I didn’t know that there was an old pet cemetery just off Shooters Hill Road near the Charlton Lido until I received an e-mail from Kathy at the Friends of Shrewsbury Park about the Pet Cemetery’s friends group. The friends group are looking for volunteers to help with a clean-up day on Sunday April 21st from 11am-4pm.
It’s not surprising I’d missed it because the cemetery is tucked away near Hornfair Park, but not accessible from the park. Although the walled and fenced area needs a little bit of care and attention it’s a calm, secluded place, and studded with a number of poignant, small pet gravestones from the 1930s and 40s. Several of the gravestones commemorate the pets as “Our Pal”, or “My Chum” and they all include their names – Ikkety Man, Flossie, Rags, Sadie, Kiki, Queenie, Barney – but not necessarily what kind of animal it was. Flossie’s seemed especially sad, with its epitaph:
From six weeks old we had her
But age crept on with time
A dear old girl that we loved so well
She will always be in our minds
Flossie was about 16 years old when she died in June 1939.
Another gravestone with letters eroded by the years, about a dog called Simba, recorded the animal’s 12 years of military service, with the 93rd, at home and in Jamaica, China and India. I wonder if the 93rd is a reference to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders?
Kathy’s e-mail included the following information from the friends:
A community group has been set up, as a non-profit organisation, to enable the Pet Cemetery to be restored and maintained for all to enjoy.
Approximately 80 years ago, kennels were organised by the Blue Cross who ensured that the pets and working dogs of service men and women would have a safe haven while their owners were on active duty during the WWII. The kennels were also a place where injured animals were taken – especially those dogs that were used on the Front Line. There was also a cemetery here for animals that either did not survive, or simply died of old age. This place enabled service men and women to give a well-deserved resting place for their beloved pets.
There are over 240 gravestones, and some of the dogs buried here received medals for their service during WWII. The site is therefore of historical importance.
The cemetery is little known about, and less loved than it was back then, and this is why the Friends of the Pet Cemetery Group (FOPC) hope to improve the site, and make it a special place.
The group will also promote the area as a visitor attraction, encourage links with community groups, schools, colleges and other organisations to ultimately achieve a memorial garden for working animals and local pets to be remembered.
We will have a clean-up day on Sunday April 21st from 11am-4pm, to which all are welcome. The cemetery cannot be accessed from the park itself, but via the entrance on Shooters Hill, (just by the footbridge, and opposite ‘The Fox Under the Hill’).
We are also in the process of arranging an Open Day, and more details about this will be given in a newsletter to be produced later.
Contact details for the group: firstname.lastname@example.org (Secretary); Toni Hale (Chairperson) 07786 895 799. If you would like to become a member (subscription £2), please contact either of the above committee members.
We are also on Facebook – ‘Pet Cemetery Group Charlton’, and Twitter: @FOPC Group.