In 1787 Hamfrith Farm, the site today of the Godwin and Sebert Road Estate in Forest Gate and of Manor Park Cemetery, belonged to John Greenhill whose home was Hamfrith House (built about 1800 and demolished in 1891; known from the 1860's as West Ham Hall), now the site of Woodgrange School in Sebert Road. The land was sold in 1851 to Samuel Gurney (d. 1856), brother of Elizabeth Fry the prison reformer. In 1872 his grandson John Gurney sold much of Hamfrith to the British Land Company who two years later sold it to the Manor Park Cemetery Company.
The Cemetery was established in 1874. Initially opened purely as a cemetery, the original chapels, lodge and main entrance were built in 1877. Only the tower of the chapel survived when it was hit by enemy action on 23rd July 1944. The rebuilt chapels, incorporating crematorium facilities, were opened on 2nd November 1955.
Manor Park has full records from 1875, the first interment being one William Nesbitt who was buried on the 25th March 1875. His grave can still be seen on the right hand side of Remembrance Road. Manor Park has the honour of having the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross buried in the grounds. John Travers Cornwell VC was only 16 when he died of wounds received at the Battle of Jutland. The memorial to Mary Orchard who died in 1906 was erected in grateful memory by some of Princess Alice's children whom Mary served for forty years. These were Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenburg, Elizabeth, Grand Duchess Sergius of Russia: Irene, Princess Henry of Prussia, Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, Alix, Empress of Russia.
This cemetery is shielded from Whitta Road, Capel Road and Ridley Road by the houses that were built on part of the original estate not required for the cemetery. On the southern side is the main Liverpool Street to Southend and Colchester railway line. Incidentally, Capel Road - originally called Duncan Road - is named after an old Essex family whose most famous member was Arthur Capel (1631-83) who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and later Earl of Essex. It is probably he that the road is named after.
Manor Park Cemetery covers 50 acres with an attractive mix of woodlands, grassed areas, old and new traditional graves, lawn graves, gardens of remembrance, shrubs and walks. Even though cremations now comprise something like 70% of all UK funerals, many burials still take place, and burial grounds are at a premium. Thirty years ago, from a house whose garden is separated from the cemetery by only a 5ft wall, even in the depths of winter it was almost impossible to see a gravestone through the thick mass of trees that formed much of the cemetery's northern boundary. Now those trees have been all but removed, leaving only a line of mature Lime (Tilia x europaea) trees, and - unfortunately - a massive weed-growth of Robinia pseudoacacia - to shade the gardens. Now the view of gravestones stretch away across the cemetery. Unfortunately, many of these are of a black polished stone that appears virtually impervious to weathering and giving - to my mind - a bleak outlook. With the trees, it seems, went cover and habitat for many wild birds including Tawny Owls which were frequently heard and seen. At one time even a Barn Owl could be heard, but no longer. A variety of birds are still present of course, and a list is given on the next page. Foxes are just as frequent in the cemetery and adjacent gardens as ever! A list of plants found in the cemetery was made in 1977 and again in 1996. This is available from the link below, together with some additional records.
For a list of birds found in Manor Park Cemetery click here
For a list of plants found in Manor Park Cemetery click here
For a list of some other wildlife in the cemetery click here
VICTORIA COUNTY HISTORY OF ESSEX, VI. O.U.P.
WOODGRANGE NEWS. The Journal of the Woodgrange Residents Association. 1986.
THE MANOR PARK CEMETERY AND CREMATORIUM. Brochure produced by Steergood Association on behalf of the Manor Park Cemetery and Crematorium.
MOVIN' ON - THE STORY OF THE AREA OF ST MARKS IN FOREST GATE. By Martin Wallace and produced by St Marks Church, Forest Gate.