Walks in South-London churchyards
Sophie Marton

  After the first article, where we explored some of the finest North London churchyards, we now change direction, and are heading for South of the Thames.  

   In this article I'm going to guide you through a couple of churchyards in the south. Of course, as it wasn't the intention in my previous article, it isn't now either to introduce all; only a selected few.
The ideas, the thoughts are the same as in any churchyard, only we might wonder whether the fact that those people lived in the South might have resulted in a slightly different lifestyle from those living in the North.
  Some of my walks led me along beautiful historic places of south-West London, such as Richmond, Twickenham, and some other destinations were on the other, south-eastern side of the city.
The South-western area is rich of beautiful country palaces, riverside locations, like Ham House, Strawberry Hill, Orleans House(which now houses a gallery), Chiswick Palace, Syon Park, Pope`s Grotto and so forth. But it has lots of lovely churchyards as well.
One is near Orleans House and Strawberry Hill House, in Twickenham, called St Mary the Virgin church. The little street leading to and from the church is another fine example of a little village in the heart of London, a beautiful tiny street with colourful houses, pubs and flowers hanging on the walls, just a minute far from the Thames itself, where a little bridge which bends above the river, gives a picturesque view of the church tower. The churchyard itself is not big but it`s rather cosy (as it is). It has a connection with the famous 17th-century writer, Alexander Pope, who lived in a nearby house in Twickenham. He is buried in the church, and interestingly, on the wall outside, there is the gravestone for the nanny of Pope. It can be read on the stone: “To the memory of Mary Beach, who died Nov 5,1725 aged 78 Alex.Pope whom she nursed in his infancy and constantly attended for thirty eight years In gratitude to a faithful old servant erected this stone”


   As the river is flowing very near to the church, and a little street almost opposite the churchyard is bearing the name “Flood lane”, we wonder if the churchyard has ever been inundated by the Thames. Now it has strong walls protecting the graveyard, but it would be interesting to know if this was always the case?

 If we head towards Richmond, we can find near the bus station another significant graveyard, called St Mary and Magdalene. I remember seeing this church when I was first time visiting London  eight years ago. We were travelling towards Richmond Park by a local bus, and I have seen a somehow darkish, abandoned-looking graveyard, at a time when I knew hardly anything about English burial places. For a while I wanted to revisit and find out what was this place I have glanced from the bus years ago.
  And now, revisiting it had more than just a darkish outlook, though that`s for sure, one side of the graveyard is rather shadowed by trees and is darker, and the field on the other side of the path, at the other walls of the church look brighter, though that side has only one or two graves. There is a cosy alleyway leading towards Richmond High Street, which makes the whole place more like an 18th century town.
  In the church itself is buried Edmund Kean, the famous 18th century Shakespeare-actor, and there are other elaborated and memorable monuments to local families. At the time of my visit, the Sunday Evensong was just to begin, the twilight has just fallen, and walking along those little alleyways with some of the gravestones lighting with their whiteness in the dark, was somehow a mysterious and divine experience. For me, listening to a choral church music while outside, walking amongst the graves, instead of sitting inside can be a more uplifting and spiritually enriching, asking whether which music would be loud and heart-rending enough for those buried six feet deep to wake up and tell about their journey over there...

 

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