Under the cemetery
At the top of the hill, at the site of the memorial rose garden, is where the Episcopalian Chapel used to be, and where the catacombs are. Unfortunately these are not open to the public due to their dilapidated condition, except for occasional openings.
The coffin lift was made by Bramah & Robinson was installed in 1839. It was worked by hydraulics, which made its operation silent. Only the top of the catafalque on which the coffin was placed was moveable and could be swivelled to allow easy removal of the coffin in the catacombs. The system used a single pump. The coffin lift at Kensal Green has recently been fully restored and is available for use for transporting coffins from the Anglican Mortuary Chapel Above. That at West Norwood while still largely intact is derelict and unusable. By law all burials not underground must be in lead lined coffins.
The coffin lift or 'catafalque' stands in the central isle. The blocked aperture in the ceiling led to the now demolished Episcopal Chapel above. The stairs on the right
(now blocked) also led up to the chapel.
Coffins stacked in one of the vaults.
Photo by Nick Catford
The underground river Effra, ran under Norwood Cemetery, and has been re-routed twice. It now runs in a pipe. The cemetery still has problems with flooding, and the catacombs are urgently in need of a shelter or building above, to replace the destroyed chapel and to keep them dry. For more images go to www.subbrit.org.uk
and for information on organised visits or lending your support to Norwood Cemetery, go to www.fownc.org