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Meath Gardens

©Barry Carter 2002 - 2021


Formally Victoria Park Cemetery

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From cemetery to park

Meath Gardens was formerly a privately owned burial ground belonging to the Victoria Park Cemetery Company Ltd. Opened in 1842, you can still see the V.P.C. plaque with the date high up on the arch at the main entrance, which underwent renovation in 2017. It was never consecrated, and was said to be one of the worst East End private cemeteries. The Times called the cemetery a ‘loathsome place’ with ‘revolting practices.’
The company went bankrupt in 1853 but Victoria Park Cemetery stayed open for burials until 1876. Of the estimated 100,000 bodies there, three quarters are thought to have been children.

The cemetery was landscaped and opened as Meath Gardens in 1894 by the Duke of York. The name comes from  the Earl of Meath, who was chairman of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association. . The bodies were not removed when the landscaping took place, only the headstones were moved. There is now a children's play area as well as adult fitness facilities.
A footbridge was opened in 2009 which links Meath Gardens to Mile End Park and also the Regents Canal, which flows beneath it.
Unusually for those times, the original landscape gardener to be appointed to the job was a woman, Fanny Wilkinson.
She was a member of the M.P.G.A. and had been involved in many gardening projects in London including Hackney’s Goldsmith Square.
She was suffragette and Britain’s first ever paid female Landscape Gardener, overseeing many of the organisations projects

The bodies remained in place

A rare old Black Poplar tree can also be found in the middle of the gardens. It is known to have been there while a cemetery. This means it is definitely at least 175 and could easily be over 200 years old. It is native to Britain but is now quite rare.

The Black Poplar tree

The Australian Aboriginal XI cricket team came to tour England in 1868 (this was ten years before the Australian team started coming over for test matches). Unfortunately one of their players, Bripumyarrimin, known as King Cole, contracted Tuberculosis and died while here. He was buried in Victoria Park Cemetery and his grave is still marked in Meath Gardens today with a tiny plaque. In 1988 a Eucalyptus tree was planted next to the grave.
A commemoration took place on 6th June 2018 marking the 150th. anniversary of Cole's burial in the cemetery.  The then current Australian Indigenous XI and the Australian High Commissioner attended the ceremony. An information board was also unveiled.
More King Cole photos

King Cole

More Meath Gardens photos