Approximately 4 miles / 6 Km (about one and a quarter hours)

Click on image to go to an interactive version of this map
Starting and ending at Manor Park, this circular walk looks at the origins of Alexandra Lake on Wanstead Flats, and then explores the history, geography and significance of the City of London Cemetery. The cemetery opened in 1856, built on what had been previously farmland, and before that Aldersbrook Manor. It was to be used to replace burials in City Churchyards, which had become a health hazard. One of the largest cemeteries in the country, it is planted with trees from across the world. The walk looks at grand monuments to lost City Churches, and also the graves of individuals who were involved in significant events in London and in national history.

You can follow the walk directly from your phone. Directions are in black, historical notes are in dark red. There are also links that lead to further information about points of interest.

If you don't want to follow the walk on your phone, you can download a printable PDF version of this walk guide



WAY POINT 1 - Manor Park Station

Turn left out of Manor Park Station and cross Whitta Road.  Proceed along Forest Drive, walking past a small block of flats and Victorian Villas. Over the road to the right is Manor Park Flats, the most southerly point of Epping Forest.

Cross over Capel Road, and then immediately turn left onto Wanstead Flats. Proceed to the nearby information board at a junction of paths.


Take the broader of the two paths immediately to the right of the information board, heading across the Flats diagonally away from the road. As you follow the path, two blocks of flats become visible ahead on the horizon. Continue walking ahead, arriving at Alexandra Lake.

Historical Note 
Alexandra Lake was built at the very beginning of the 20th century (approx. 1906/7) by unemployed men under the direction of the West Ham Distress Committee. There was a lot of unemployment at the time, and dock workers were only employed by the day, so schemes were set up to give men work.

The Alexandra Lake was named after Alexandra of Denmark, the Queen Consort of King Edward VII.

Before the Lake, it’s thought there was a spring here, and together with the natural drainage of the Flats, there was flooding here across the Aldersbrook Road.  The lake was an effort to ease this.  It is suggested that the lake was connected to a drainage route through the cemetery (underground) which follows an earlier natural drainage path eventually joining the Alders Brook.

Link to more information


Follow the path around with the Alexandra Lake on your right, called sometimes locally, Sandhills Lake.  At the car park, turn right and follow the path through the trees, keeping the lake on your right. Where the paths fork, take the left hand smaller path. After about 50 metres, turn left emerging on to a joint footpath / cycle path.  Go over the pedestrian crossing across the Aldersbrook Road, then right again over Wanstead Park Avenue.  Pass the hotel and a small block of shops on your left.


Follow the footpath past the Cemetery Superintendents house,  and continue to the Main Gate. The City of London Cemetery and Crematorium is owned and operated by the City of London Corporation. It is designated Grade I on the Historic England National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Anyone can be interred at the City of London Cemetery irrespective of city connections or religious beliefs

Historical Note 
William J. Haywood, the Chief Engineer of the City of London Commission of Sewers in 1849, reported on the poor condition of the city's churchyards and the health risks this posed. The commissioners decided that a new cemetery should be built for the city's 106 parishes, which would replace burial within the city churchyards.

In 1853 , about 200 acres of former farm land, part of the Manor of Aldersbrook and belonging to the 2nd Duke of Wellington, was sold to the Corporation of the City of London for £30,721. The new cemetery was then built under the direction of Haywood. The first burial was in 1856.

By buying this land, The City of London also acquired commoners rights to graze cattle on the Flats, which is the basis of its eventual assumption of stewardship of the entire forest, under the Epping Forest Act. Cattle continued to be grazed on the Flats until the BSE crisis in the 1990s.  

Link to more information


Above centre on the gate is a carving based on the City of London coat of arms. In the middle is the cross of St George and the upright sword symbolising the martyrdom of St Paul.  There is an incorrect interpretation of the sword which goes back to (at least) the 16th century, which says that the sword represents the one used by the Lord Mayor of London, William Walworth, to kill Wat Tyler, the leader of the Peasants' Revolt. On either side are dragons, and the motto “Domine dirige nos” (Lord, guide us).

Go through the gates to the Cemetery.

Just on the right as you enter are toilets and the Poppy Cafe, well worth a visit for drinks and cafe-style meals and snacks.

