Last week I visited the University of Winchester to talk to a lecturer about my masters degree. I was worried that my teaching degree might not be accepted as an adequate "related subject" for an MA in death. Luckily, the lecturer was really positive, recommending some summer reading and even said "I'll see you in September" so that sounds promising! The next day, I was travelling to my brother's in Manchester and happened to drive past Southern Cemetery. Well, you know me. I couldn't resist! It's research for my degree, I swear!
Covering almost 100 hectares, Southern Cemetery holds claim to the UK's largest cemetery (even though Brookwood Cemetery is twice the size) and is one of the Victorian necropolises that I love so much, opening in 1879.
I've never seen these tree branch-style headstones before but they are in abundance here. I can't find any information about them but I'd love to find out more.
Like Brookwood and other large cemeteries such as Pere Lachaise, the cemetery has named avenues running through it, which makes it easy to locate specific graves. Some of notable burials here include the artist Lowry and John Rylands, whose library I visited last time I was in Manchester.
No, not that Florence Nightingale!
This tree is stained red. Creepy, right?
I found this really sad. The yellow card and sticker warn that the headstone is unstable and the owner of the grave is responsible for the upkeep. As the most recent burial was 1936, I wonder if there is anybody who still visits. The unused space for future names is poignant too.
In fact, there were a lot of monuments with unfilled space. I usually see a couple when I'm exploring but here they seemed to be everywhere. Harry Loseby died aged 44 in 1933 and the memorial is dedicated to "my darling husband". I wonder what happened to Mrs Loseby.
The website unhelpfully lists the opening hours as "dawn until dusk" so I had no idea what time the cemetery would be locked. As it's so huge, there was a real danger that I would be locked in as the sun began to set but it looked so pretty!
You don't see many good old-fashioned R.I.P.s
What I found really interesting about Southern Cemetery is that, unlike other Victorian cemeteries, most of the headstones are very simple. Back in the late 19th century, it was generally expected that you would memorialise your loved ones with the most extravagant monument possible so it's interesting that there are so few statues and obelisks here.
Another incongruity of Southern Cemetery is that the headstones all face different directions. Contrary to the tradition of Christian graves facing east, the memorials here seem to follow no set pattern. There is a "block" of graves facing the same direction, but across the avenue, they're facing the complete opposite way. What's more, those graves that line the avenues face inwards, towards you as you walk down them. Southern Cemetery is non-denominational so perhaps this is why but I need to explore further and see if I can find out.
Finally, I leave you with this. I like to think it's a message to God.
It's a shame I didn't get enough time to explore Southern Cemetery properly. Next time I head up to Manchester, I'll devote a good couple of hours to it!