Thursday, 19 February 2015

Brookwood Station and the London Necropolis Funeral Railway

UK Railway History

Brookwood station, Surrey.      Photo: Charles Moorhen

Brookwood railway station, on the former London & South Western Railway (L&SWR) line, between Woking and Basingstoke, is one of those nondescript places to which the average rail passenger would not give a second glance.  But, in the overall history of L&SWR, later to become the Southern Railway, Brookwood played a fascinating role.

Behind the little station building, on the track that runs to Basingstoke, is the largest cemetery in Western Europe - Brookwood Cemetery. It was the brainchild of Sir Richard Brown, in response to the serious overcrowding of London's cemeteries in the 1800's.

In 1849, in order to transport the dead to their final resting place, the London Necropolis Railway (LNR) began running dedicated funeral trains from London's Waterloo station, where the LNR had its own platform with waiting rooms, to Brookwood Cemetery.

Up until the 1930's, any suitable locomotive available was used to haul the funeral trains. After that, and until the LNC officially ceased it operations just after World War Two, the trains were usually hauled by an M7 Class steam locomotive.

The smaller Brookwood station building, built by the London & South Western Railway for use by funeral mourners.
Photo: Charles Moorhen

On arrival at Brookwood railway station a funeral train would pass the station for a few hundred yards whereupon it left the main line and steamed onto a branch line. Once on the branch line the train would reverse down an incline (which can still be traced on the ground) before stopping at one of the two railway stations built in the grounds of the cemetery; Brookwood Cemetery North or Brookwood Cemetery South. 

The latter station still survives to this day and is privately owned.

Brookwood Cemetery South Station   Photo: Charles Moorhen

The LNC offered three classes of funeral. First Class cost £2 10s (equal to £205 in 2015 terms), Second Class cost £1 (about £82 in 2015) and Third Class cost 10 shillings (.50p) or about £41 today.

However, the above prices did not taken into account travel costs for the funeral mourners. A First Class return ticket to Waterloo cost 6 shilling (.30p), Second Class cost 3/6d (17.5p), while a Third Class ticket would set a mourner back the princely sum of 2 shillings (.010p).

A number of famouspeople were buried at Brookwood Cemetery. Two such people were Robert Knox and Edith Thompson.

Robert Knox was the anatomist who accepted cadavers for dissection from the grave robbers, William Burke and William Hare. Hare saved himself from execution by turning King's evidence against Burke who was hanged and his body dissected.

Edith Thompson was a housewife and milliner whose lover, Frederick Bywaters, murdered her husband Percy. She was judged complicit in the murder of Percy and along with Bywaters, was hanged on the 9th January 1923; she at Holloway Prison; he at Pentonville Prison.

The last recorded funeral party carried on the London Necropolis Railway was that of Edward Irish, a Chelsea Pensioner, who was buried in Brookwood Cemetery on 11 April 1941.


A selection of railway videos from 'Along These Tracks'
UK Railways - Banbury Trains 16 June 2014 Video 
UK Railways - Trains at Gravesend March 2014 Video
UK Railways - Class 321 and 319 EMUs at Northampton 1999
UK Railways - Freight Through Northampton May 1999 Video
UK Railways - Class 58018 Heading a Ballast Train at Finedon
UK Railways - Banbury Trains at Night Video
UK Railways - Trains at Basingstoke Station 12 August 2013
UK Railways - 375 and 395 EMU's at Martin Mill and Ashford International
UK Railways - Freight Trains Through Northampton May 2013
UK Railways - Virgin Pendolinos Through Bletchley May 2013
UK Railways - Class 350 Desiro EMU Trains at Northampton May 2013
UK Railways - Class 390 Virgin Pendolinos Through Wolverton 2013 Video
UK Railways - Class 350 'London Midland' EMU's at Wolverton 2013 Video
UK Railways - Chiltern Railways, First Great Western, XCountry DMU's at Banbury 2013
UK Railways - Class 222 Trains DMU's at Wellingborough Apr 2013
UK Railways - Class 43 IC125 Trains at Wellingborough Apr 2013 Video
UK Railways - Class 222 Trains, DMU's, at Wellingborough Apr 2013 Video
UK Railways - Class 321 EMU Snakes into Bletchley Sidings 1990's
UK Railways - Class 321 & 350 EMU's at Wolverton Video
UK Railways - Class 321 Network South East leaves Bletchley Video
UK Railways - Class 321 Silverlink Trains EMU leaves Wolverton Video
UK Railways - Class 325 Royal Mail EMU Passes through Rugby Video
UK Railways - Class 350 127 EMU Passes through Rugby Video
UK Railways - Class 321 418 Silverlink EMU at Wolverton
UK Railways - Class 60 015 Diesel Locomotive approaches Wolverton
UK Railways - Virgin Pendolino Class 390 041 EMU at Rugby Video

British Rail Shunter Class 08909 at Rugby 1988

Once a common sight pottering around Rugby station , Class 08909 shunter, built between 1952 and 1962, in BR blue livery, similar in de...