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Heritage - 46: Grounds Fit for Heroes, a Walk Through Manor Park Cemetery in London E12

Updated on April 20, 2019

"... Land fit for heroes..."

The grave of John 'Jack' Travers Cornwell, centre of Remembrance Sunday services in East London. With him are an older brother - killed 1918 in France - mother and father - the memorial was paid for through subscription by pupils of his old school
The grave of John 'Jack' Travers Cornwell, centre of Remembrance Sunday services in East London. With him are an older brother - killed 1918 in France - mother and father - the memorial was paid for through subscription by pupils of his old school | Source
Older brother Arthur Frederick is commemorated on Jack's right, killed in France, August 29th 1918
Older brother Arthur Frederick is commemorated on Jack's right, killed in France, August 29th 1918 | Source
John's mother and father are commemorated to his left facing observers, mother Alice at the age of 54, his father Eli at 63
John's mother and father are commemorated to his left facing observers, mother Alice at the age of 54, his father Eli at 63 | Source
The main War Memorial with name panels is further on, past the chapel and crematorium on the way to the Whitta Road gate
The main War Memorial with name panels is further on, past the chapel and crematorium on the way to the Whitta Road gate | Source
No less of a local hero, John Clinton a lad of 10 years who drowned trying to save a friend
No less of a local hero, John Clinton a lad of 10 years who drowned trying to save a friend | Source

The site sits astride a centre road that divides two East London districts within the London borough of Newham,

Manor Park, E12 and Forest Gate E7. The main entrance is from Sebert Road, E7, a subsidiary entrance only open for access to Co-operative Society undertakers in Whitta road to the east.

The cemetery was founded on traditional Victorian family values by the same family who own the site now since its foundation midway through Queen Victoria's long reign. A Mr William Nesbitt was the first interment on 25th March, 1875, his grave still to be seen on the right of Remembrance Road (see map).

Graves and memorials of historical value can be seen to the south of Remembrance Road, one being that of the boy sailor John 'Jack' Travers Cornwell who died on 2nd June, 1916 during the Battle of Jutland. The honour of being the youngest ever recipient of the Victoria Cross was awarded to him for his steadfastness in refusing to leave his post during the long, harrowing naval battle between Admiral Jellicoe's North Sea fleet and the German Kriegsmarine (Navy) off the west coast of the peninsula of Jutland. Denmark at the time was a neutral kingdom.

Through the grand, stone posted entrance gates from Sebert Road, E7...

Down the road from me, the destination of countless funeral corteges that pass our house, the grand-looking gates to Manor Park Cemetery ('Forest Gate' obviously didn't sound 'grand' enough for the founding fathers)
Down the road from me, the destination of countless funeral corteges that pass our house, the grand-looking gates to Manor Park Cemetery ('Forest Gate' obviously didn't sound 'grand' enough for the founding fathers) | Source
On the left - north side - of Centre Road is the florist in this temporary shop. It's been 'temporary' since we first moved to Sebert Road in 1984, the florist still the same family
On the left - north side - of Centre Road is the florist in this temporary shop. It's been 'temporary' since we first moved to Sebert Road in 1984, the florist still the same family | Source
A handsome landscaped vista seen through the iron railings on the approach to the gates from the west that belies...
A handsome landscaped vista seen through the iron railings on the approach to the gates from the west that belies... | Source
...the older part of the cemetery, where stopping and looking a bit further left you see a few forlorn stones, like teeth sticking up from a lower jaw. The nearest ones still have flowers left by recent visitors.
...the older part of the cemetery, where stopping and looking a bit further left you see a few forlorn stones, like teeth sticking up from a lower jaw. The nearest ones still have flowers left by recent visitors. | Source

The second of Jack the Ripper's victims was Annie Chapman, buried here in September, 1888

Annie would have plied her trade in the close-built streets north behind Whitechapel High Street. Her clients might have been anyone she met in the grimy pubs visited by merchant seamen who'd crossed town from the docks near the Pool of London near Tower Bridge or downriver past St Catherine's Dock towards Limehouse. They might equally have been toffs who visited the gin palaces further west and came downtown to find cheap thrills. Her last client was the Ripper, whoever he might have been. Some say he was royal, some that he was a surgeon - there was a curious precision in the way she was dismembered - or could just as easily have been a freemason, or both. The number of feature films (movies) made about him and his victims, or part TV series, multiplies yearly and the theories with them. He was never caught, unlike Annie, and the mystery goes on, thickening like London's erstwhile fog.

A royal connection to a large memorial was Mary Orchard, well-loved nanny to the children of Princess Alice, herself one of Queen Victoria's large brood.

A further mark of distinction, as mentioned in the first group of pictures is the gallant young ten-year-old John Clinton who died trying to save a young friend from drowning. His stone is set across the narrow road end opposite the florist's stall.

There are countless grand memorials, and many more very modest ones from family mausoleums to small reminders of those who chose to be cremated, their legacy being roses, green bushes and trees. I'll introduce you to them here...

Here are some of the grander edifices, testament to the wealthier West Essex and East London families

A grand way to go, although it only really benefited those left behind and maybe those soon to join the deceased in the hereafter...
A grand way to go, although it only really benefited those left behind and maybe those soon to join the deceased in the hereafter... | Source
Weeping angels abound, in memory of those who 'fell asleep' or 'passed away'. The phrasing followed Victorian and Edwardian fashion. Only later did people 'die', although older phrases crept back into use
Weeping angels abound, in memory of those who 'fell asleep' or 'passed away'. The phrasing followed Victorian and Edwardian fashion. Only later did people 'die', although older phrases crept back into use | Source
One of very few family vaults in Manor Park Cemetery - privacy guaranteed!
One of very few family vaults in Manor Park Cemetery - privacy guaranteed! | Source
Map of Manor Park Cemetery, surrounded on the north by houses facing Capel Road, east by Whitta Road flats and houses, west by Ridley Road housing and south by the main and local railway lines
Map of Manor Park Cemetery, surrounded on the north by houses facing Capel Road, east by Whitta Road flats and houses, west by Ridley Road housing and south by the main and local railway lines | Source

A sad tale of loss that only needs this picture to tell...

