Visiting Hyde Park animal cemetery January 2014
Recently I was able to organise a small group visit to the usually closed Hyde Park animal cemetery. I have previously written here about the early years of the cemetery; and also published an article comparing the cemetery with others of a similar period in New York and Paris.
I had only previously visited the cemetery once so have partly formed an image of the place based on early twentieth century articles in Animals’ Guardian or The Strand magazine or Our Animal Brothers. It would seem that over the years the layout of the cemetery has changed: and that some gravestones have been relocated or the words erased through age.
Earlier articles often emphasised long verses including those of a quasi-religious nature. This time I tended to notice the statements that talked about the impact of the companion animal on the human and named the human. Most statements were anonymous or just included the initials of the human but some were more ‘public’ such as the homage to Topsy, the ‘faithful friend’ of J.C.H.Flood, barrister at law.
Although most of the graves are those of dogs I was pleased to find some of rabbits and cats, including, that of Peter though remained unconvinced that ‘ dear monkey’ was necessarily a monkey rather than the given name of a dog.
I recently read in the National Archives that the cemetery had been nearly destroyed in the 1939 – 45 war to provide space for the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign. The civil servant confirmed a few owners were still alive and visited occasionally, adding ‘ Of course many of the owners were influential people who no doubt would be very difficult to deal with if the graves were removed’. He concluded ‘ On the whole, I think we had better leave this cemetery alone for the present’. I am pleased it does exist – and if visits are not common at least at this time of year one can peak through the railings on the Bayswater Road and see the graves.