This Halloween, The Royal Parks have worked with Sheldon from the Cemetery Club to bring you the hidden narratives of those who are interred in the Catacombs.
Brompton Cemetery’s catacombs were considered a stylish alternative to traditional burial. With thousands of spaces available, Victorian mourners could purchase a space for their ornate coffin on a shelf in the underground catacombs. As new burial techniques were developed, such as cremation, the catacombs fell quickly out of fashion and the permanent residents slowly forgotten over time. Join Sheldon as he shines a light on these forgotten narratives!
Prelude: The Catacombs
Join Sheldon K. Goodman as he introduces you to Brompton Cemetery’s catacombs, and the people who are buried within. Between 1841 and 1915, over 500 people were buried within the catacombs, so who were they? Sheldon will be exploring the lives of a Countess, a girl, a politician and a composer. Join us as we descend into the catacombs and explore the lives of those literally placed on a shelf.
1. The Countess Brunnow (1799-1874)
We remember the Countess who forged her own way and was simply not tethered to the prestige or reputation of her husband, a Russian Diplomat. She was every bit as important to the relations between Russia and Great Britain despite not being an official ambassador. Charlotte was a socialite and known for her lavish parties held at the Russian Embassy.
2. Priscilla Anne Hoste (1823-1854)
Not everyone who went into he catacombs necessarily stayed there. The final resting place of Priscilla, was seemingly not final. Temporarily deposited within the catacombs while her Mausoleum was being erected, we find out more about Priscilla and her movements in and out of the catacombs, and the relocation of her Mausoleum to Twickenham.
3. The Munro Butler-Johnstones
Henry Alexander Munro Butler-Johnstone (1837-1902) was one of the 19th Century’s most prosperous and well-known politician’s who lost it all in the 1880’s. Cremated in Paris and returned to Brompton and placed upon his first wife’s coffin. Maria Imre de Soyres (1850-1880) died at a young age, and there isn’t much information to be found in the archives, but she is buried in the biggest coffin we’ve ever seen!
4. Frederic Emes Clay (1838-1889)
Best known for his musical talent in the 19th Century, Frederic plays perhaps the most important of all the British composers to appear before Arthur Sullivan, and was instrumental in getting Gilbert and Sullivan together. A true creative and regarded by some as the first modern example of a composer of musical theatre. Enjoy a rendition of one of Frederic’s songs which has endured down the years ‘I’ll Sing Thee Songs of Araby’.
Public historian Sheldon K. Goodman. Tales from the Catacombs is a Cemetery Club production for The Royal Parks.