This article has been published with kind permission of the author, Tunay Hussein. Her foreword is from the TPC, Montagu Road Forum Facebook page. After years of neglect, the forum has battled with the previous owners of Tottenham Park Cemetery to improve conditions, to protect the graves and rights of families. The cemetery now has a new owner, Peter Demetriou, who immediately began to implement the much-needed work on the site.
Tottenham Park Cemetery on Montague Road, Edmonton is where many Turkish Cypriot families have buried their loved ones. It had been by and large neglected by the owners. Unacceptable practices have taken place where graves have disappeared and human remains have been discovered scattered around the site. Following pressure from the TCP Forum, the cemetery and the company that was responsible for it is under official investigation. Now with new owners, improvements to the cemetery grounds and the way it is run are underway. Tunay Hussein shares with us the story of the cemetery and stories of lost graves.
Tunay wrote: Over the past year I have been researching the burial registers of Tottenham Park Cemetery, mainly because I am interested in social history but also to find out more about the missing graves. Several families have asked me to find evidence that their family members were buried at the cemetery because their memorials have disappeared without notice.
I have recently put some of my thoughts together and described just two of the ladies who were buried at the cemetery long ago. I hope you will find the article interesting. In time I’ll write up more histories.
TUNAY HUSSEIN·THURSDAY, 21 FEBRUARY 2019
At least 48,000 men, women and children are buried in Tottenham Park Cemetery since it opened in 1912. At least 8 of these are close relatives or friends of my family.
I don’t want our children to turn up one day to see the memorials of their grandparents, uncles, aunts or cousins have been dug up and dumped into a skip without a trace.
The scenes we have witnessed over several decades have indicated that memorials have simply just disappeared without relatives or the public receiving any information that such removal was routine and likely to happen.
Graves have just gone and been replaced by new ones and now there is no doubt that layers upon layers of graves exist.
Surely the cemetery is now full!If we don’t respect our past and our heritage then we are just simply lost. Our campaign has shown there are many followers out there feeling the same as I do. It is right to respect and remember our forefathers and loved ones, and to do our best to maintain their graves as part of preserving our memories of them for as long as we can.
What is wrong, is when memorials are disturbed, dug up and binned without permission or reverence, as if the dead no longer matter anymore . In the summer of 2018 dozens of human bones and fragments were discovered.
We still await an explanation of why they were dug up and scattered mainly in the Islamic Trust area. Someone is guilty of this illegal act, but who?Who were these 48,000 people ? How did they live? What were their challenges? Who are their relatives ? How did they die? When did new burials take place over the graves of the 40 war dead ?Where are the memorials of the dead from the 1950’s and 1960’s? In the first few months of opening in 1912 there were at least 29 burials of the very young.
Some were buried in common graves and may never have had a memorial, and even if they had, there is very little evidence left in this cemetery of any graves before the 1960’s. Why are graves from 1917/19 ( about a hundred years ago) no longer visible even though the rights of burial were probably for at least 100 years? One of the selling points for a new Victorian cemetery might have been the offer of lengthy exclusive rights but we have, sadly, little evidence to prove rights of burial were purchased in good faith for perpetuity. If your family has such documents please let me know.
Why have so many graves disappeared and importantly, how can we prevent this from happening in privately owned cemeteries again in the future? We must stop this cycle from repeating itself . Our recent campaign has highlighted the unreasonable clause in the small print that graves unattended for a year and a day would be removed. Many of the older graves have not only been removed but new graves are on top.
This is probably what happened to cause the tragic loss of 40 war graves, but also to countless other family graves as well. The current community, desperate to keep family members in a familiar cemetery, probably never suspected that they were burying their loved ones a few feet above several strangers.
Whilst we await the outcome and recommendations of the very unique inspection in December, authorised by the Ministry of Justice, I thought I would show some respect to two of the women who were buried in the 1920’s, whose graves and memorials are now lost.
The burial registers record the names and dates but further research has enabled me to learn more about two ladies, Mary and Elizabeth. These ladies were wives, mothers and probably grandmothers, born in a much earlier era with their lives spanning two very different centuries.
