.

Little note: Folk-etymology has suggested that the phrases “saved by the bell”, “dead ringer” and “graveyard shift” come from the use of safety coffins in the Victorian Era. (source)

Creepy Fact #6: “Victorian” Skittles.

Victorian England was a time and place where creepiness ruled pretty much all aspects of everyday life, which is why I love this era a lot. One creepy part of Victorian times was the subject of death, Victorians had a very particular and strong relationship wiht it (-HERE– you can find a post that I wrote about Victorians) and somehow they managed to make it just a bit weirder.

The graveyards and burial-grounds of early nineteenth-century London, full to the brim with human remains, presented many a grisly spectacle. Demand vastly exceeded supply when it came to finding space to bury the dead. The method used for the disposing of bodies was a burial in small, urban church yards, burial grounds, or vaults. It wasn’t an uncommon sight to find 20 coffins in a single grave, all stacked on top of each other.

This brought greedy gravediggers to disturb, dismember, and destroy corpses as a way to make room for new bodies. It was pretty common to find bones and rotting body parts scattered around graveyards as a result of careless, callous gravediggers. But here the situation gets a lot more weird: gravediggers reportedly used to play a game called Skittles, a precursors to modern day bowling, with the bones of the deceased. A behaviour like this was just another symptom of graveyard overcrowding during Victorian times.

‘I’ll cleave you from the skull to the twist, and make nine skittles of thy bones”

Elle. x