In Which Admin Plans A Tour Of Graveyards

Bryant and May, London

And so it begins again…

Today I’m ready to start the new Bryant & May novel, ‘Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart’. The outline is locked, and the research beckons. I start by heading to (of course) Bleeding Heart Yard, where I first got the idea for the book. Then I start visiting London’s graveyards. I’m thinking Brompton Cemetery then Abney Park in Stoke Newington are my best bets, although I’ve recently used the latter. I’ve also used St Pancras and Highgate before. Can anyone think of underused but quite creepy small graveyards in Central London?

I’ll also be researching from: The Premature Burial (Poe), ‘Buried Alive’ by Jan Bondeson, ‘London’s Dead’ by Ed Glinert, ‘Criminal London’ by Mark Herber and many others, talking to shopkeepers and residents in the Bleeding Heart area and around Hatton Garden, looking up sections of Arthurian legend, arranging an interview with a doctor, then heading to the Tower of London to talk to a warder.

This is the stage when it feels that anything is possible. I have to tread a line between keeping the characters familiar and ringing changes, between covering social lives and criminal investigation, between humour and drama. And when it comes out I’ll still get put on science fiction and fantasy panels, even though most police procedurals are less realistic, with their serial killers and menaced members of the copper’s family.

And today a new threat arrives; New York City has just had its first-ever 24 hour period free of any reported violence; what are crime writers going to do if this keeps up?

27 comments on “In Which Admin Plans A Tour Of Graveyards”

  1. Joel Meadows says:

    Bunhill fields is a great cemetery. I have loads of cemetery photos so if you wanted to meet up, I could try and help you out;) You have seen my Spooked A London Gothic book…

    St George’s Gardens would, I suspect, be very spooky after dark as they’re enclosed by buildings on all sides and not on any roads – makes them an oasis of calm during the day and probably an oasis of gloom at night…

  3. glasgow1975 says:

    Am I being too cynical in expecting bodies to turn up that will be found to have been killed in that ‘crime-free’ period? Missing persons after all aren’t supposed to be reported until a full 24 hours has passed. 🙂

  4. J F Norris says:

    The new B&M sounds perfectly macabre. Can’t wait for it.

    You might want to track down the movie MURDER BY THE CLOCK, too. It has some oddball ideas dealing with premature burial. Been reading a few out of print mysteries in which the fear of being buried alive is oddly prevalent. One of them includes a mysterious drug that mimics catatonia which can lead to a mistaken pronouncement of death. Very pulpy. Also learned there were coffins and vaults with safety features that were being manufactured and patented in late 19th century America for people who were afraid of being buried while still alive.

  5. Ken M says:

    I think small and central rather mitigates creepiness. Brompton is big enough to be creepy, and I’ve always found statues of children in sailor suits rather unpleasant. Hoyle of card games rules fame is buried in Marylebone, but the area could win prizes for not being creepy. Most of the green spaces in Westminster are said to be on the site of former plague pits, whether they were or not, though the playing fields of Westminster school certainly seem to be. What fun for their groundskeeper. Now if only I could find an english translation of “De masticatione mortuorum in tumulis”

  6. Peter says:

    Hi Christopher, good luck with the preparations for the new Bryant and May novel. Best wishes, Peter

  7. Simon says:

    hi Christopher, would love the idea of a novel set on my patch so how about the tower hamlets cemetery?

    Some spooky monuments and it is used as a major cut thru between the tube at odd times of the day and night

    Looking fwd to the next novel

  8. snowy says:

    West Norwood in Lambeth, has high walls and lots of Gothic style monuments. Like Brompton it has catacombs containg coffins. Plus a hydraulic catafalque, [a coffin lift] that allows coffins to drop through a hole in the floor from the chapel above. There are some nice pictures on SubBrit.

    I have a vague notion that a translation of ‘De Masticatione Mortuorum In Tumulis’ might be in Montague Summers ‘The Vampire in Europe’ (1968). But he was a man of “unconventional views” to say the very least.

  9. Helen Martin says:

    Why do I have a horrible vision of a small hill with a blood covered hag gnawing on a corpse inside it? There’s something unpleasant about the word tumulis anyway.Uglier if it was tumulus. Don’t ask me why.
    What was that tiny plot hidden away in a corner? Admin gave us a photo but There was a memorial in it but the whole thing was overgrown….

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Why do I have a horrible vision of a small hill with a blood covered hag gnawing on a corpse inside it? There’s something unpleasant about the word tumulis anyway.Uglier if it was tumulus. Don’t ask me why.
    What was that tiny plot hidden away in a corner? Admin gave us a photo. There was a memorial in it but the whole thing was overgrown….

  11. snowy says:

    It does get slightly more icky than an ensanguined crone, and if you are a bit squeamish don’t read on.

    Imagine the shock on re-opening a recently filled grave, to discover the occupant had broken out of their coffin, and into that of their neighbour, to devour their entrails.

    Sleep tight.

  12. BangBang!! says:

    I’m just so excited about the new books! And I’ve managed to get a part time job so I can afford to pre-order! It’s the little things that make life worth living.

  13. Dan Terrell says:

    Snowy: Didn’t that happen in Moravia?
    I thought I had “The Vampire in Europe”, but it too seems to have wandered. I do have “The Vampire his kith and kin” by Monty Summers – an odd duck for a “modernish” priest.
    On page #201 of my University Books edition, 1960, Summers mentions “De Masticatione Mortuorum in tumulis”, by Michael Ranft, Leipzig, 1728. Partial quote: “He (Ranft) says that it is very certain that some corpses have devoured their cerements and even gnawn their own flesh. It has been suggested that this is the original reason why the jaws of the dead were tightly bound with linen bands. Ranft instances the case of a Bohemian woman who when disinterred in 1355 had devoured the greater part of her shroud.”
    Sounds like premature burial to me, a bit of air still getting in, but the “boxed” or buried not getting out and suffering a great hunger, or making an attempt at self-stangulation.” Premature burial was a lot more common in the good old days. Night, night.