Go straight ahead down Chapel Avenue.  



As you go around the cemetery, you will see lots of gravestones, different shapes and styles, reflecting the period they were made. See if you can identify the styles that go with the date of the burial.


There is lots of symbolism in gravestones and monuments. As you go around try and spot them, and work out what they mean.  For example, a broken column on a grave means a life cut short.

Here is a link to a key to some of these gravestone symbols


If you are interested in the geology of the gravestones and memorials, there is a very good downloadable PDF file containing a geological tour of the cemetery.  

You can download the geological tour from here


About 50 metres on the left is William Haywood’s Tomb, which he designed himself. The tomb is made of two types of limestone.   

Historical Note 
Although Haywood’s main achievement was building the City of London Cemetery, he also worked with Joseph Bazalgette on improving the London sewerage system, and with James Bunning on the Holborn Viaduct.

Link to more information about Haywood

Opposite to the Haywood Tomb is the red and grey granite memorial to William Saunders M.D. (1825–1901), who was a Chief Medical Officer of Health to the City of London.

Continue down Chapel Avenue to the point where it crosses Central Avenue. Go down the path marked 'South Chapel & Car Park' on the right hand side of the crematorium which is just ahead. On the right of the path is a fish pond where there are lots of large Carp.

Pass the pond, fork right, and go through the car park behind the crematorium. Keep on going towards the Columbarium (a semi-circle of arches, funeral urns are stored behind them). Notice that the land is higher on both sides of this area. Climb the steps at the right hand side of the Columbarium, and then move to the middle of the top of the Columbarium. The ground here has been built up to fill what was a natural valley.  



Look back where you have just walked. From here you can get an idea about the landscape before the cemetery was built.

Historical Note 
On the map below we see Aldersbrook Manor in 1746. Behind the first R in the word ALLDERSBROOK you can see a long pond (The Great Pond). This area is marked on the satellite image of the cemetery as a rectangle.  The slight valley shape in front of you is where the lake was, probably fed by water flowing down from the area where the Alexandra Lake is now.  

(You can click on photos to enlarge them)

The land was originally part of the Manor of Wanstead. In about 1512 it was separated and called Aldersbrook Manor, named after the brook that ran through it. Aldersbrook was sold to the crown in 1532 by Sir Giles Heron. It then went through a number of owners including Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in 1585 and John Lethieullier in 1693. It stayed in the Lethieullier family until 1760 when it was inherited by Sir Edward Hulse, who sold it to Sir James Tylney-Long, the owner of Wanstead House.  When Wanstead House was sold off, the land became Aldersbrook Farm. The City of London then purchased the farm to construct the current cemetery in the 1850s.

Link to more information about Aldersbrook Manor

Turn around again away from the Columbarium and continue through the trees in the general direction that you have been going.  Cross over North Boundary Road, and immediately afterwards cross Limes Avenue.  Continue walking in the same direction, over a graveled section on to a large grassed area, without graves.  Walk on, parallel with Poplar Road on your left.  

Beneath this grassed area is the site of Wanstead Manor, which was excavated in 1972-3. At the far side of the grass is a small wood down a slope.  The grassed area from the Columbarium to the wood has been built up over the years to make more space suitable for burials. Beneath this raised area is a drain which takes the remnants of what is thought to be the origin of the Aldersbrook. Flowing water becomes visible (on wet days) in a channel in the wood which is straight ahead, and then into the Aldersbrook just outside the cemetery fence, and then finally into the River Roding.

Just before the wooded area, turn left, and go down to Poplar Road.  


Turn right and follow the path as it turns left and becomes New Road.  Take the first turn on the left into Memorial Avenue. On the left is the City of London Cemetery War Memorial and Garden of Remembrance. It commemorates 230 men, women and children killed during air raids on the City, and the boroughs of Bethnal Green and Stepney in World War Two.

Continue along Memorial Avenue passing Chestnut Avenue on the left, and then turn the next left into Poplar Road. Continue until it turns into Limes Avenue goes past the top of the Columbarium that you visited earlier.  Carry on down Limes Avenue until you reach a cross roads.

Turn right onto a path also called Limes Avenue and head towards the Chapel of Remembrance. There are toilets here.  


