Hyde Park Pet Cemetery - a Victorian curiosity
The Hyde Park pet cemetery is a disused burial ground for animals in London. Established in 1881 in the garden of Victoria Lodge, home of one of the park keepers, the cemetery became popular after the burial of a dog belonging to Sarah Fairbrother, wife of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge.
Some 1,000 burials were carried out before the cemetery was generally closed in 1903; sporadic burials were carried out thereafter until 1976. Most of the animals are dogs, though some cats, monkeys and birds were also buried.
The origins of the cemetery is placed with the burial of a dog named Cherry in 1881 - a Maltese dog, belonging to the children of Mr and Mrs Barned. Cherry and the Barned family often visited Hyde Park, and were friendly with Mr Winbridge, the keeper of Victoria Lodge, from whom they would often buy refreshments and visit the lodge garden. Cherry died of old age on 28 April 1881 and Winbridge agreed to bury the animal in his lodge garden.
The second burial was that of Prince, the dog of Sarah Fairbrother, wife of the then Duke of Cambridge. Prince was crushed under a carriage wheel near Victoria Lodge in June 1882. Winbridge, a former servant of the duke, brought Prince into the lodge where he died and afterwards buried him in the garden.
The burial of Prince brought publicity to the lodge and Winbridge opened his garden for other burials. The lodge garden, originally known as the London Hyde Park Dog Cemetery, became among the first public pet cemeteries in England. Winbridge would sew the animals into canvas bags and carry out the interment himself. The pets largely belonged to upper-class families who lived in the streets near to the park.
Many animals were buried under miniature headstones which are almost all approximately 31cm high, 24cm wide and 5cm thick. The text on the headstones also mirrors human gravestones and many include the phrases "here lies..." or "rest in peace". Some are marked with bible passages.
Winbridge operated the cemetery as a philanthropic gesture and not as a commercial business. By 1893 Winbridge had carried out 39 burials. The cemetery became popular 'by accident', and by the time it was largely closed in 1903, due to lack of space, it had received around 1,000 burials. After the general closure, occasional burials were made of the pets of well-connected owners; these were made in gaps in the existing rows of headstones or near to the fence. The last burial was carried out in 1976.
The site is owned by the The Royal Parks, and not open to the public except as part of occasional tours.
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