Loughton Cemetery was bought from the Maitland family estate and laid out in 1887 by a burial board. Its principal function was to provide a burial place for the many nonconformists in the growing town, many of whom objected to burial in the Church of England graveyard – there was a cause celebre, the Akenham burial case – about this time.
The cemetery covers over three acres and was laid out to the plan of Edmond Egan, the Loughton architect. The first burial was of Eliza Leech, a 35-year old married woman, on 4th January 1888.
The Cemetery was divided into consecrated and non-consecrated ground. No chapel was built, the funeral service either taking place in the deceased’s own place of worship or at the graveside, or both. All denominations represented in the town are present (only St John’s Church has a burial ground; that of the Union Church being full). Burials among the nonconformists were often conducted by local preachers rather than full-time ministers.
The lack of a mortuary chapel was pointed out in the local press in the early 1890s. If a body was found in the forest or on the railway – both unfortunately places convenient for suicides, the coroner generally ordered the body to lie in the shed at the King’s Head Inn in Loughton (where inquests also took place). This was thought unseemly, and during the 1890s (we are not certain exactly when) the present mortuary building was erected. It is fitted with three large compartments each with its own door and metal rollers for the reception and storage of the body or coffin. We know the building was used for the reception of the body of a murder victim as late as 1970. The architect of the building was again probably Edmond Egan, but this is uncertain as the records have not survived.
The building is described in the official DCMS listing as a funeral chapel, late 19th century. It has timber-frames, plastered with the frame exposed externally and internally, on a base wall of gault bricks, laid in English bond. There are two bays aligned approximately NE-SW, double doors at each end, with a pair of round-head lights above each and two similar pairs of lights in each side wall. Plain glass at the SW end, elsewhere stained glass in leaded geometrical pattern. It has curved bracing at each end, ogee-curved bracing in each side wall and is plastered with ridged, arrowhead pattern externally and plain internally. There is an arch-braced collar clasping side purlins and bargeboards with quatrefoil piercings. The floor is laid with red and black tiles in diaper pattern.
The chapel’s shingled roof was renewed by Loughton Town Council in 2004 after we had assumed responsibility for the cemetery from Epping Forest District Council in 1997. Ownership had previously passed to Loughton Urban District Council in 1900 and Chigwell Urban District Council in 1933.
Among the notable burials in the cemetery are several war graves, including that of Terence J Brady (a pilot officer in the RAF) and his father, Joseph W Brady (a Major in the Home Guard), and an early pilot of the Royal Flying Corps, Geoffrey P L Jacques (son of the Loughton architect) 3rd October 1916. These are simple War Graves Commission headstones; there is a more elaborate one to James Percival Waller, died 3rd August 1918 (RAF). There is a rugged cross, with the RAF wings in its centre.
More elaborate non-military memorials are the anchor and tree to Godfrey Lomer of Loughton Lodge (who died at Karlsbad on 24th August 1910), a Celtic cross to Florence, wife of the Essex historian H W Lewer (1913), a rustic cross to William Drummond Abernethy, 1913-88 (“His work was Children’s Play”), a rustic Celtic cross to Charles Savin Foster, the Loughton builder, who died in 1954 aged 97, and his wife and a striking black marble cross to J E and H W Dongray 1936 and 1961. As mentioned above, the earliest burial was the wife of Arthur Leech (Chairman of the UDC, J.P. and mainstay of the Methodist Church) in 1887. He later remarried and the graves lie side by side. He died in 1923 and his second wife in 1942.
Octavius Dixie Deacon, the publisher and local artist, died 1916, lies by the central avenue in a pink marble curbed grave; and nearby is the roofed grave designed by the famous architect, Raymond Erith, for his uncle (Arthur, died 1926). Egan and his erstwhile apprentice, Horace White, who between them designed hundreds of Loughton houses, are also in the cemetery. James Cubitt (died 1912), the noted architect, lies in a family grave without his name on the stone.
The central avenue was laid out so as to describe a circle round what even in 1887 was an ancient oak pollard, now some 13 ‘ 6” round the bole, and surrounded by seats. It is perhaps 300 years old and is still bearing an excellent acorn crop. There is also a venerable lime on the western boundary near the St. John’s Churchyard.
The cemetery, maintained by Loughton Town Council, is we hope, a refuge for the bereaved, a home to local wildlife and an oasis of calm in an otherwise built up area.
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