London Day 3

March 29, 2010 London
Weather: Cloudy w/showers B&B: Kathy’s (Pimlico)

Top of today’s agenda was shipping my parcel of maps and so I was at the local post office shortly after it opened. There was a lengthy queue when I arrived although most of those waiting in line weren’t posting letters or shipping parcels. If you are not familiar with UK post offices you might be surprised to learn that in addition to posting stuff you can deposit or withdraw from your savings account, pay bills, top up your phone card, buy foreign currency, cash your pension cheque or apply for your driver’s licence. I was even offered a credit card with 0% interest for 3 months!

With the parcel on the way I was free to begin my exploration of areas well off the tourist trail. First stop was the Islington & St. Pancras Cemetery and Crematorium. Yes, it’s not Westminster Abbey but the line-ups are shorter and to my knowledge I have no relatives buried in the Abbey. Actually I wasn’t sure if any were buried in Islington either but I had a hunch and a list of about a dozen names to check.

The ladies in the Cemetery office were very helpful although not necessarily thrilled with my long list. They could only bring out one burial register at a time and I had to summon them with a bell when I was ready for the next. It’s difficult to summon someone in a polite sort of way, especially when your ringing the damn thing every few minutes. But it was worth it because the two names I wanted most to appear did so – Herbert’s mother, Sophia Dobson (nee Clifford) and his grandmother, Emma Harriet Clifford (nee Clifford). Therein lies the first clue about Herbert … but you’ll have to wait for the first installment in Herbert’s story to find out the details.

I went off to search for Sophia and Emma’s plots but unfortunately both were buried in public graves, meaning more than one, often many unrelated persons shared the same plot. While many private graves had headstones most public graves had nothing more than a numbered disc (as shown in the photos on My Gallery page). The areas were very overgrown but I did manage to find the marker designating the spot where Sophia Dobson was laid to rest. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a marker for her mother Emma despite bush-whacking my way through some heavy undergrowth. It’s sad but the fact was that most working-class families couldn’t afford the luxury of a private grave let alone a memorial stone. I do feel good about having made the effort to find them and I was likely their first visitor in a very long time.

Having paid my respects I headed back into the streets of Barnet and Haringey and had a good nose around. I looked up a few family residences and dropped by the Alexandra pub on Fortis Green road which unfortunately was shut. There’s a good chance my 3x-great-grandfather and his second wife were living here when they were married in 1905 … and it’s always good to be able to combine family history research with a pub visit.

In the evening I met up with a friend who travelled with myself (and a dozen others) on a fantastic train adventure from Beijing to St. Petersburg in 2004. We enjoyed some great curry at a trendy Asian restaurant in Soho and swapped travel stories. A great end to a very good day.

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6 thoughts on “London Day 3

  1. I’m impressed you found even one of the grave markers – good for you!

    I didn’t get into a post office last time i was there – had no idea what a ‘one stop shop’ it was.

    Hope you’re having fun and mentally preparing for the long long walk…

    Oh – and don’t worry – whatever you eat this week will be walked off next week!

    • Thanks Tahna … I’m well behind on my comments. One more day of family history research and then I mentally switch gears. I certainly have put the miles in this week but I’ll be looking forward to getting out of the city and into the countryside.

  2. Hi bro
    Sounds like your working hard delving into the family history and the pubs! You’ve found something interesting things already. Enjoying reading your comments. Always entertaining!
    Take it easy

    • Thanks Kim … have the boys been following along or are they too freaked out by the fact that their uncle seems to spend all his time in graveyards?

  3. Steve, if you’re in the Kensington/Holland Park area, there’s a pub called the Churchhill Arms that has a decent and cheap Thai restaurant stuffed into the back. Highly recommended!

    Notting Hill Gate on the Central line.

    119 Kensington Church Street, London, W8 7LN

    • Thanks Jer … duly noted. I’ve been here almost a week and I haven’t ventured west of Piccadilly Circus. I did however have an excellent green chicken curry at Busaba Eathai on Wardour Street.

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