The Link Between Bram Stoker, Henry James & Enid Blyton



It’s time to rediscover more parts of London I’ve forgotten; Some north London towns have changed very little because they’re awkward to reach by public transport, like Crouch End, Stoke Newington and Muswell Hill, where the land was too hilly for underground trains. But there’s a good change that if you live there, or in the Finchley or Barnet areas, you might choose to be cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium. For although the immediate area is famously Jewish, its crematorium is secular and accepts all faiths and non-believers.

Well over 300,000 Londoners have come to rest here, including 14 holders of the Victoria Cross, HG Wells, Anna Pavlova, Sigmund Freud, Ray Ellington, Neville Chamberlain, Peter Sellars, Rudyard Kipling, Sid James and the above three. There’s a Communists’ Corner and 12 acres of gardens with lakes and fountains, and on a sunny day it’s a very pleasant place to wander about in (on a gloomy one it’s bloody depressing).

While you’re up there, there are a surprising number of grand houses, many of which are open to the public, from Bruce Castle to Forty Hall and Myddelton House. North London also had a number of lunatic asylums, some of which have been turned into apartments (now there’s a basis for a story). One of these can be seen in my graphic novel ‘Menz Insana’, beautifully drawn by John Bolton, who toured the asylum in Crouch End and lovingly rendered it in the book before it was converted.

Asylums made me think of Henry Maudsley, the doctor whose uncompromising belief in the physiological and pathological nature of insanity led him to believe that lunatics were simply by-products of evolution, not fit for treatment. He felt that nothing could heal them, but that heredity and inheritance were keys to understanding the disease.  Maudsley was openly critical of the medical role played by asylum superintendents. He was hostile to flawed therapies and chemical sedatives. Asylums themselves, he argued, only damaged their patients. Launching an attack on his own profession, he ridiculing its pretensions to cure the insane, and was universally condemned, his colleagues insisting on the usefulness of ‘moral’ therapy. Today the Maudsley Hospital bears his name.

To these thoughts of death and insanity, I take a stroll through nearby Clissold Park and rest on its beautifully renovated lion’s head benches.


9 comments on “The Link Between Bram Stoker, Henry James & Enid Blyton”

  1. Roger says:

    “Golders Green …although the immediate area is famously Jewish”

    When did Golders Green become jewish? Presumably it wasn’t in 1903, when Evelyn Waugh was born there, as that would have made him even more annoyed it wasn’t Hampstead. I’d assumed … “The red-eyed scavengers are creeping/ From Kentish Town and Golders Green” was another example of Eliot’s antisemitism but is that an later aaumption? After all, it would be difficult for a place to become “famously jewish” in the years from 1903 to 1920.

  2. snowy says:

    The very short version: 1907

    A slightly longer version:

    The L.C.C. were doing slum clearances in the East End.
    They had a policy denying housing to non-natives.
    G.G. tube station opened, giving fast access into London.
    This was in the county of Middlesex, not London, so a different housing policy.

    Grew with the arrival of émigrés from Russia, 1917 onwards.
    And again with exiles from Germany in the 30s.

    [Well you did ask, sort of]


  3. Roger says:

    Thanks- I always thought the whole point of the East End was that ir was where non-natives became natives.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Finally, an excuse to ask something I’ve wondered about for some time. Cremations. In English films cremations are a part of the final rites – taking the place of interment, presumably, and everyone is there. It can make for wonderfully dramatic scenes when someone has been erroneously (or deliberately) put into the casket and the service has to be interrupted to halt the progress toward the flames. In Canada no one is present at the actual cremation but the friends and family attend a memorial service held at a convenient time. The family will have a (usually) private committal service when the ashes are interred or inurned (apparently not a word). Is English practise actually that of the films and do women wear those “wedding” hats to them?

  5. snowy says:

    When someone ‘falls off the twig’, their body is whisked off in a funeral directors van and ’embalmed’ [I’ll spare the details, they are a bit icky and if you are not dead when they start, you will be at the end].

    If there are no pressing religious reasons, it will stay there for about a week, until the funeral is organised. Some people still opt to be dropped in a hole, most are cremated.

    The coffin vanishing into a fiery maw is a bit of a myth. The deceased comes in through the front door followed by the mourners, but disappears behind some curtains about 5 minutes into the service. It is then put on a rack ‘backstage’ until there is a free slot in one of the ovens. These are only run during the night to save peoples finer feelings, great plumes of black smoke act as a memento mori and cause complaints.

    About a week later, the next of kin can collect a jiffy-bag of ashes or if you pay extra the same ashes in a strange little pot with a lid.

    As to the hats, it’s not very common, and tends to be only the widow if she wants to wear a veil. My experience is a bit limited, but interments are more formal, cremations seem to be more of a free for all fashion wise. When the most recent aged relative to ‘hand in their lunch pail’ was burnt, a safari suit was one of the outfits on show.

    [For History buffs only:

    Cremations were illegal in the UK until 1885, William Price was brought to trial for cremating his son in 1884, wion the case and legal cremations followed. There was lots of resistance to the idea, the church had traditionally burnt heretics and witches to deny them passage to Heaven. And their was a concern that a speedy cremation would conceal evidence of ‘wrongfull death’.]

  6. snowy says:

    ‘And there was’, duh!

  7. Alan Morgan says:

    Clissold Park! Although since everyone’s London is a different London that was a free-festival location for me, that and being close to Turnpike Lane. Turnpike Lane being one of those places (Stokey another) where everyone seemed to live. Those two, the Elephant, Brixton, were where everyone I knew way back lived. And Hommerton, which I avoided since it was odd, a Mittlemarch place in London that seemed to exist in a hidden pocket you never knew was there and weren’t that happy to discover it did when that was rectified.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    Thank you, Snowy, yet again. Having it all at once as they do in the lighter or more dramatic films works well, filmwise, but you’re right about the reaction to the smoke.

  9. jan says:

    I don’t imagine its on display any longer but Bruce Castle museum held a telegraph machine which was found in Hitlers HQ at the end of World War 2

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