Its lovely Grade II* listed monuments had been erected in reminiscence of main members of the Greek group in Nineteenth-century London, however the graves in West Norwood cemetery are actually in a dire state of neglect – with one decaying casket not too long ago photographed coated in a thick layer of pigeon droppings, with a limb protruding.
Lambeth council, which compulsorily bought the cemetery greater than 50 years in the past, not too long ago withdrew safety to economize and campaigners are calling for pressing motion to guard listed monuments from wreck.
Prof Bob Flanagan, an educational at London University and chairman of the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery (FoWNC), instructed the Guardian that this was no option to deal with the useless. “It’s disrespectful and surprising,” he mentioned.
“It’s additionally a well being and security hazard for folks strolling spherical the cemetery. In some situations, coffins are uncovered and there is perhaps accidents with folks falling into decayed vaults.”
The south London cemetery consists of the Hellenic Necropolis, a few of whose Grade II* monuments are on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.
Dr Victoria Solomonidis-Hunter, a Greek-British affiliate lecturer at University College London, mentioned she has been greatly surprised by each the fantastic thing about the monuments and their “heart-breaking state of decay”.
She mentioned: “One of the most lovely monuments is that of the Vagliano Brothers, who – amongst different main works – funded the National Library of Greece in the late Nineteenth century. The monument is a copy of the Tower of the Winds [erected in Athens about 100-50BC]. It is in a dangerous want of restoration. Pigeon droppings inside are 70cm excessive.”
In March, she was shocked to study that the monument had been vandalised, having already suffered the theft of its unique door, and that the hardboard masking the entrance had been damaged, leaving the two caskets in full view. “One of them was open, by way of decay, with a limb protruding,” she mentioned.
Although a stonemason working close by boarded up the monument, this had been the third vandalism in the enclosure in a few days.
Solomonidis-Hunter, a former cultural attache in the Greek embassy in London, responded to the trigger by changing into a FoWNC trustee: “Unfortunately, if nothing is completed, we concern that this wave of vandalism goes to proceed.”
Flanagan mentioned the Vagliano monument was “a complete mess“. “Lambeth council doesn’t appear to have the means to take motion. They have eliminated the safety guard from weekends, with out session, to economize. That means monuments are at better threat.”
Work is about to start on the cemetery, following a grant of £4.6m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and a additional £2.1m from Lambeth council and FoWNC.
But campaigners are shocked that historic graves have been uncared for for therefore lengthy and that there’s concern about how far the funds will stretch as repairs to the Grade II* listed St Stephens Chapel alone are set to price greater than £1m and solely three of the Hellenic monuments are earmarked for restoration.
The octagonal Vagliano mausoleum at West Norwood Cemetery, modelled on the historic Tower of the Winds in Athens. This monument alone would price £60,000 to restore
The Vagliano mausoleum just isn’t amongst them. It alone would price about £60,000 to restore. Panayis Vagliano, a Greek service provider and shipowner, constructed it for his brother, Marinos, who was interred there in 1896, and Panayi too was buried there in 1902.
The South Metropolitan Cemetery at Norwood, based in 1837, was purchased by the London Borough of Lambeth in 1966 and renamed West Norwood Cemetery. Historic England notes that it “accommodates an excellent assortment of Nineteenth and early twentieth century funerary monuments”. The cemetery consists of the household grave of Mary Zambaco, the lover of the artist Edward Burne-Jones.
While a Lambeth council supply noticed that the normal rule at most cemeteries is that the repairs of particular person memorials is the duty of the grave house owners, an official spokesperson mentioned: “West Norwood Cemetery is a historic and valued asset and the council has invested closely in sustaining and enhancing it for the advantage of the complete of the borough. We are embarking subsequent month on a multimillion-pound restoration challenge, which is able to embrace important funding in the Hellenic enclosure.”