Calls for London cemetery to be restored after limb found sticking out of vandalised grave

West Norwood Cemetery on the 8th October 2019 in London in the United Kingdom.
West Norwood Cemetery on the 8th October 2019 in London in the United Kingdom. Photo credit: Getty Images

Advocates are calling for the restoration of an old London cemetery after a decomposing limb was found protruding from a vandalised tomb.

Graves in West Norwood Cemetery are in memory of leading members of the Greek community in 19th Century London, but in recent years have been heavily neglected and vandalised.

Dr Victoria Solomonidis-Hunter, a Greek-British associate lecturer at University College London, told The Guardian she was shocked to discover the "heartbreaking state of decay".

She particularly noted the condition of a monument by the Vagliano Brothers.

"One of the most beautiful monuments is that of the Vagliano Brothers, who - among other major works - funded the National Library of Greece in the late 19th century. The monument is a copy of the Tower of the Winds [erected in Athens about 100-50BC]. It is in a bad need of restoration. Pigeon droppings inside are 70cm high."

In March, Solomonidis-Hunter said she learned the monument had been vandalised and that the hardboard covering the entrance had been broken, leaving the two caskets in full view. 

"One of them was open, through decay, with a limb protruding," she said.

Now campaigners, including London University academic Prof Bob Flanagan, are calling for the cemetery's owner, Lambeth Council, to protect the monuments.

"It's disrespectful and shocking," he told The Guardian.

"It's also a health and safety hazard for people walking round the cemetery. In some instances, coffins are exposed and there might be accidents with people falling into decayed vaults."

A spokesperson for the council said in a statement to Metro said there are currently plans in place for a multi-million restoration project "which will include significant investment in the Hellenic enclosure".

"West Norwood Cemetery is a historic and valued asset and the council has invested heavily in maintaining and improving it for the benefit of the whole of the borough."