Rest in Peace Mary Ann Bullen (1822-1926) and Elizabeth Taylor (1861-1926)Around Christmas time in December 1926 Mary Ann Bullen and Elizabeth Taylor died.
They are not related and they were buried in different parts of the cemetery. It is a coincidence that I came across these two names at about the same time.
Mary’s distinctively large memorial was recently removed and laid flat alongside a pile of rubble to make way for new graves in the area leased to the Islamic Trust. I later found her gravestone leaning against the boundary wall above a pile of soil and rubbish near where human bones had been discovered in May and June 2018. The memorial is still there. Luckily it hasn’t ended up in a skip.
The memorial caught my eye because it is highly decorative and because Mary had lived to be 104 years old.
Elizabeth’s memorial on the other hand was a simple stone tablet captured in a photograph as part of a news item from the Haringey Advertiser reporting the disgraceful conditions of the cemetery in 1992.
I spotted her memorial in the photograph lying at the bottom of a pile of soil and rubble where other memorials had been dug out. It is of course now gone, probably into a skip.
”Unfortunately you can’t make an
Mary Ann Bullen (nee Mills) was born in 1822 in Shoreditch, London during the reign of King George 1V. When Mary was 13 she would have witnessed the celebrations for the coronation of Queen Victoria and she would have seen five monarchs in her lifetime.
Elizabeth Taylor (nee Geary) was born around 1860 in Queen Victoria’s reign near the time of Prince Albert’s death.
Both lived in a world of rapid change and conflict.
They would have known about both the World Wars and their impact but they also lived in times affected by many other earlier wars that took young men away from their families to fight in places like the Crimea, Afghanistan, India, Africa and Burma.
Britain was engaged in wars and empire building around the world.
What terrible impacts these wars and new boundaries would have had on so many populations even up to the present day.
The ladies would have experienced spectacular and rapid changes like urban expansion, industrialisation as well as poverty in cities and seen changes such as intransport, communications and sanitation.
Might they also have been aware of such varied but significant and
Maybe their children and grandchildren were able to benefit from state education, as they would not have had that privilege.
Both women would have been aware of the Suffrage movement and perhaps might have become involved.
There were increasing opportunities for more varied work for women and the traditional areas of employment like domestic service declined. I had wondered if our ladies worked and raised a family, but census records do not record occupations for them.
Mary married Arthur, a gardener, in 1852 and they went on to have four children, Frederick, Charles, little Emily and later Alice. According to the 1871 census Arthur was now a
Emily’s work was to take in washing for laundering,
She still had many years to reach 104 and I wonder who cared for her? Her daughter Emily was later buried with her mother when she passed away in 1932. What became of her sons and Alice, and who was responsible for the beautiful headstone in memory of mother and daughter that I found lying amongst rubbish
Elizabeth Taylor ( quite a common name in the 19th century, nee Geary) was married to a young man called Job William Taylor in Bethnal Green in 1884. She came from a very large family of 7 brothers and sisters living in 58 Cranbrook Street in Bethnal Green.
By 1901 Elizabeth and Job have their own family of 5 children but still living with Elizabeth’s mother and some of her brothers and sisters, a total of 13 in one dwelling in 49 Driffield Road, again in Bethnal Green.
By 1911, Elizabeth is 49 living with her
Lillian and Ethel worked as machinists and Alice was a feather curler at 14.
George was 11 and attending school. Sadly, by 1923 Job has died aged 60 and Elizabeth died in 1926 aged 64.
I salute these two North London ladies whose lives spanned two centuries and two Great Wars. I’m sorry your memorials were removed and trashed and I hope you are now at peace.
I intend to research more histories and publish from time to time. I have many more stories to tell. For the
May all our friends and family members rest in peace and may we be successful in preserving the cemetery.
Tunay Hussein Chair – TPCAG and Friends of Tottenham Park Cemetery
More information about the cemetery can be found on this Facebook link: TPC Montagu Road Forum.