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Southwark to Evict its Dead to Bury Other Boroughs’ Dead

12 January 2016

One of Largest Exhumation Programmes in British History To Make Camberwell Cemeteries London’s Graveyard

“Rest in Peace” – But Not Forever

‘New’ Plots To Be Sold To Anyone From Anywhere

Save Southwark Woods Campaign Wants Graves Preserved, Cemeteries Declared Nature Reserves

In Southwark, even the dead aren’t safe from Council sell-offs.

In what might be the UK’s largest programme of exhumation ever, Southwark Council wants to excavate thousands of London’s dead at the Camberwell Cemeteries, to sell off as ‘new’ burial plots.

Families are to be given a heartbreaking choice – pay to keep loved ones in the ground, or see them dug up, their headstone removed and their grave sold off.

Southwark intends to take advantage of a 2005 law which allows graves sold in perpetuity to have their rights extinguished after 75 years and the plots “re-used”.

“The council’s cemetery strategy prioritises the re-use and reclamation of public and private graves (the law states that any grave older than 75 years can be re-used for burial).”

Southwark Council’s Cemetery Strategy…

“Re-use” and “reclamation” are Council euphemisms for the practice of excavating bodies, disposing of headstones, tombstones or memorials to bury someone else there instead.

Council Leader Peter John OBE claims he wants to provide burial for “local hard-working families”. But he is in fact preparing to dig up the graves of other local hard-working families already buried there.

The woods and graves of Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries – almost 100 acres – will be transformed into NCP Car Park-style burial plots in a Thatcherite asset sell-off, and the ‘new’ plots sold to anyone from anywhere.

This will not be “local graves for local people” as the Council has been claiming, but “local people’s graves stolen for the burial of other people from other Boroughs”.

New recently sold burial plots on Woodvale side of Camberwell Old Cemetery, created by mounding over the graves of thousands of London's poor - waterlogged this January
New recently sold burial plots on Woodvale side of Camberwell Old Cemetery, created by mounding over the graves of thousands of London’s poor – waterlogged this January

Nor is it a matter of just bringing in the JCBs. Exhumation of graves is an extremely sensitive and delicate operation – not least ensuring proper public consultation, contacting families and an exacting exhumation process required by the Church. Yet, at a time when budgets are being slashed, the Council has agreed this unprecedented exhumation plan without any detailed costings or cost benefit analysis with alternatives.

Other options include burial at a cemetery in nearby Bromley at a fraction of the cost, without having to kick someone’s gran out of the ground.

“People are furious. Southwark Council has absolutely no respect for the dead or their families,” said Blanche Cameron, Save Southwark Woods spokesperson. “Generations are buried in these cemeteries. Southwark Council wants to act like a ruthless property developer, excavating people from their ‘final resting place’ to sell to anyone who will pay for it. It’s cruel and it’s wrong and people won’t stand for it. Peter John’s OBE should stand for “Order of the Bulldozer and Excavator for Services to Undertakers”.

Most families are unaware of the Council’s plans. Save Southwark Woods is trying to reach everyone with family buried in the Camberwell Cemeteries to let them know.

Campaigners are asking people to tell friends and relatives to object to the Council, write to the local press, and write to the Diocese of Southwark who have the power to agree or reject Southwark’s plans.

And contact us to help save the graves, memorials, woods, nature and beauty of the Camberwell Cemeteries.

Save Southwark Woods!