Arnos Vale

I’m not really into cemeteries but seeing as I live next to one, thought it was time I do some exploring. I brought backup. Liv was down to for the weekend, a friend from school and uni who I’d successfully managed to cajole into joining us in India on our Spiti Trip.

But as cemetaries go, this is a very unusual and beautiful one. It’s Victorian, and the atmosphere is quiet and forgotten rather than sombre. In many ways it’s more of an overgrown, fairytale-like wood, an escape from the confines of Bristol. Criss-crossed with singletracks and slippery paths (a shortcut to Sainsburys), it’s flanked by ancient gravestones slick with moss, protruding at odd angles from the earth. In mid summer, when the vines dangle down and the leaves blot out the sky, it even reminded my mum of the rainforest in French Guyana, where I lived for a bit. Mind you, a lot of woods now remind my mum of the Amazon Basin – she likes to see the best in things.


The cemetery includes the tomb of the Bengali humanist and religious reformer Raja Rammohun Roy (“a bridge over which India marches from her unmeasured past to her incalculable future”), some mausoleums and two chapels that are being renovated, to be turned into spaces for chamber music and local art. I like reading the different names, and so far my favourite, and one calls out to be the name of a character in a novel, is Wilberforce Tribe. J.P. For some reason I imagine he had dark, curly sideburns and a serious yet fiery demeanour.



1 Response to “Arnos Vale”

  1. 1 Simon December 6, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    I guess that he maybe related to William Wilberforce…they guy who was famous for his role in the abolition of the slave trade in the UK…a Bristolian I believe…

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