The Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery
Friends of the Pet Cemetery
Shooters Hill, London SE18 4LX
This is our first newsletter that gives a brief history of the pet cemetery, as well as an update on our various activities during the year, and our plans for the future.
A little bit of history
The Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery a hidden secret Gem
“Our Dumb Friends League” was founded in 1897 to look after the welfare of animals, in 1914 the league reopened its “Blue Cross” Fund first set up during the 1914 Balkan War the first efforts of the fund were directed at the suffering of horses, the 1st Blue Cross Hospital was in France.
Moving On The Blue Cross Quarantine Kennels at Shooters Hill were set up at the end of World War 1 to house the dogs being brought back home by returning soldiers and families from abroad.
At any one time 123 dogs were kennelled there along with cats and other pets including guinea pigs..
In the 1930’s these kennels provided a safe haven for service men and women’s pets and working dogs, safe in the knowledge that while they were serving their country their animals were safe and cared for and, if needs be, they would be given a final resting place.
The kennels also took in the animals of refugees – free of charge – as people rarely had any money.
By now the kennels were a truly international company there had been dogs from France, Norway, Holland, Denmark and many other countries including one internee from Germany.
Today the pet cemetery is still there but less loved than in previous times, it is a little oasis of calm, adjacent too but not part of Hornfair Park, it is a timely reminder of how our servicemen and women from the 1st and 2nd World Wars cared for their animals, for those that are buried there the poignant inscriptions on the stones bear testament to this. The stones no longer stand in a well-tended garden but lie flat to the ground, many of these animals received recognition for their service during these wars.
There are 240 graves stones on the site and one cannot fail to be moved by inscriptions on many of the stones.
The Pet Cemetery is situated on the Shooters Hill side of the footbridge which crosses Shooters Hill Road by the Fox Under the Hill Pub, there is a footpath which runs down the side of the wall between the Council Gardening Depot in Hornfair Park and the flats, 50 metres down the wall there is an opening into the Pet Cemetery, somewhere, “The Friends of the Pet Cemetery” hope will become a special place to visit.
The FOPC started in 2012, and the aim of the group is to refresh the memorial stones, replant the garden beds, improve the present seating, install bird and bat boxes, and generally create a wildlife-friendly environment. Researching the site is ongoing, but difficult due to the absence of records, so we are always hoping for more information from local people who have memories of the kennels. Do please contact us if you can assist with our research.
· In 2013, we were awarded a Capital Clean-Up Grant - an initiative sponsored by McDonalds, set up by the Mayor of London's office for groups that showed a long-term commitment to their project. This enabled us to buy much needed garden tools and equipment, and we held a special Clean-Up Day where members were invited to come and visit, or help out with a spot of gardening.
· We were also successful in Asda's 'green token' community scheme that we participated in last year. The presentation of the cheque took place, appropriately, at the pet cemetery.
· We are in the process of applying for further grants, as we cannot really progress further with the renovation work until we receive more funding. This will include applying to the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association; London Parks and Gardens Trust; 'Groundwork', a London based environmental regeneration charity that promotes improvements to the local environment.
· Working with Greenwich Heritage Centre, who will assist us with further funding.
What else has been achieved so far?
· We held our first Annual General Meeting in January 2014. Whilst it was successful in many ways, we would have liked to see more members attending. The Mayoress of Greenwich kindly attended, as did Cllrs Jim and Janet Gillman. BBC Radio London sent a reporter to the meeting, in order to record certain aspects for a planned series of broadcasts to commemorate WW1. Also in attendance was Greenwich Time, who took photographs of the display table that showed photos and plans of the original site.
· We have been meeting at the cemetery every Tuesday morning (from 10am-12pm) on a monthly basis in order to keep things looking reasonably tidy. Old, untidy shrubs have been removed, and hedges trimmed. In the process of clearing the beds, we discovered more memorial stones that were previously hidden. We have now changed from a Tuesday to the second Sunday monthly, and you are more than welcome to call in and see what we are up to, and even pull a weed or two if the mood takes you!
· Bird and bat boxes have been installed, along with a bird feeding table. We were delighted that soon after this was done, one of the bird boxes became the residence for some Blue Tits.
· Advice has been sought, and freely given, by a number of experts in their field. This includes Joe Sardena (Aspire Stonework), who has volunteered to clean up some of the stones; Andrew Martinovs (Manager, Thompsons Garden Centre) for planting advice; Men in Sheds (Eltham) who will be helping install some decent seating areas, and the Hornfair Park Dept. who yard backs on to the cemetery. The men are unfailingly helpful when dealing with the disposal of our garden rubbish, and also occasionally providing us with spare plants. We are grateful to all who give us advice and encouragement.
· Approximately 9 volunteers from the 'Community 10,000' scheme joined us for the day on 27th June. This is a work-based government initiative, and we enjoyed sharing the history of the place and progressing with the many jobs that were required at the cemetery. Sadly, our efforts became the target of theft, and some expensive shrubs were taken. This was extremely disappointing as most of the plants had been kindly donated. We also feel that the individual who carried out this theft had absolutely no respect for the cemetery, and what it represents. This crime has been reported, and we are in touch with the local Crime Prevention officer.
· On 28th June, FOPC had a stall at the Great Get Together in Woolwich. We took part in the event last year, and this proved to be very successful. Despite the inclement weather this year, we received many visitors to our stall, and achieved a much needed boost to our funds.
· The group has also been nominated to receive the proceeds from a local government department who hold regular 'Own Clothes' days. The date is to be confirmed.
· We will continue working towards creating a wildlife haven, and a sanctuary for human beings too!
· A full survey of the cemetery that will include locations and inscriptions; this will be recorded and photographed
· Planning educational visits
· Continue to plan and implement planting schemes which will enhance the area
· A possible 'Memorial Wall', where owners can place a plaque on one of the walls, in memory of a departed pet. This will require planning permission from the Council.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading this newsletter, and will continue being a member of a rather special group.