Monday, 15 June 2009

Former Countess of Huntingdon's Connection graveyard, Addington Square


I've been visiting Countess Huntingdon's graveyard, a small secret garden of a place, tucked away behind the post office sorting office on Addington Square for a couple of years. It is a wonderful, special place. Unique in a gentle form of decay that resembles a monument. The sun comes in, dappled through the trees and in its seclusion it is absolutely peaceful. This quality of the place also makes it occaisionally the location for less than welcome visitors. It's an ideal spot to hide out and do secretive things away fro the hub bub of the main road. But by and large it is quiet, intact and save for the occaisional dumped matress, a special place to visit.

Here are pictures taken by a Margate resident in January this year:





The complete set is here:

But for the last month, I'm sad to see that it is becoming used by less conscientious visitors. There are nightly visits by groups of teens who leave behind them the whole place strewn with litter of sweets and fizzy drinks. No one begrudges them a place to meet and talk. Afterall we all remember being teenagers. But the destruction is also going beyond litter. There are freshly broken and smashed gravestones, the pieces of which have been laid out in small circles, obviously to create little stools to sit on. There are also some broken branches and strewn plastic chairs lying around. The litter remains in place for days.

Here are pictures of the damage:








This has moved me to gather the pace on an idea that was mooted by myself and other concerned residents who regularly use the graveyard. The idea is to form a 'friends of' trust or simple group. We would ensure the interests of the graveyard are carried forward and that it can be carefully nurtured and tended so it is preserved. This is not about clearance of the precious foliage that has grown in wonderful wildness. This is about the preservation of a place where the passage of time has left its mark.

The graveyard contains a memorial to the Cobb family, possibly the most important Margate family in history. The memorial has been badly damaged by vandals.


On making enquiries, it was briefly mentioned that perhaps TDC was minded to give the use of the cemetry to the local primary school. It is difficult to imagine how such a place would be deemed safe and suitable for primary school age children without mass clearance of the site on health and safety grounds. All that is wonderful about the place will be lost. There is also the fear that once cleared, the site would at a later date be eligible for building on. Perhaps the authorities are unaware of the people who regularly use the graveyard.

There are examples of graveyards that have been embraced by their communities and preserved for the use of the community without clearing them. Tower Hamlets for example has a wonderful programme on biodiversity and is treated as a monument. More info:
http://www.towerhamletscemetery.org/

If you are interested in getting involved in helping preserve the Countess of Huntingdon's graveyard for everyone, please get in touch. I can be emailed at margatearchitecture AT gmail.com.

6 comments:

  1. I've done photoshoots several times in there, a great location (see my www.nakedinthanet.com for pics, news cuttings & even a radio interview on the cemetary).

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  2. It is such a shame - I am not sure how i can promote this to that we get some enthusiastic people involved. I will tweet it and put something on FB.

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  3. there was a big clean up operation by some young folk a couple of weeks ago (as reported in "your thanet")..do you think in some perverse way this has acted as a red rag to vandals ? or were these acts already being carried out...its a shame either way..

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  4. I wouldn't know who has recently broken the stones, but I can see the pieces are being used as perches to sit on. The litter and broken glass is coming from the sheer increase in kids using it to hang out in at night and that they don't take it away with them. It's kid's stuff really: sweets and fizzy drinks. It feel like it has suddenly been discovered.

    Looking at some of the shots from Jan, it's cleat that there have been graves lost and ironwork too. Shouldn't it be locked up at night if TDC can't look after it?

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  5. I'm not totally against this being converted into a children's play area myself, & I think if done right it would be an ideal spot (there's lots of flats with children along there). When I was growing up in London in the 60s & 70s we had a similar sized children's play area that had been a former cemetary ('Patterson Park' near the Old Kent Road, I believe it's still there). The gravestones were (are?) all moved into a neat row against the back walls, so we could still see who was buried there.

    Also, you said:

    "Given the information of the number of infectious diseases of the deceased and the fact that many of the graves were brick lined and burials forbidden after 1857 (although family members allowed later), it seems inappropriate that this site should be used for a play area for primary school children."

    ...and:

    "If you are interested in getting involved in helping preserve the Countess of Huntingdon's graveyard for everyone, please get in touch."

    Now, if you're implying that the infectious diseases from 150 years ago could somehow still leak out & infect small children, then what's stopping them infecting "everyone"? Either it's not a danger or it is, but if it IS a danger then surely the best thing to do is close it off all together &/or concrete over it?

    I don't think anyone is proposing that we dig the graves up if it becomes a children's play area, so personally I find the idea of there being a danger of diseases faintly ridiculous.

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  6. This place looks so eerie and mysterious!

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