The Victorian Pet Cemetery of Hyde Park
Post Date: 
28th October 2013
Author: 
Matt Gedge

Tucked away in the north west corner of Hyde Park lies a little known treasure of late Victorian London, the Pet Cemetery.

Walking along Bayswater Road you would have to be extremely observant to notice the gravestones through the fencing, being as they are carefully and respectfully hidden away from the general public.

Presumably to deter the average tourist it is necessary to make a booking and pay in advance to see this ‘modest canine Elysian Field’, but once the gardener opens the gate to the secluded back yard, it is worth the wait and the cost.

It is as if one has stumbled into a Lilliputian necropolis, with row upon row of tiny headstones stretching out into the undergrowth. The garden feels strangely enchanted, a lost moment of London’s history captured in miniature. And where else aside from a 70s children’s TV show could you find Topsey next door to Freeky?

So why is this 19th century oddity here? Well, apparently it all began by accident in 1881, when a Mr Winbridge was gatekeeper. A local couple Mr & Mrs J Lewis Barned had two children who regularly visited the park and often bought ginger beer and lollipops from Winbridge. When their dog passed away they asked the gatekeeper if they could use his garden as a fitting burial place, and sure enough this was where their pet was buried with the inscription ‘Poor Cherry. Died April 28 1881’ on the tombstone.

The following year a dog named Prince was buried here. He was a Yorkshire Terrier belonging to the wife of the Duke of Cambridge, but unlike Cherry who died peacefully of old age, Prince died tragically by being run over by the wheel of a carriage near Bayswater Gate, and actually died inside the Lodge from its injuries. The incident was recorded in the Duke’s diary on 29th June 1882.

Other faithful companions of the Lewis Barned family were then laid here to rest, with the inscription on their dog Zoe’s tombstone reading ‘Alas Poor Zoe. As deeply mourned as ever a dog was mourned, for friendship rare by her adorned’.

The notion clearly caught on quickly for by 1903 when it was officially closed, the Pet Cemetery contained around 300 graves.

Today it is a rather bemusing sight to behold. One feels caught between amazement, respect and a rather uncomfortable amusement as one stumbles across inscriptions as sentimental as:

‘In memory of our darling little Bobbit. When our lonely lives are over and our spirits from this earth shall roam, we hope he’ll be there waiting to give us a welcome home’

‘Dear little Goofy. Aged 7 years. Sleep peacefully little one’

‘Prince. He asked for so little and gave so much.’

Alongside these worthy epitaphs are an odd assortment of names, no doubt often chosen by children unbowed to convention.

From the rather sweet ‘Flossie’, ‘Lulu’, ‘Tapper’, ‘Toddles’

To the slightly confusing ‘Scum’, ‘Smut’, ‘Charlie Phillips’ and ‘Drag’

To the downright weird ‘Lord Quex’, ‘Bogey Church’, and my personal favourite ‘Prince, Marine Commander of Anisor’…

While one inscription spoke of a terrible treachery: ‘Balu. Son of Fritz. Poisoned by a cruel Swiss. Berne – 1899’.

The Cemetery is not limited to dogs, with cats like ‘Peter the faithful cat’ and ‘Ginger Blythe, a King of Pussies’ amidst their canine friends/foes, while a couple of inscriptions for ‘Dear Monkey’ and ‘Crocodile’ could leave one a little confused!

But the gravestone that I most wanted to find was of the Hyde Park police dog Topper. The Strand magazine published an article about the cemetery in 1893 where the poor dog had its reputation dragged through the mud, with him being described as ‘insufferably vulgar’, ‘a snob of the lowest and most contemptible kind’, with ‘a bad strain in him which seems to have run through every line of his character’. He died of over eating, and was ‘put out of his misery’ by the truncheon of a policeman.

Poor Topper.

Rest in Peace.

Please note we do not lead tours in the Pet Cemetery. In order to find out about how to visit, costs and availability, call the Royal Parks on 0300 061 2000