Heather Scott 2020

University College, London, UK

‘And writing…will preserve his memory’: Laman Blanchard’s afterlife in letters and ledgers

Established in 1836 by the South Metropolitan Cemetery Company, Norwood Cemetery was the second of the garden cemeteries to open in London. The burden of continuously maintaining such expansive tracts rendered most of these enterprises insolvent within the next hundred years. Lambeth Council eventually assumed ownership of Norwood, and in the 1960s elected to clear a sizable number of the cemetery’s monuments without considering the architectural and historical legacy enshrined in that place nor the resultant obliteration of the dead’s identity. This paper will trace the genesis of Norwood Cemetery through cemetery records and the afterlife of the interred, where contemporaneous fragments of bureaucratic manuscripts are all that remain of the last social act of disposal because destroyed markers fail in their purpose as a referent for the corpse lying in situ. The grave of the poet and journalist Laman Blanchard (1803 – 1845) was subject to the council’s lawn conversion project, and his monument no longer marks his remains nor those of his wife and two sons also buried in the plot. However, his textual contributions in life are often echoed in absentia in death, and in locating Blanchard’s lost monument, the fragments of record books and personal missives remain the only preserved legacy. In this way, the lost manuscript of Blanchard’s monument is pieced together and offered a permanence it was deprived and is preserved as his contemporaries would have wished.


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