Audio walk from Nunhead Cemetery to Camberwell New Cemetery
This audio guided walk is brought to you by Advantages of Age and is part of a series of walks exploring some of the most fascinating London cemeteries and their surrounding areas. This walk links Nunhead Cemetery and Camberwell New Cemetery in South London.
Our walk starts at Nunhead Overground Station.
We leave via Gibbon Road, walk up Oakdale Road to the mini roundabout and turn right into Linden Grove.
Nunhead is possibly the most overlooked of London’s ‘magnificent seven’ cemeteries despite being the second largest, covering 52 acres. It was built in response to the lack of space for burials in parish churchyards that had become overcrowded as the population of London grew. By the early 19th Century this had become a pressing concern.
The first large public cemetery in London was built at Kensal Green in 1830 and proved a big success. This led to an act of parliament allowing for the establishment of further cemeteries ‘Northward, Southward and Eastward of the Metropolis.’ The London Cemetery Company built a northward cemetery at Highgate in 1839, and the southward cemetery here at Nunhead in 1840. Both cemeteries were built on hillsides directly on a north – south axis with St Paul’s Cathedral between them, which can still be seen from Nunhead Hill on a clear day.
The audio guide describes a route through Nunhead and Camberwell New Cemeteries but they are best experienced by allowing yourself to wander. The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery have a book stall to the right of the main gates with some further information about the cemetery and the wider area and run regular guided tours.
Nunhead can be found mentioned in a deed of 1583 that refers to land “lying at Nunn-head.” The origin of the name Nunhead is not certain but is believed to be derived from a local inn named variously The Nun’s Head or The Nunhead Tavern. A local legend says that the name comes from the story of the beheading of a nun during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The legend states that the head of the Mother Superior of a nunnery, which was located where the The Old Nun’s Head now stands, was placed on a spike after her beheading.
The 17th Century Nun’s Head Tavern became a resort with its tea gardens and dances and fine views across London – some of which we’ll see from both of the cemeteries on our walk today.
We exit Nunhead Cemetery onto Limesford Road and turn left into Inverton Road and head straight for Camberwell New Cemetery
Camberwell New Cemetery contrasts with the gothic splendour of Nunhead. The cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Woolwich and the first burial was in 1927. Among the notable burials here are East End gangster George Cornell, popular WW2 singer Anne Shelton, and world light heavyweight champion boxer Freddie Mills. Camberwell offers some magnificent views, southwards over the valley of the River Ravensbourne, and northwards towards the towers of the Isle of Dogs and beyond.
This is where the audio guide ends. The nearest station is Honor Oak Park. But you can continue your walk to the summit of One Tree Hill (info in the audio guide) and to Camberwell Old Cemetery.
This project was supported by Transport for London