Necropolis in the Megalopolis
It’s a sculpture park in a wild garden. What’s not to love? St Mary’s Cemetery in Battersea may run parallel with the busy shopping street of Northcote Road but it’s an elevated world away, a sanctuary of foxes and squirrels running amok among the crumbling statues and long grass. A place of reflection, one can almost hear Montserrat Caballé’s Prayer floating through the dense foliage. It’s also the perfect setting for a Savannah style picnic provided by local supplier Pique. Named by Tatler as one of “London’s most luxurious readymade picnic hamper companies”, Pique is based beside the former Von Essen Hotel Verta at Battersea Heliport.
St Mary’s Cemetery was laid out in 1860 to 1861 on part of the Bolingbroke Grove House estate which had been sold two years earlier. Burials had ceased in the churchyard of St Mary’s which is situated two kilometres away along the Thames next to Montevetro. Parish surveyor Charles Lee was appointed to lay out the ground and design two chapels and lodge.
The Survey of London Volume 49 edited by Andrew Saint states, “The little twin mortuary chapel range remains the chief feature of the cemetery, a building of simple charm and quiet Gothic details. The chapels, one for Anglicans, one for other denominations, are placed on either side of a tall pointed archway, above which sits a meagre bellcote. Each chapel is lit by a lancet at one gabled end and a rose window at the other, but these are switched round so that the east and west elevations are asymmetrical.” The Church of England chapel and the ecumenical chapel each have a gross external area of 39 square metres.