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.


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Here is a 'Quick Find ' locator for all Steam/Diesel Locomotives - Diesel Multiple Units (DMU) - Electric Multiple Units (EMU) to be found across the 'Along These Tracksblog pages.

Steam Locomotives:
30075   30517   34016   60163   71000


Diesel Locomotives:
08466   08909   09018   20107   20311   20314   31168   31288   31305   31462   31467
43151   57307   60017   66005   66013   66086   66237   66502   66765   67006   67013   66017  67026   66717   66729   66731   66738


Diesel Multiple Units:
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Electric Multiple Units:

310086   317327   323214   350120   350250   390128   450108   


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