Hallowe’en is the perfect time to visit a cemetery; besides, I never did get to go on a proper tour of Tower Hamlets. So I was happy to book a place on the All Hallow’s Eve by Lamplight tour, run by the Cemetery Club.
We gathered at the entrance by the war memorial and collected some lanterns to take with us on our walk. And we needed them – there are no other lights in the cemetery, and even with the lanterns it was pretty dark. (I apologise for the poor quality of these photographs – I tried with and without flash and they were both pretty dire). Our guides escorted us round the cemetery, stopping at various points to tell us about various notable people buried here.
- Dr Rees Ralph Llewellyn – A doctor who performed the autopsy on Mary Ann Nichols, generally considered the first victim of Jack the Ripper
- John Northey, who died in the Princess Alice disaster of 1878
- Emily Coombes, murdered by her thirteen-year-old son Robert in a case that shocked Victorian England, recently the subject of a book by Kate Summerscale
- Alfred Linnel – Trampled by a police horse during the 1887 ‘Bloody Sunday’ demonstration in Trafalgar Square; his funeral was organised by Annie Besant and William Morris
- Major John Buckley VC – soldier and one of the first recipients of the Victoria Cross, a controversial figure who demonstrated both great bravery and profound cruelty
- Charlie Brown – legendary publican of the Railway Tavern
- Victims of the 1943 Bethnal Green tragedy
- Alexander ‘Alec’ Hurley – Singer and comedian, second husband of Marie Lloyd
Towards the end of the tour we enjoyed some soul cakes of the kind eaten at Victorian Hallowe’en – they were baked to an original Victorian recipe and were yummy – spicy and delicious. We learned about nineteenth century Hallowe’en traditions and superstitions.
Finally, we were treated to an original Victorian music hall song, originally sung by Alexander Hurley, and based on a real event involving a strongman defeated by a daring rival.
Sadly I didn’t see any bats on the walk – perhaps because they were all frightened off by the fireworks. However it was a fascinating and atmospheric walk.