A Revealing Trip to the Cemetery

The cemetery in Shacklegate Lane was opened in 1879, one of the first undertakings of the newly created Teddington Board. St Mary’s churchyard had become completely full and despite the obvious need for an increased cemetery capacity, there was considerable opposition from some quarters, who would have preferred to have seen the churchyard extended. A vigorous correspondence campaign was waged in the pages of the local press and posters, both in favour of and against the idea, were posted in and around the town. After 1879, only those with a family grave in St Mary’s were allowed to reopen them for further burials; all new cases were to be assigned to the new cemetery.

One section contains an amazing number of officers in the Indian Army buried at Teddington: Col. Alexander MacDonald, who died on 17 December 1889, Lt. Gen. George Courtney Vialls, of Teddington Lodge, who died on 11 November 1893, Francis Courteney Chichely Plowden, Lt. Col. in the Indian Army and Col. Henry Charles Kemble of the Bengal Cavalry.

In the central aisle is the monument to Teddington’s most famous literary son,  Richard Doddridge Blackmore, buried with his wife Lucy and his niece, Evo Pinto Leite, who nursed him in his later years.

Some tombstones bear the names of houses long gone; Lizzie and Richard Rabbidge of Weir House, which became the headquarters of EC-KO Films and was nicknamed ‘Weird House’ on account of the strange lights that were always on. It was pulled down to make way for Teddington Studios, now also gone. Henry and Mary Trengrouse of Cornwall and Chesfield, a grand mansion in Hampton Wick, are also there, as is Louise Emily Caroline Vialls of Yelverton Lodge, Twickenham, who died in 1896.

Amongst the great and the good are the graves of the Rev Francis Leith Boyd, vicar of Teddington and builder of St Alban’s Church. At his peak, his congregation was so great that many were locked outside the doors, trying to hear his ‘fire and brimstone’ sermons. His trusty churchwarden, Percival Silvester Towell, who died in March 1929 and was responsible for handing down to us much of Teddington’s history, is also buried there.

Frederick Hugh Munby lies at rest after his Herculean labours of fund raising for Teddington Memorial Hospital. The hospital opened on 19 March 1928 and Hugh Munby died on 28 August 1930, seemingly ‘burnt out’. There is also the grave of Emily Mary Twining Holberton, who died on 1 June 1926. She was one of the Holberton family of The Cedars in the High Street. A great philanthropist, she ran Penny Banks in the town for the less well-off.

Reginald Tansley Witt deserves a mention; he was killed on 20 October 1893, aged 20, after being struck on the head by a ball whilst playing hockey in Bushy Park. Nearby is the grave of Henry Alfred Tolkien, who died on 30 April 1934…perhaps he was a relative of the author of The Lord of the Rings?

John Cornelious Park and his wife Caroline are also buried here. Park was the builder of Teddington Hall, recently restored in Hampton Road, and latterly the owner of Broom Hall, which became part of The Lensbury Club. He gave a pair of alms-houses in Queens Road that are still administered by the Baptist Church. James Arthur Messenger, boat builder, Queen’s Waterman and Royal Bargemaster is also here along with his wife, Charlotte.

The list of names is seemingly endless: the Lemons and the Tozers, all well-known for their public service to Teddington, together with the Collis family, and Noel Coward’s mother, Violet, are all buried here.

The most unusual name recorded is Tryphina Strongitharm, who died on 10 April 1913, aged 80.

When this survey was carried out in 2000, it said that the number of burials had fallen in recent years, with cremations taking the more prominent role. At the rate of burials at that time, there should have been between 20 to 30 years before overcrowding was likely to be a problem. It is tempting to say ‘book now’.

Ken Howe’s book, A Collection of Local History Articles, is available to buy at Waterstones Teddington, The Loft and The Landmark Arts Centre. 

Ken Howe is a local historian and author of several books.


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