  14. John Howard says:

    Go Admin Go. So sorry that my day to day wanderings among graveyards have only produced Kensal Green cemetery and that can hardly be called small or spooky. Similarly it can hardly be called Central London. A bit of a failure on all fronts really. As film or tv crews use it all the time I do have a yen to see Arthur mixing it up and creating chaos and confusion to the filming of a blockbuster whilst in the pursuit of the criminal mastermind….

  15. Ken says:

    Nunhead cemetery is rather lovely in a menacing way. Could be down to the proximity to Peckham and the tense journey on the 78 bus

  16. snowy says:

    It could have been Moravia, but with lots of little warring principalities being created and destroyed, it’s hard to tell. I suspect the majority, if not all are travellers tales, embroidered in each telling. And the real causes are natural postmortem effects, and that burials were different to the ones we know.

    In that period the corpse of a humble peasant would probably be put in a simple shroud at best and buried directly in a fairly shallow grave. Any disturbance likely due to wild animals scenting the putrifying body and getting peckish.

    Going back to the OP, and not know if the date of internment is critical, I was told today that Barnes Commmon Cemetary, though not central, is derelict, vandalised and overgrown.

    Having just now looked it up, its modern reputation might present an interesting challenge to an author, though with skill this could be woven into the tale, I’m feel sure.

  17. andrea yang says:

    some inspiring photos of the Magnificient 7

  18. Helen Martin says:

    Tower Hamlets sounds useful with the subway connection but the thought of Bryant becoming mixed up with a film crew is unbearably tempting.
    I thought the bandage round the jaws was to hold the mouth closed till rigor mortis set in. Think I’ll skip any translation of De Masticatione.

  19. Jez Winship says:

    Bunhill Fields has William Blake and his wife Catherine’s grave in it, which could lead to some good ruminations on Bryant’s part (I’m sure he’s a fan). St Bartholomew’s in Smithfield is ancient and backs onto Cloth Fair, which is a little corner of London which seems to still breathe the air of the pre-Victorian city. The graveyard is rather small, but there’s a great old medieval gateway, and a striking contrast with the jagged gothic towers of the Barbican which loom over the church steeple. Very atmospheric. St Nicholas in Chiswick is a little out of the centre, but it has a great location near the river, and just over the road from Chiswick House, and strong connections with Hogarth, who lived nearby and is buried there. As is the painter Whistler.

  20. jan says:

    Chris theres a really weird old cemetary down in Chelsea belonging to some religious sect where people were buried standing up(well vertically if not quite standing!!) i have peeped over a wall at it and its not 2 far from the river as i remember i will consult me books and try and locate it for u …..theres also the strange little – wellnot so little really pet cemetary in Hyde park near where it becomes Kensington gardena. Also that estate with the ziggurat flats in Paddington i have written 2 u about it b4 off the Edgware road not 2 far from marble arch (get off the bus / tube at Marble arch and walk west along where all the paintings are displayed on sundays and u can see the ziggurat flats which i think will be on your offside to the right NORTH.)
    those flats were built on a cemetary which was plundered by bodysnatchers for one of the medical schools nearby. U’uuum theres a few off the top of me head i will think about this a bit more. u could well regret asking guvnor.

  21. Helen Martin says:

    Tower Hamlets, after looking at the Flickr pictures really does look good, but Highgate has Marx AND Douglas Adams as well as some fascinating stones (not that you’d use those I suppose.)There is one showing a stone cross carved to look like tree branches. There was an organization in the U.S. that had these made for members but were sold to the general public later. This one didn’t show the base where there were often all sorts of carved details – leaves and insects and small animals. Those Flickr pictures referenced by Andrea above are really wonderful. It looks like an assignment and if so there’s lots of talent there.

  22. Diogenes says:

    Chris, I’m more than happy to help out on any medical questions if you want.

  23. Marc says:

    The graveyard of St Mary Magdalen in Mortlake isn’t in central London. But it does offer you a life sized tent shaped tomb, complete with window to allow passers by to look at what is inside.

  24. Helen Martin says:

    Marc, I’ve seen pictures of some pretty strange memorials, but Burton’s really does take the cake! His wife must have been a little strange.

  25. jan says:

    The new St pancras church Euston road – the one where the lady statues don’t look perfectly proportioned (they cut bits out of the middle) has a crypt thats quite extensive and runs back along the road at the side of the church near to the B>M>A square where the 7/7 bus bomb exploded. There are graves within that crypt and its a weird old spot.

    i know i have mentioned this b4 remember all catholic churches contain a relic in the altar now churches are becoming redundant lots of relics are accruing that no one knows what to do with that could be a useful fact still thinking of places jan

  26. mike says:

    Somewhere else is the little park in Pratt street , Camden Town where Land goes to eat his sandwhich. My nan used to live opposite no 36 ( no longer there ) and I used go there quite often when you look around you will see old tomb stones so at one time it must been part of the grave yard for the church which is now Greek othodox. its a very quite spot surrounded by houses etc.
    Another spooky place is the underground stables where Camden market now is .My father worked for the railway company that owned the site and he used to keep his horse there ( he was a delivery driver ) later his lorry .There was a tunnel which gave access direct to the goods yard which I believe is now occupied by a super market SO THAT MIGHT BE WORTH A VISIT LATE AT NIGHT ….

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