Post Date: Monday the 28th of 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.
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?
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.’
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.
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