Inventory Site Record

Camberwell Old Cemetery

Camberwell Old Cemetery (Southwark)

Brief Description

Camberwell Cemetery was opened in 1856 by Camberwell Burial Board, at that time the area was surrounded by fields. The cemetery originally had 3 chapels, none of which remains although the gothic entrance lodge still stands. Its layout was planned on picturesque principles with winding paths. It was enlarged in 1874 but there was a great shortage of burial space and by the late C19th it was in a deplorable and neglected state. It was renamed Camberwell Old Cemetery when the Camberwell New Cemetery was opened in 1927 and the majority of burials now take place there.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Camberwell Cemetery
Site location:
Underhill Road, East Dulwich
SE22 0SQ
Type of site:
Open to public?
Opening times:
1 April-30 Sept: Mon-Fri 8.30am - 5pm; Sat 8.30am-7pm. Sun/BH 10am-7pm. 1 Oct-31 Mar: closes at 5pm. Xmas day 10am-2pm.
Special conditions:
Public transport:
London Overground: Honor Oak Park. Bus: 63, 122, 171, 172, 484, P2, P3, P4, P12.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Camberwell Cemetery was one of the five cemeteries set up between 1854 and 1856 under the Burials (Beyond the Limits of the Metropolis) Act, 15 and 16 Vic. c.85, and other Acts Incorporated therewith'. The churchyard of the parish church of St Giles (q.v.) was one of the many churchyards that had become short of space and in 1855 the newly established Camberwell Burial Board purchased 30 acres of meadowland for its Burial Ground of St Giles, Camberwell. The cemetery laid out for £17,200. It originally had three chapels, the Church of England and the Nonconformist chapels designed by George Gilbert Scott, who had earlier designed Camberwell parish church of St Giles (q.v.), and the third a Roman Catholic chapel. The Church of England and nonconformist chapels were demolished following WWII bomb damage, and the Roman Catholic chapel remained until the 1970s. Only the gothic Gate Lodge survives of the original buildings. The cemetery was described as being 'eminently picturesque' when it opened but it had degenerated into a disorderly and uncared for cemetery by the end of the century. Although it had been enlarged in 1874, space was so short that graves were dug in the cemetery's paths and roads. Scandalous stories in the local press spoke of 'the poor tumbled into holes like so many dogs', a proliferation of rats, common graves that were left open for weeks and complaints that the health of neighbourhood children suffered.

In 1927 Camberwell New Cemetery (q.v.) opened, and this cemetery was renamed Camberwell Old Cemetery. Woodland has developed in the north-west area where sycamore dominates although there are other native trees such as ash, oak, hornbeam, hawthorn, white willow, yew, sallow, horse chestnut and poplar among a dense undergrowth, the graves barely visible.

Among those buried are James Berkeley (d.1862), trained by Robert Stephenson, he became chief engineer of railways in Western India and built the first railway line there; his monument cost £3,000 and was erected by public subscription; Rebekah Horniman (d.1895) wife of F J Horniman who founded the Horniman Museum (q.v.) in Forest Hill; George Yanni (d.1903) convicted of murdering three Armenians who are themselves also buried at Camberwell, 'as part of political intrigue involving the Armenian Club in Peckham Rye, which was a front for a secret society dedicated to freeing Armenia from Turkish rule' (Meller); Charles Waters (d.1910), founder of the International Bible Reading Association in 1882. A fine monument to Lord Rodney with a life-size soldier was demolished by vandals in 1980. There is a WWI War Memorial near the entrance and a memorial to members of the public who were killed by a Zeppelin was erected in c.1920.

Sources consulted:

John Archer, Bob Britton, Robert Burley, Tony Hare, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Southwark' Ecology Handbook 12, London Ecology Unit, 1989; Hugh Meller & Brian Parsons, 'London Cemeteries, An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer', 4th edition (The History Press, 2008); John Beasley, 'Southwark Remembered', Tempus Publishing, 2001; Ron Woollacott, 'Southwark's Burying Places, Past and Present', Magdala Terrace Nunhead Local History publication, 2001; Southwark Listed Buildings data

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Southwark
Site management:
Listed structures:
LBII: Lodge; gates, piers and railings on Forest Hill Road; monument to Charles Waters; James John Berkeley chest tomb; monument to Zeppelin victims; monument to Rebekah Horniman
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance I
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Cemeteries, Tier Two. Green Chain Walk

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