Pet Cemetery Open Day

The Friends of the Pet Cemetery Open Day2016 poster

The Friends of the Pet Cemetery are holding their first open day on Saturday 20th August 2016 from 11.00 am to 4.00 pm. Liz, the Friends’ Chair, wrote with details and with an update on their achievements to date. They will have various stalls including a toy tombola, Blackheath Pet Supplies, a quiz and a children’s stall. There will also be an opportunity to learn more about the history of the Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery and browse the pet memorials.

There seem to be more improvements at the pet cemetery every time I drop in. The most notable recent changes are the new circular benches around the trees in the cemetery, funded by a grant from the Metropolitan Parks and Gardens Association and installed by Eltham  Men in Sheds, and a trellis arch with a stone seat funded by the Greenwich Community Projects Scheme. The garden beds have also benefitted from hard work and lots of new plants, and more of the old memorials to deceased pets have been cleaned up. They have also recently completed mapping the memorial stones and have put up a notice board at the entrance to the cemetery.

The Pet Cemetery Charlton showing the new Benches around the trees
View of the Pet Cemetery showing the new Benches around the trees
New decorative arch and stone bench at the Pet Cemetery Charlton
New decorative arch and stone bench at the Pet Cemetery Charlton

The most interesting part of the pet cemetery to me is the old memorials and the enigmatic stories hinted at by their inscriptions. One that I noticed when I first visited the Pet Cemetery a few years ago looked like it had recently been cleaned, revealing its moving inscription more clearly. It was to a dog called Simba:

IN MEMORY OF
FAITHFUL SIMBA
AND HIS UNSELFISH DEVOTION
TO E.A ? R.C.M.
HE DIED ON 4TH DEC 1935
AGED 14 YEARS
AFTER 12 YEARS SERVICE WITH THE 93RD
AT HOME IN JAMAICA CHINA ? INDIA

WE COULD NOT, IF WE WOULD, FORGET
EACH OTHER. WHEN IN TURN THE DARK
SHALL GLAZE MY EYES, YOUR JOYOUS BARK
WILL GREET ME ECHOING TO THE SKY.
TILL THEN, DEEP LOVING HEART, GOODBYE

The Pet Cemetery is opposite the Fox Under the Hill Pub on Shooters Hill Road, follow the path down between the wall and the flats, the entrance is on the  left marked by a Blue Plaque.

 

Memorial to Simba at the Pet Cemetery
Memorial to Simba at the Pet Cemetery
Simba's memorial in 2013
Simba’s memorial in 2013

 

Friends of the Pet Cemetery new website

A gravestone at the Pet Cemetery
A gravestone at the Pet Cemetery

The Friends of the Pet Cemetery Charlton  have just launched their new web site, The Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery, with the URL  http://www.oldbluecrosspetcemetery.org.uk/

It has a lot of interesting information about the cemetery, including the history of its development from its start as the Blue Cross Quarantine Kennels in the years following the First World War, when it was used to house pets brought home by returning servicemen. There are some great archive photos, as well as pictures of how it has changed since the Friends took over responsibility for looking after it. There are also details of how to become a member of the Friends, for only £2 a year, and how to have a plaque commemorating a pet put on the memorial wall.

The events page announces their first open day next summer on 9th July 2016 and the dates of their regular clean-up sessions.

Liz, the Friends’ Chair,  who wrote to tell me about the web site said that they would welcome feedback on the website either by through their Facebook page or by contacting the Chair or Secretary whose details are on the closing page of the site.

I’ve updated the links on the right to include this new local web site.

New bench in the Pet Cemetery garden
New bench in the Pet Cemetery garden

Bulb planting this weekend

Crocuses in Eaglesfield Park
Crocuses in Eaglesfield Park

Both the Friends of Eaglesfield Park and the Friends of the Pet Cemetery are planting bulbs for the spring this weekend: Eaglesfield on Saturday and the Pet Cemetery on Sunday. Both would welcome help.

The Friends of Eaglesfield Park will be planting daffodils and native bluebells in the meadow around the lilly pond between 11.00am and 3.00pm on Saturday, 28th November. Madeleine wrote with details:

We will be meeting up at the pond on Saturday 28th November from 11.00am onwards to plant native bluebells and daffodils.  Weather permitting !
Can you help us ?  Whatever time you can spare would be greatly appreciated.  May we ask you to bring your own tools – e.g. spades/hand trowel/gloves and don’t forget the wellies.
The crocuses planted a couple of years ago now provide a great display and we  would now like to add native bluebells and daffodils in the meadow surrounding the pond.     We hope you agree they will provide beautiful spring colour, and enhance the tranquillity of this area of Eaglesfield Park.

The Parks and Open Spaces of the Royal Borough of Greenwich have kindly donated 2,000 native English Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and 2,000 Daffodils (Narcissus pseudo narcissus) but, of course, they need to be planted!
Please join us.

The Friends are also planning maintenance of the pond itself, such as thinning out the lillies and other pond plants, working with the Royal Borough of Greenwich, Froglife and Ponds UK (Aquatic Management Ltd).

Autumnal Eaglesfield
Autumnal Eaglesfield
The Pet Cemetery Charlton
The Pet Cemetery Charlton

If you’re not at the Climate Change March on Sunday the Pet Cemetery is well worth a visit – to see the amazing transformation the Friends of the Pet Cemetery have made to what was a neglected area just a couple of years ago, and to help them plant some bulbs. Jean Patrick, the Friends’ Secretary e-mailed:

On Sunday, we are holding a bulb planting session.  We have received generous donations of hundreds of bulbs that we would like to plant all in one go if possible.  If you are able to spare some time next Sunday, between 10am-3.30pm, we would be very grateful, even if you can only pop in for 30 minutes.  Please bring a trowel, gloves and kneeling mat if needed.

