A Golders Green Crematorium Revisit

Dear Readers, on Saturday we took the 102 bus to Temple Fortune, to go for a walk around the grounds of Golders Green Crematorium. I first discovered this place last year, and it struck me then as a peaceful haven. Today, we saw just one other person. Because the grounds have no vehicular access it really does make for a serene and tranquil site.

Because this is a crematorium and not a graveyard, most people are commemorated with small plaques, and with shrubs, trees or flowers. There is a pond and stream, and we sat watching the dragonflies and listening to the sound of the water gurgling through the purple loosestrife.

I know that many people find cemeteries and crematoria unsettling, but for me there is something about sitting surrounded by nature and by memorials to the beloved dead that is strangely comforting. Death is, after all, inevitable, and while there is sorrow here, there is also so much love. The tenderness of some of the inscriptions, the care with which the plant that memorialises the loved one has been chosen, the desire to remember the person, all seem to represent the best of us, at a time when all the news tells us is the worst.

While we were walking around, my husband asked me what my favourite tree was, and after some consideration I announced that it was the swamp cypress. I should really be choosing a native tree, I know, but this is a species that I associate so strongly with my mother – she used to take her lunch in the Cleary Gardens close to Mansion House station when she was working as a legal secretary, and when I visited them after she had died, I could always imagine her sitting in the shade of the swamp cypress, the first one that I’d ever seen. There is a magnificent specimen in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, and I soon spotted one in the crematorium gardens.

And then another one….

And another one…


The trees are clearly very popular here, and with good reason – the delicate green foliage actually turns rust red and falls in the autumn, making this tree a most unusual deciduous conifer. Also, although it does grow in swamps in its native Southern USA, it is actually very adaptable. Let’s hope so, what with the current temperatures and lack of rain.

Swamp Cypress foliage

And finally we have a little walk in the shade of what I think of as the cloisters.

I’m not quite sure why there was such a taste for Italianate crematoria at the turn of the last century – there is one in East Finchley Cemetery too, of a very similar design – but on a hot, sunny day you could easily be in Sienna or somewhere equally pleasant. And there was time for a final look at the memorial bench for Marc Bolan, the lead singer of T-Rex, who died back in 1977. The bench, with its elegant waterbird, recalls T-Rex’s song ‘Ride a White Swan’, and for anyone who wants a trip down memory lane you can watch and listen to it here.

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