Nothing more touching than losing someone close.When it's your young wife and child who's left you - maybe after birth -  the message hits harder. Hope it doesn't happen to you... Mr Ryan left flowers on her birthday, I noticed as I passed recently
Nothing more touching than losing someone close.When it's your young wife and child who's left you - maybe after birth - the message hits harder. Hope it doesn't happen to you... Mr Ryan left flowers on her birthday, I noticed as I passed recently | Source

... And some of the less grand although tasteful, some even downright economic memorials strewn around, away from the main 'thoroughfares' of the cemetery...

The Garden of Remembrance for those cremated close by was created recently in 2017 with its cascades and small 'Romanesque' shelter (seen here in the background)
The Garden of Remembrance for those cremated close by was created recently in 2017 with its cascades and small 'Romanesque' shelter (seen here in the background) | Source
Tastefully executed with an inlaid photograph of the couple, this memorial to a Frederick Walter Raven and his wife, Florence May is set beside the main through thoroughfare between trees
Tastefully executed with an inlaid photograph of the couple, this memorial to a Frederick Walter Raven and his wife, Florence May is set beside the main through thoroughfare between trees | Source
Migrants from the Far East who've done well like to mark their parents' passing with a north-facing 'open book' memorial
Migrants from the Far East who've done well like to mark their parents' passing with a north-facing 'open book' memorial | Source
...And the more modest bush across the way marks the passing of others
...And the more modest bush across the way marks the passing of others | Source
A more modest plot with a more modest piece of greenery and blooms...
A more modest plot with a more modest piece of greenery and blooms... | Source
...And the damaged graves targeted by vandals who manage to get in occasionally
...And the damaged graves targeted by vandals who manage to get in occasionally | Source

Vandals have bypassed the high fences and wrought random damage on graves.

Most of the damaged graves are old, from before security was stepped up. The families are dispersed, or lack the cash to have repairs done. Some are possibly not in a position to do anything because they're in care. After a time graves are marked for re-use, when relatives have passed on, their descendants might not even know there are untended graves here that belong to their families. Some might be past caring.

In the east there is a way out to Whitta Road, London E12, although for much of the time it's pedestrians only...

Seen from Whitta Road going east to the railway station, the iron railings and gates are well maintained, closing times posted on a board inside the cemetery
Seen from Whitta Road going east to the railway station, the iron railings and gates are well maintained, closing times posted on a board inside the cemetery | Source
The view from the other direction, where Whitta Road bends northwards past the Co-operative Funeral Service premises
The view from the other direction, where Whitta Road bends northwards past the Co-operative Funeral Service premises | Source
The parting of the ways. To the left is the road that skirts the cemetery railings on the railway side. Ahead is the direct road past the chapel to the Sebert Road gates
The parting of the ways. To the left is the road that skirts the cemetery railings on the railway side. Ahead is the direct road past the chapel to the Sebert Road gates | Source
Cremations are dealt with in the chapel at the near end where the chimney is. The chapel tower is the only part of the original after bombing in WWII (the target being the railway a few hundred yards to the south)
Cremations are dealt with in the chapel at the near end where the chimney is. The chapel tower is the only part of the original after bombing in WWII (the target being the railway a few hundred yards to the south) | Source

© 2017 Alan R Lancaster

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    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      19 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Lawrence, right enough. Interesting Jack's older brother (mentioned on his right) hardly gets a mention. He's in the shadows in more ways than one, as he only sees direct sunlight at the height of summer. The grave's maintained by the cemetery and receives attention from his younger brother's old school. A ceremony in June marks Jack's passing, and on November 11th he gets star status again as a VC. winner. Didn't do him much good though, it's all for the benefit of the living.

      Rosie Ryan is a sharp reminder of how mortal we all are, and how easily we might pass from memory. In the times I've passed her grave I've never seen fresh flowers. Who knows where Mr Ryan's got to?

      Have a good New Year 2018.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      19 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Alan

      Oh the tales these stones could tell. Jack the ripper being just one, then there's the Battle of Jutland and the V.C.

      So many.

      Happy new year.

      Lawrence

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      20 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Aah! Heidi, if stone could talk! This is near where I live, down the road, literally going west. (My own local history and geography is described in the 'Travel North' series). Some of the wife's kin is in here, although her parents are in the Garden of Remembrance in the City of London Cemetery a mile or so north of here.

      Nice to see you in the vicinity. There's a piece about London Bridge further down the Profile page, and more local knowledge through links to Nos. 15 and 16 in this series top right.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      20 months ago from Chicago Area

      Great photos and oh the stories these cemeteries tell! If I were a fiction writing type, one visit to these hallowed grounds would provide a fountain of inspiration. Thanks for sharing some of your local history with us! Cheers!

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      20 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Bill, nice of you to drop by. Long time no 'see' (been busy with this'n'that). See the one about the City of London Cemetery I did earlier in the year, a bit further down on the profile page? It's a much more extensive site, although this one isn't short of features. Lots of poignant reminders... which reminds me, there's another image to add here. Very poignant!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      20 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't know how many hours Bev and I have spent walking around old cemeteries, but I know the total is considerable. It is a great way to learn about the history of an area, and to just get in touch with one's ancestry. Loved this post, my friend.

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