In the Victorian era, catacombs became important burial grounds for the rich and the blue-blooded. West Norwood Cemetery in London was built with its own catacombs, which were designed to hold around 3,500 coffins. It was one of the first cemeteries to be built in the Gothic style and instantly became a hit with the rich and powerful.
It didn’t take long for it to be known as “The Millionaires Cemetery” and with its elaborate design and rich interior, it is still considered to be one of the finest burial grounds in the U.K. It is also still nearly complete with only the Anglican chapel missing—it was pulled down in the 1960s without damage to the deep, dark catacombs below.
Modern day visitors upon entering will instantly see the catafalque—a hydraulic press that allowed coffins to descend from the chapel above into the catacombs below. Each individual vault is decorated with arches, gothic iron gates and even the family shields of the families interred.
Among those interred in the vault are lord mayors of London, admirals, generals and civil servants. To walk around the catacombs is like walking into the high society circles of the time. It’s a wonder to behold the velvet, studwork and handles—and even the remains of wreaths long laid. It is also sad to see the size of some of the coffins—there are many childrens’ resting places down there among the veterans and politicians—and there is still space for the future. If you get to be rich and famous, powerful and respected you can end your days in the West Norwood Cemetery among the stone angels and decaying coffins.