Esoteric London

No. 1075: Westwood Hill, SE26

Posted in Architectural, Catastrophes, Churches, Entertainment, Funereal by esotericlondon on April 11, 2014

©RogerDean_RED_8653 copy

Saint Bartholomew Church, Westwood Hill, London, SE26. Photo ©RogerDean 2014

Dickens’s Dictionary Of London, An Unconventional Handbook – Charles Dickens, 1882:

Crystal Palace, Sydenham.– About seven miles from London. Erected at a cost of nearly £1,500,000. The Palace and Grounds, which cover about 200 acres, were opened in 1854. Concerts, dramatic entertainments, flower-shows, shows of different kinds of live-stock, &c., are held annually, the charge for admission being usually one shilling, or by guinea season ticket. Fireworks during the summer season.

[Unfortunately, money was not the only cost in the construction of Crystal Palace. The photograph above shows a grave which can be found under an old yew tree in the churchyard of the parish church Of Saint Bartholomew in Sydenham. On it can be read the names of ten men who died in a fall from the roof of the Palace during it’s construction on 15th August 1853. The plaque alongside the grave quotes an account of the accident as detailed in the Kentish Mercury and Home Counties Advertiser:


“On Monday afternoon, shortly after 2 o’clock, one of the most frightful and fatal accidents by the falling of scaffolding occurred at the works of the New Crystal Palace, and which has resulted in the death of 12 men, and severe injuries to others.

A very large mass of framework, apparently of great strength, had fallen from its position, some 180 feet high, carrying with it part of the girders and several columns of the north side of the nave. The staging had fallen inwards in the direction of the central nave, carrying with it a vast quantity of iron and woodwork. Six of the poor men were picked up quite dead close to each other, the position in which they were found indicating they must have fallen at an angle of something like forty degrees. Three others were found dead at a short distance, and one poor fellow lived for a few moments, but was not sufficiently collected to give any explanation of how the accident occurred.

The precise cause of the disaster will probably never be discovered.”

The plaque goes on to quote from the Kentish Mercury’s description of the subsequent funeral:

“The funeral took place on Thursday afternoon (18 August 1853) in the churchyard of New Sydenham Church – an elegant modern structure, embosomed in luxuriant foliage, and situated in a most romantic spot. The day was observed as a solemn holiday in the district, and there was a total cessation of all work within the Palace.

The mournful procession formed in the central nave, and as the clock chimed three it slowly emerged from the building and wended its way along the beautiful road which conducts to the church. Each coffin was followed by its own particular mourners and at the rear of the last came the whole body of the workmen, numbering some thousand persons. In its course the procession was swelled by fresh additions, until when it reached the church there must have been between 2000 and 3000 persons following.”