Putney Old Burial Ground, Upper Richmond Road, London, SW15. Photo © Roger Dean 2012
Round London: Down East and Up West – Montagu Williams Q.C., 1894:
We had just emerged from a narrow passage [in the immediate neighbourhood of Ratcliff Highway], and had proceeded a few yards down the main thoroughfare, when out attention was suddenly arrested by the shrieking and shouting of a number of persons evidently running helter-skelter in our direction. The next minute above the din we heard the cry ‘Amok! amok!’ at which the police officers were evidently very much alarmed.
‘This way, gentlemen, and be quick, for God’s sake!’ they exclaimed, as they unceremoniously hurried us through the nearest doorway. When I looked around me I found we were in one of those East End shows which I have described in a former paper. Having fastened the door, the two officers consulted together in an undertone. We heard the sound of fleeing footsteps outside, mingled with human screams, groans, and oaths. My friends and I stood stock still and listened. The sounds gradually passed away in the distance. In a little while one of the officers opened the door and slipped out. The other remained behind, and in answer to our enquiries said he was afraid it was an ugly business, and that his comrade had gone out to see how the land lay, and to render any assistance in his power. Pending the other’s return, he peremptorily forbade us to stir from where we were.
In a little while the other officer came back and said it would now be safe for us to quit the premises. On our emerging into the Street an extraordinary sight met our eyes. There were pools and trails of blood on the pavement and in the roadway; here and there was the prostrate form of a human being surrounded by men and women half distraught with grief and fear […].
[ The above photograph shows a Coade stone relief of a woman in grief that somebody has sadly seen fit to vandalise. The roundel adorns a tomb in Putney Old Burial Ground which began life in 1763 when the land was given to the parish by Roger Pettiward. Nowadays, like many of the old burial grounds in London, the site is a park but a handful of tombs remain in place. All are highly architectural in style and some are decorated with carved swags, skulls and roundels like the one above. Four of the tombs are now listed. One of them houses the remains of Robert Wood, politician, archaeologist and adventurer now best remembered for his books on Middle Eastern architecture Ruins of Palmyra and Ruins of Baalbec, both published in the 1750’s. R.D.]