Commuter Belt

Earlsfield StationWandsworth CemeteryWandsworth Cemetery

Wandsworth Cemetery is a long rectangular graveyard which slopes gently down into the Wandle valley, flanked by Magdalene Road on one side and the railway line on the other. Its high point is close to the big expensive town-houses on the edge of Wandsworth Common and it drops to the back of Earlsfield Station. Tens of thousands of commuters, in and out of Waterloo, pass by it every day and lost in their Metros and tablets, probably hardly give it a thought. In one of those big houses, in what is known as the ‘Toast Rack’, just across Trinity Road, once lived David Lloyd George. He became Prime Minister of Britain’s war-time coalition government in 1916. Its ironic that only a brisk twenty minute walk downhill separated him from 182 of his foot-soldiers. Summerstown nestles between two areas of high ground, the Commons of Wimbledon and Wandsworth. In the valley, the ancient Garratt Lane follows the course of the river all the way from Wandsworth to Tooting. This cemetery is the final resting place of ten of the Summerstown 182, the largest single collection of them in one place. George Batson, Frank Brown, James Coffield, George Cooper, Charles Harwood, Thomas Knight, William Marshall, William Norris, Arnold Smith and Henry Ward. Many would very likely have died in the nearby Royal Victoria Patriotic Building. This creepy gothic chateau, which you can see half-hidden in the trees on the train journey between Clapham Junction and Earlsfield was built as a home for those orphaned by the Crimean War and Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone in 1857. In 1914 it was requisitioned by the War Office and became known as the Third London General Hospital, catering for up to 1,800 patients, in the building itself and tents erected in the grounds behind it. Being next to the railway line was useful and a special platform was constructed so the grim cargo of sick and wounded from France could be off-loaded directly from Waterloo. Think about that on the 08:11 from Strawberry Hill the next time you pass through on your daily commute. Also at that time, a sculptor called Francis Derwent Wood famously pioneered his work on facial masks here, aiding those who had suffered appalling facial disfigurement. Another resident of the cemetery is Lieutenant Henry Angliss of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was one of 13 British ‘intelligence officers’ killed in Dublin on 21st November 1920 on the orders of Michael Collins. The retaliation at Croke Park that afternoon, in which another 14 people died, lead to this being known as ‘Bloody Sunday’.

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