|Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery||Greenwich|
The Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery is adjacent to Hornfair Park and was once part of the former site of Charlton Kennels, which originated as a private kennel set up by an army veterinary surgeon in 1899. The purpose was to provide temporary housing for the pets of army officers whilst on manoeuvres or engaged in the Boer War. After the outbreak of WWI the kennels rapidly filled and the facility was enlarged and refurbished with funds from the local branch of Our Dumb Friends League, which later became The Blue Cross. An animal hospital was established here in 1925. This and the kennels continued until 1958 and '57 respectively. The animal cemetery was levelled in 1947 and became a memorial garden with the stones laid into the ground . In 2012 the Friends of the Pet Cemetery was formed to restore the neglected cemetery, which has at least 240 gravestones, the earliest dated 1908.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2015
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The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
Old Blue Cross Pet Cemetery, April 2015. Photograph S Williams
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The origins of the cemetery date back to the late C19th with the founding of Our Dumb Friends League on 10 May 1897, set up to look after the welfare of animals. The League opened its Blue Cross Fund during the Balkan War with the initial aim of helping the suffering of horses, and the first Blue Cross Hospital was in France. The Blue Cross symbol became known in the field as the emblem for animal medical welfare but it was not until 1950 that the League changed its name to The Blue Cross, now shortened to Blue Cross. Unfortunately the records that might have supplied the early history of the Pet Cemetery were lost in a fire at the Blue Cross post-war.
What is known is that in 1899 a private kennel was established at Hope Villas, a large house on Shooters Hill Road close to where the cemetery is today. The proprietor, probably the owner of the house, was an army veterinary surgeon and the kennels provided temporary housing for the pets of army officers whilst on manoeuvres or engaged in the Boer War. In 1909 Eskimo dogs and puppies from Ernest Shackleton's Arctic Expedition were quarantined here. After the outbreak of WWI the kennels rapidly filled and initially temporary shelter on adjoining land was acquired. In 1917 the kennels were permanently enlarged and refurbished with funds from Our Dumb Friends League, a local branch of which had been established in 1905 by residents of Blackheath and Charlton in order to raise funds for the rehabilitation of sick animals. In 1919 a new lease on the premises was acquired. Members of the Blackheath and Charlton branch were evidently successful fundraisers, a Fair held at Woolwich Town Hall in December 1920 raised £450 (£67,500 today) and was opened by Princess Louise. Prominent members of the League were Colonel and Mrs Burden, The League finally purchased the freehold of the property in 1925 and the site was enclosed with a fence. New kennel ranges were built, with large runs, and 180 dogs could be accommodated and cats were also provided for.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had listed the Charlton Kennels among the recommended quarantine stations and during 1924 and 1925 over 770 dogs had been quarantined, and 2,300 dogs and 1,000 cats had boarded. In 1925 a film about the kennels, now lost, was shown locally and led to sufficient funds being raised to establish an animal hospital in an adjacent house. In its first year, over 250 animals underwent surgery. At the 1938 AGM of the League it was announced that the Winter Fayre would be opened by the well-known actress Fay Compton (1894-1978) and that a Belvedere family had volunteered to finance an extension to the animal hospital, in order to provide staff rooms, an outpatients clinic and waiting room, and a full-time veterinary surgeon would live on the premises. In that year among the notable dogs housed here were those belonging to the Emperor of Abyssinia and one that had been awarded the VC by the Daily Mirror.
After the outbreak of WWII the kennels were fully occupied by dogs from the French and Belgian battlefields following the retreat at Dunkirk, and also took care of animals suffering mentally and physically as a result of the Blitz.. The kennels and hospital were ably administered by Miss Radley from 1939-54, during which time the kennels were repaired and refurbished following war damage. In 1949 the Dumb Friends League presented a new £1,000 ambulance, fully equipped with first aid equipment as well as baskets and cages. After Miss Radley's retirement in 1954 she was replaced as Superintendent by Mr Clarke who remained until the hospital finally closed in late 1958 despite vigorous campaigning for its retention. The boarding and quarantine kennels had already closed in 1957 due to lessening use and the availability of cheaper facilities, either private kennels with fees paid by The Blue Cross or other Blue Cross kennels. The animal cemetery had been levelled in 1947 when the headstones were laid flat on the ground and it was maintained as a memorial garden. The reason for this was financial as it was no longer viable to maintain the cemetery. However a number gravestones have been found in the garden with later dates but it is presumed that these commemorate animals without them actually being buried here. From 1959-72 the Blue Cross provided a mobile surgery, which called daily at a site behind Shooters Hill Police Station. The kennels site had been sold to the LCC for housing but the Animal Cemetery was preserved. The tombstones were generally laid flat onto the ground in a small memorial garden that had cobbled areas, with a couple of trees surrounded by seating, but it became neglected over the years.
In October 2012 the Friends of the Pet Cemetery was set up by a group of local people, many of them dog walkers using the adjacent Hornfair Park (q.v.), as a non-profit organisation to restore and maintain the cemetery, now much overgrown and dilapidated. Since then work has begun to replant the garden and the memorial stones are gradually being cleaned and restored. At least 240 gravestones have been discovered to date, some having been under the earth; the earliest is dated 1908, the latest 1951. Many have touching inscriptions and give evidence of wartime service but the proportion of service personnel animals to domestic pets is yet to be ascertained. Among the memorial stones is one commemorating a pet monkey. The Friends have been assisted by a number of local organisations, including RB Greenwich Parks Department, Thompsons Garden Centre, Aspire Stoneware and grants are being sought. Regular site clean-up days take place, with support of local businesses. Bird and bat boxes have been installed and there are plans for raised beds, new seating and other facilities. A memorial wall is being created with the first plaque commemorating a long-lived cat called Polly unveiled in April 2015 by the Mayor of Greenwich.
Research undertaken by Friends of the Pet Cemetery, presented at its first AGM on 21 January 2014 by Liz McDermott, Chairperson. See also: http://www.charltonparks.co.uk/the-parks/hornfair-park/