West Norwood Cemetery Catacombs

Useful Information

Location: West Norwood Cemetery,
Open: On certain occasions.
Classification: SubterraneaCatacombs
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Address: Friends of West Norwood Cemetery (FOWNC), Publicity Officer, Paul Graham, Flat 4, 9 St Andrews Road, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 4DT, Tel: +44-20-8287-6976 .
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The West Norwood Cemetery is rather famous, as it was the resting place of famous, important and rich people of London for a long time. It even became a sort of a tourist destination during the Victorian age. The Episcopalian Chapel, which once existen on the cemetry is gone, but a small building on the same place is the entrance to the catacombs of the cemetry. The catacombs are is a dilapidated condition, which means the coffins and shelves, not the vaults. The officials do not open them on a regular basis for this reason, but there are numerous special events throughout the year when it is possible to visit the catacombs.

The coffins were brought into the underground vaults with a lift or catafalque, installed by Bramah & Robinson in 1839. It was operated by hydraulics and was very silent, in respect for the dead. This lift is still largely intact but it is derelict and unusable. It is located in the central isle, righ beneath a staircase, both leading up to the Episcopal Chapel above. As the chapel does not exist any more, the lift opening in the ceiling and the staicase are both bocked now.

The burial in a catacomb is, while underground, not in the earth. By law all such burials must be in lead lined coffins.

The bad condition of the catacombs is mainly because of water. The river Effra, once ran underground below Norwood Cemetery. It has been re-routed twice and today it is pied, but still the catacombs have problems with flooding. Another problem is rainwater from above, which seeps through the ceiling into the vaults. A building would protect the catacombs from rainwater, ad the chapel once did.