The full scale of the destruction taking place in Camberwell Old Cemetery has been revealed in a video released today by campaigners fighting to prevent Southwark Council from clearing trees and mounding over existing graves.
The video, which is available on YouTube, shows two acres of the Old Cemetery in East Dulwich stripped of hundreds of trees and all vegetation and reduced to bare earth.
Campaigners, who believe the cemeteries should be preserved as a nature reserve, hope the video helps show people the Super Cemetery planned by Southwark Council will destroy an area of natural beauty as well as obliterating the graves of tens of thousands of Londoners.
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“The Slow and Tragic Death of a Beautiful Victorian Cemetery”
"Although Southwark say they plan to preserve and even enhance existing biodiversity, this video shows the full scale of the destruction taking place in Camberwell Old Cemetery," said Save Southwark Woods spokesperson Blanche Cameron.
"A two acre Site of Importance for Nature Conservation has been razed to the ground. The Council clearly does not want people to realise this – which is why they have erected an enormous fence around the area cleared.”
Camberwell Old Cemetery was opened in 1856 as out-of-town overflow for the Parish of Camberwell, St Giles. In the 1990s the Old Cemetery was declared full and the gates closed and it became an inner city haven for wildlife and people.
Now the Council has opened the gates again – to the diggers and chainsaws. They plan to fell around 12 acres of woods in total and mound over or excavate every grave over 75 years old for new burial plots.
“The Slow and Tragic Death of a Beautiful Victorian Cemetery” painfully documents in less than 2 minutes Southwark’s sacrifice of 2 acres of the Old Cemetery’s woods, meadows and memorials.
Death by a thousand chainsaw cuts
Now the woods and meadows have been razed, they are being cleared of all historic and personal memorials. 12,000 tonnes of soil are to be excavated and new roads put in for 740 new private graves, obliterating the graves of 48,000 of London’s poor.
Save Southwark Woods is calling for families with relatives buried in Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries to speak out against Southwark’s destruction.
“I think this video shows the scale of the project and the damage Southwark has done so far.” said Blanche Cameron. “Unfortunately, there is a lot more destruction to come.”
“There are still nine or ten acres of woods to be saved along with all the old graves. This is the inner city and we need all the woods and trees we can get. All of London’s Victorian Cemeteries should be preserved like Highgate, Tower Hamlets, Brompton and Nunhead Cemeteries have been. Their nature and heritage have immense value to London.”
“Is this the legacy that MP Harriet Harman wants to leave her constituency? Is this how Southwark Council Leader Peter John wants to be remembered? Ecological and historical vandalism? Felling inner city woods for burial plots?”
If you have someone buried in Camberwell Old or New Cemeteries and are concerned, please contact Save Southwark Woods who are helping families get information from the Council.
Save Southwark Woods
Below: Two acres of Area Z woods at Camberwell Old Cemetery after and before felling hundreds of trees at this Site of Importance for Nature Conservation