The Cemetery is looking really good: lots of colourful plants, donated by local people, Thompson’s Garden Centre and the Parks Department; a number of new bird and bug boxes; two new benches from the Royal Borough of Greenwich; and a memorial wall for plaques to commemorate deceased pets. The old concrete bench bases from around the trees have been removed and  the Shedders from Men in Sheds will soon be creating new circular seating to replace them, partially funded by a grant from Metropolitan Public Gardens Association.

The Friends are currently setting up their own web site: I’ll publicise the URL as soon as it’s ready.

Anyone who would like to have a plaque put on the memorial wall to remember a pet should contact either the Chair of the Friends, Liz McDermott on mcdermott_liz @hotmail.com or the Secretary Jean Patrick on jmp179@skye.com for prices and other details.

Memorial wall at the Pet Cemetery
Memorial wall at the Pet Cemetery
Memorial wall at the Pet Cemetery
Old gravestone at the Pet Cemetery

Pet Cemetery Presentation

Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park
Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park

Liz, who chairs the  Friends of the Pet Cemetery, wrote to let me know about a presentation she is giving about the cemetery’s history at Charlton House on Saturday. The Friends’ latest newsletter has the details:

If you would like to hear more about the history of the former Blue Cross Cemetery, our Chair, Liz McDermott, will be giving a PowerPoint presentation for the Charlton History Society, Charlton House, Saturday 13th September, commencing at 2.30pm.  All welcome.

I hear the presentation includes some great old archive photos.

The Pet Cemetery originated in the Blue Cross Quarantine Kennels which started at the end of the First World War and particularly looked after service men and women’s pets. They provided accommodation for 123 dogs along with cats and other pets including guinea pigs. It later fell into disrepair, and the Friends were set up in 2012  with the aim of  refreshing the memorial stones, replanting the garden beds, improving the seating, installing bird and bat boxes and creating a wildlife-friendly environment.

They’ve made some great progress on these objectives: old, untidy shrubs have been removed and hedges trimmed (revealing more memorial stones); the bird and bat boxes are up, and at least one of the bird boxes has had occupants;  and some of the stones have been cleaned up, with help from stonework professionals. There’s a “before” and “after” pair of photographs of one of the cleaned memorials below.

The Friends meet at the cemetery on the second Sunday of each month to continue their maintenance and restoration work, and they welcome visitors and helpers. Their future plans include a full survey of the cemetery, educational visits, more planting and possibly a pet “memorial wall”.

Pet cemetery Headstone - before
Pet cemetery Headstone – before
Pet cemetery Headstone - after
Pet cemetery Headstone – after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends of the Pet Cemetery AGM

Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park

Friends of the Pet Cemetery AGM Notice

Liz wrote to tell me about the Friends of the Pet Cemetery Annual General Meeting in a couple of weeks time. She wrote:

“The Friends of the “Old Blue Cross” Cemetery are holding their first AGM on Tuesday the 21st January at 7.30pm at Minnie Bennett House, 164 Shooters Hill Road, London SE3 8RW. Our membership is growing slowly and we would welcome any interested members of the community to come along and learn about this “Secret Gem”, what has been achieved so far and the plans for the future.

The agenda includes: an introduction to the former Blue Cross Cemetery, and its history; the achievements of the FoPC so far, and their future plans;   Finances;  Gardening Activities; and the  election of the Committee. The meeting is followed by refreshments, a raffle and a quiz.

The Pet Cemetery is a calm, secluded area tucked away near Hornfair Park,  studded with poignant memorials to pets from the 1930s and 40s. Its entrance is near the pedestrian footbridge over Shooters Hill Road next to the Fox Under the Hill pub.

Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park
Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park

Pet Cemetery Clean-up on Sunday

Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park
Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park

The Friends of the Pet Cemetery in Hornfair Park have been awarded a grant from the Mayor of London’s Capital Clean-up campaign, and will be meeting on Sunday at 10.30am to celebrate and hold a short clean-up session.

Jean Patrick, the Friends’ Secretary, wrote with details:

We are pleased to tell you that the FOPC have recently been awarded a grant from the Capital Clean-Up Scheme.  This is an initiative from the Mayor of London’s office, and sponsored by McDonalds. We were successful because we demonstrated a long term commitment to the project.
To celebrate this, we are holding a short clean-up session on 24th November, 2013, from 10.30am.  This will provide you with an opportunity to see our progress so far and also, if so inclined, to help with our winter tidy up.  Please wear suitable clothing, and bring a pair of gardening gloves.
McDonald’s have requested a group photo to be taken on the day, so if you wish to be included in this photo, please ensure that you are at the cemetery by 11am.
Dogs are welcome, but please ensure that they are kept on a lead.
For those of you who have not visited the cemetery before, it is located on Shooters Hill Road, near the footbridge, and on the opposite side of the road to the Fox under the Hill pub/restaurant.
We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible.

There are some interesting memories of the pet cemetery on the Charlton Parks Reminiscence project, and information about the Blue Cross Kennels of which the pet cemetery was once part, with some old photographs, on the Thames Facing East blog.

Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park
Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park

Pet Cemetery

Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park
Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park

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?

Pet Cemetery
Pet Cemetery

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:  j-patrick@ntlworld.com (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.

Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park
Headstone in the pet cemetery, Hornfair Park