Scanning the dull granite skies did not look promising today, so I scanned the next half dozen of Charles Keeping’s sinuous line illustrations to Charles Dickens’s ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’, followed by colour slides of a visit to Nunhead Cemetery on a much brighter day in September 2008.

‘An anxious shade came upon his contented face when his glance encountered the dull brow of his companion’

‘I am the most miserable man in the world’

‘Fresh horses came and went and came again’

‘In the throats and maws of dark no-thoroughfares near Todgers’s’ gives the artist an opportunity to display his perfectly receding perspective in an accurate presentation of a cramped warehouse scene of the period.

‘Down they came directly, singing as they came’

‘Cuffey fell back into a dark corner’

Nunhead Cemetery is one of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and managed by the local authority, Southwark Borough Council.

My post ‘Council Housing’ describes the policies of the 1980s that led to the transfer of the

West Lodge to private ownership. When Southwark Council bought the cemetery for ยฃ1 in 1976 both East and West Lodges were derelict. The West one was refurbished to provide council accommodation. The tenant bought the property at a reduced price under the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme, and subsequently sold it at its true market value.

Refurbishment of the octagonal chapel was also required. At the time of my visit with writer John Turpin

the gate, for example, had been renewed, but it was still without a roof.

A sensitively sculpted angel was garlanded with ivy.

The afternoon, although still cool and breezy, brightened considerably. Jackie attended to water features while I cleared up clippings and took them to the compost bins.

Later we dined on the Culinary Queen’s spicy pasta arrabbiata and tender runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank Hardy’s Endeavour Cabernet Shiraz 2020


  1. The warehouse drawing is my favorite, followed by that of the horses. The line “I am the most miserable man in the world” made me laugh, simply because it reminded me of that old commercial for Dos Equis beer that featured “the most interesting man in the world.”

    Even roofless, the chapel is beautiful.

  2. I love your very apt description of Keeping’s ‘sinuous line illustrations’!
    This fascinating post and your beautiful photographs encouraged me to research Nunhead cemetery further.
    Such wonderful architecture and so much positive hope wrapped up in the ornate buildings and statues there.
    I do wonder if planned work to the East Lodge has now been completed. It sounds as though this was in the hands of architects as recently as last November, in which case the building’s shell would have been in a sorry state for a very long time. Thank goodness for groups such as the ‘Friends of Nunhead Cemetery’ and the work they do to preserve our treasures for all to enjoy.

    1. I’m pleased you were prompted to explore further, Emma – and give me a bit of an update, because I’ll never be able to visit these plots in person again ๐Ÿ™‚ The Friends of all seven cemeteries do a good job. I’m pleased you agree about Keeping. Thanks very much.

      1. Let’s hope that at last the future for the beautiful East Lodge is promising – It sounds as though there are now exciting, funded plans for a cafe, and facilities for events & community groups ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. As befitting his name, Mr. Slyme certainly looks dissolute in the Keeping illustration! My favorite photo out of this group is the angel statue. She is just beautiful.

      1. You’re welcome, Derrick. I did get a kick out of seeing the character name. It reminded me a early fiction workshops when our professor admonished us budding writers not to try to get cute and go all Dickensian with the character names.

  4. I like the roofless chapel windows and gates, and love the angel with ivy garland. It seems like a place I would want to stay in for a while.

  5. my goodness, you had rain too. So many of us dealt with a rainy wet day. Good thing we don’t shrink. We can get wet, but aside from being wet.. nothing else changes. =^_^=

  6. I love Charles Keeping’s illustrations! What a keen observer of the human condition!

    The cemetery has an interesting history, Derrick. I also like that beautiful statue with the ivy garland.

  7. Keepingโ€™s inimitable illustrations are a joy to behold at. The architectural beauty of the cemetery and structures in the vicinity have been captured with passion. The angel wearing the garland of ivy is a beautiful photo.

  8. I recently watched Grand Designs, I think channel four. There was a fantastic refurb/rebuild of a cemetery lodge that was a little way inside the cemetery and not on the edge. The lodge had large extensions outwards and a massive basement was created, it was pure luxury and the ownerโ€™s building costs were an absolute fortune, but I couldnโ€™t help wondering how well it would sell in the future.

      1. I wouldnโ€™t mind the location, I think! The house I saw was so over the top in its refurbishment. I think it was in London but I canโ€™t swear to that.

  9. You knew I would give you an elephant stamp for your wine choice, didn’t you.

    Jackie that pasta sauce, and puttanesca are among my favourites.

  10. Love the horses and the singing girls illustrations! ๐Ÿ™‚
    The architecture in the cemetery is so beautiful! If walls, gates, arches, etc. could talk…imagine the stories they could tell of so many year.
    The angel with her ivy bring joy-tears to my eyes. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Did the gray skies produce rain?!
    (((HUGS))) ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I have enjoyed this set of Keeping’s excellent illustrations, Derrick. The cemetery photos and the chapel are also very well done, especially the black and white ones.

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