7 January 2011

Death duties

I went to a funeral earlier this week at St Marylebone Crematorium in East Finchley.
Not the jolliest of subjects I know, and I did promise earlier this week to post about some more positive things, but this was a lovely Humanist service and all about the life of our dear dead friend including a few poems and poignant (actually amusing) music. No hymns, no religion. Everyone there thought it was a wonderful send-off.
It was a far cry from how it was in Victorian times, especially after the death of Queen Victoria, when people were encouraged to save and plan for 'the right kind of burial' which might include horses with feathers, pall bearers, even mutes, who were sad looking people who could be hired to stand silent for hours looking grieved. It was understood that the more you paid the more you cared. There were also strict codes on what one should wear and for how long that ought to be depending on the relationship to the deceased.
It became a very lucrative business as people tried to out-do each other. And check out theses strange customs and superstitions from that period.
These days the lovely old funeral parlour shop fronts in our high streets, complete with cut glass, gold lettering ironic clocks, probably make up a huge percentage of the handful of Victorian shops left in London.
Death is the only certainty of life and so this trade will never really be out of fashion.
Top row: Malden Rd, Tottenham, New Cross, Willesden
Middle row: Hoxton, Finsbury, Walthamstow, Kentish Town
Bottom row: Bloomsbury, Willesden (ghostsign), Hoxton, Limehouse (any news on this place greatly appreciated... it was closed for years and last seen looks like this fabulous frontage may be heading for the wrecking ball...)
See all these here.


  1. The necropolis railway from Waterloo to Brookwood in Surrey is worth a look. Built by the Victorians to cope with the 19th Century population explosion it was a line and station just for the deceased. What a cool idea

  2. Yes, I recently read a novel based on the funeral industry and the Necropolis Railway called Fallen Grace, by Mary Hooper
    I found it a great holiday read. I did wonder at the time of reading that it was a bit teenage in places and checking the author notes now it reads, "Mary has been writing book for young adults...". It is a very easy read with large print in the style of 'Ruby in the Dust' so I expect it'll end up as a drama on TV.
    And now I'm off to watch some more wonderful Horrible Histories...

  3. The second photo bottom row is one of those places (never opened) that I really want to go inside. Every time I pass by they always have these amazing objects in sale but also are NEVER OPEN. Lovely post as well.


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