Cemetery Railway

Cemetery Railway
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The Brookwood Cemetery Railway

An unusual feature of Brookwood Cemetery was that it had its own private railway running through the grounds. The main reason for this was that the Cemetery was over 25 miles from central London, and the only convenient method of transporting coffins and mourners was by the London & South Western Railway. The funeral trains began to operate from 13 November 1854 when the Cemetery opened to the public. 

Entrance to the London Necropolis Company's private station, 121 Westminster Bridge RoadA private Necropolis terminus was provided just outside Waterloo station (see photograph on the left). The original station (1854-1902) was located between York Street (now Leake Street) and the Westminster Bridge Road. This station was replaced by a more extensive building in 1902. This was due to the complete reconstruction of Waterloo Station. The original terminus was demolished at about this time. 

The new station was located at 121 Westminster Bridge Road and continued to provide railway funeral traffic until the station was bombed on the night of 16-17th April 1941. More information about the destruction of the London station may be found on The Historyplace Website. The terminus was never rebuilt after the Second World War although the entrance at 121 still survives (see photo). Some further photos of this station can be seen here.

The funeral trains ran from this private station, down the railway company's main line, and was then reversed into the Cemetery grounds at Brookwood. The trains ran once a day, assuming that funerals were booked to take place. The Sunday service ceased after October 1900. Thereafter the trains operated largely on an "as required" basis. By the 1930s they were running at most twice a week. The service was never reinstated after the Second World War, and the track in the Cemetery was removed c1947-48. 

The site of South Station, Brookwood Cemetery, in August 1976In the Cemetery grounds two private stations were provided, one for each main portion of the burial ground. "North" station served the Nonconformist sections (nearest the main railway line), whilst "South" station served the Anglican sections (close to the A322). After calling at North Station, the railway crossed Cemetery pales (the road which runs through the Cemetery grounds) on a level crossing. 

North Station was demolished sometime in the 1960s due to dry rot. South Station survived as the "South Bar", providing refreshments to visitors until it was closed in c.1967. The building was burned down in September 1972. The photograph (above right) shows the surviving platform of South Station as it was in August 1976.

The trackbed of the railway may still be followed through the grounds, and the Society organises guided walks following this route during the course of the year. 

You can read more about the cemetery railway in an article by Paul Slade and there is another article here. Radio 4 broadcast a thirty minute documentary "One Way to the Necropolis" on the cemetery railway on Monday 7th February 2005 at 8.30pm.

There is a useful virtual tour of the railway route here. However this link currently covers only the former Nonconformist section of the railway.

My book, The Brookwood Necropolis Railway, gives a more detailed history of the cemetery railway. It is published by Oakwood Press and is available from the Cemetery Society or the publishers, or from any good bookshop.

John Clarke

Photographs John Clarke

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This site was last updated 06-11-07 The Brookwood Cemetery Society