Next to the Crematorium at West Norwood Cemetery, beneath the bombed out Dissenters’ chapel now covered in unsightly scaffolding, are the catacombs. Coffins were interred here when the Cemetery opened in 1837 and continued up until the 1930s.
There are some 2,500 coffins stored often stacked on top of each other in the six aisles and 95 vaults off the central gallery. At the centre is the hydraulic catafalque (coffin lift) designed by Bramah & Robinson dated 1839 which was used to transfer coffins from the chapel above down into the catacombs below. Whilst the catacombs have suffered from damp and flooding over the years and many of the wooden coffins are in a state of decay the bodies remain intact. This is because coffins not buried in the ground are required to be lead lined by law.
Sadly due to health and safety concerns the catacombs are closed to the public; however works are being planned to the entrance and stairs to facilitate public entrance and hopefully you too can share this fascinating part of Norwood’s history one day.