Today Deceased Online launches the burial records for the Magnificent Cemetery of Nunhead in South London. Below I explore the history of the cemetery and highlight some of the notable burials in this new collection.
Nunhead is one of London's Magnificent Seven Cemeteries that were laid out around the edge of the capital in the mid-19th century. Located in the populous London Borough of Southwark SE15, in the words of the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery (FONC), Nunhead is "the most attractive of the seven".

As early as 1878, the writer and genealogist Edward Walford (1823-1897) was celebrating the beauty of the site as follows:

Nunhead Cemetery, covering an area of about fifty acres, occupies the summit of some rising ground, whence a good view is obtained of the surrounding neighbourhood. The cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester in 1840, and is beautifully laid out with gravel walks, and thickly planted with trees, shrubs, and flowers. The chapels in the grounds are conspicuous objects for miles round.

Nunhead lies to the north east of Peckham Rye and is the lasting resting place of much of the Victorian population of Peckham, Camberwell and Southwark. The cemetery was consecrated in 1840, eight years after the first of the Magnificent Seven, Kensal Green. Today, a large part of the cemetery is designated as a nature reserve.

Amidst this beautiful setting lie the bodies of thousands of South London's poor. Unlike those who lie beneath gothic stone monuments, many of the working classes were laid to rest in common graves. With this new release, family historians can now search nearly 300,000 burials in over 45,000 graves of both the rich and the poor from this cemetery on the Deceased Online database. The website also includes maps showing the section or square in the cemetery where a specific grave is located. However, do be aware that it can be difficult to search for graves in the overgrown, and consequently inaccessible, nature reserve area.
The 1863 burial register entry for Edward John Eliot
In this month of the Waterloo Bicentenary, it seems appropriate to highlight the burial of Peninsular War soldier, Edward John Eliot (1782-1863). Although he retired in 1814, a year before the Battle of Waterloo, Eliot had served as an Army Officer since the age of 15 and fought against Napoleon. It is argued that the Pensinsular War of 1808-1814 played a major role in the French Emperor's downfall. Among the Peninsular battles in which Eliot fought were the Battle of Vimiero, Batlle of Talavera, Battle of Bussaco, Defence of the Lines of Torres Vedras, and the Battle of Badajoz.

Originally from Shenstone in Staffordshire, Eliot survived military life and lived on to the grand age of 80. After leaving the Army, Eliot settled in Peckham, working for HM Customs as a landing waiter. Eliot died in Peckham on the 6th November 1863. His entry in the burial register shows that he was buried in a Consecrated Grave number 28, in square 103. His was a private grave of 11 feet deep, shared with his wife, Margaret (bur. 15 Sep 1881) and baby son, John Percival (bur. 1841).

Other notable individuals buried at Nunhead are:
  • Charles Abbott (bur. Oct 1840) Grocer, who died aged 101; his was the first burial at the cemetery
  • Sir Frederick Augustus Abel (1827-1902) Inventor of Cordite
  • George John Bennett (1800-1879) Shakespearean Actor
  • Jenny Hill (1848-1896) Music Hall Artiste
  • Thomas Tilling (1825-1893) Bus Tycoon
  • Alfred Vance/ Alfred Peek Stevens (1839-1888) Music Hall Artiste
The Scottish Political Martys Memorial
There are also monuments for those who died on the opposite side of the world. Close to Nunhead's North Gate stands an obelisk known as the Scottish Political Martys Memorial. This was erected by the Radical MP Joseph Hume in 1837 in honour of the leaders of the socially reforming Friends of the People Society (the "Scottish Martyrs"). The Martyrs, including Thomas Muir and the Rev. Thomas Fyshe Palmer, were transported to Australia for crimes of High Treason.

With the addition of this latest collection, the Deceased Online database now holds records for three of the Magnificent Seven Cemeteries:
  • Kensal Green (1832)
  • Nunhead (1840)
  • Brompton (1840).
Records for some of the remaining four will be launched in the near future. Please keep following our blog and social media pages for updates. 

We want to hear from you about your Nunhead discoveries. How many ancestors do you have buried there? Please let us know via the Comments Box below and on our Twitter and Facebook pages!

Edward Walford, 'Peckham and Dulwich', in Old and New London: Volume 6 (London, 1878), pp. 286-303 [accessed 23 June 2015].


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