Go left around the Chapel and almost immediately go into the Garden of Remembrance.  Under a small tree is a memorial to the footballer Bobby Moore, captain of West Ham and  England , and hero of the 1966 World Cup victory.  The exact spot is marked by the blue dot in the picture below. The plaque is flat on the ground, so you can’t see it until you stand over it.

Link to more information about Bobby Moore

Return the way that you came. Just past the Memorial Chapel, on the right side of Limes Avenue is another pond.  There are carp and also some quite large Red Eared Terrapins here if you look closely.

Continue up Limes Avenue and then turn first right into Gardens Way.  

Walk down Gardens Way.  Keep looking at the grass verges on either side.  There are three flat Heritage Trail Memorials down here. The bodies are in the cemetery, but are in unmarked or reused graves, so they have been memorialised here.

Historical Notes 
The first you come to is on the left side verge, is a memorial to John Joseph Sims V.C.

Sims was about 19 years old, and a private in the 34th Regiment of Foot of the British Army during the Crimean War. 

On the 18th June 1855, after his Regiment had retreated back to their trenches, he went out again into the open ground, under very heavy fire, in broad daylight, and brought in wounded soldiers. 

Sims was awarded the Victoria Cross on 24th February 1857

Link to more information about John Joseph Sims V.C.

Next, on the right side grass verge is a memorial to Mary Ann Nichols, the first victim of the unidentified serial killer known as Jack the Ripper. She was found murdered, about 150 yards from The London Hospital, at 3.40 in the morning  on 31 August 1888.

Link to more information about Mary Ann Nichols

Then, a little further down Gardens Way, on the left side grass verge, is the memorial to Catherine Eddowes, who was another murder victim. Catherine Eddowes was the fourth of the five victims of Jack the Ripper. She was found at 1:45 in the morning in the south-west corner of Mitre Square by the square's beat policeman PC Edward Watkins.

Link to more information about Catherine Eddowes

Another memorial near here is to Joseph Merrick (5 August 1862 – 11 April 1890) who was portrayed by John Hurt in the film “The Elephant Man”.  

From Catherine Eddowes plaque, walk further down gardens Way, past a hedge to the next set of beds. Merrick’s memorial plaque is in the fourth flower bed from the left (bed 1771). See the blue spot on the map below for the exact spot.

Historical Notes 
Joseph Merrick was first exhibited at a freak show as the "Elephant Man".  He then went on to live at the London Hospital, after he met the surgeon Frederick Treves. Merrick subsequently became well known in London society.

Only the soft tissue of Merrick’s body is buried in the cemetery. His skeleton (being of medical interest) is held at Barts Hospital, and the London Hospital (also part of Barts Group) has a cast of it.

Link to more information about Joseph Merrick

Continue on down Gardens Way to the junction with Willow Drive.  


Turn right and continue to Woodland Avenue.  Turn right again and go along Woodland Avenue as it turns ninety degrees to the left.  At the junction with South Drive, turn right and walk to the end where it meets the Memorial Chapel.  Turn left and proceed down St Dionis Road.  On the left you pass a World War Two memorial with names and positions listed. 

Where the road crosses Central Avenue, continue straight across.

On the right is the reburial memorial for St Dionis, Backchurch. It was a medieval church, burned down in the Great Fire, rebuilt by Christopher Wren but demolished again in 1878 (22 years after the City of London Cemetery was established). It’s thought that the name Backchurch could have come from it standing behind other buildings.

Continue going the same way to the end of St Dionis Road, on the right is a Commonwealth War Graves plot.


Historical Note 
The graves in the memorials in this area are from the First and Second World Wars. Many of the soldiers that are buried here died in the Bethnal Green Military Hospital. Not all the dates of death are within the actual war dates (1914-1918 & 1939-1945). This is because some of those listed were mortally wounded in war time, but died of their injuries after the war had ended .

The wall at the back of the War Graves Plot commemorates by name those buried in the plot or those in graves elsewhere in the cemetery as well as those cremated in the City of London Crematorium. In all, the City of London Cemetery contains 739 Commonwealth war graves.

Just after the War Graves Plot is a roundabout.  Take the second left on to Southgate Road.

About 20 metres down Southgate Road, on the left, is a tree.  Level with the tree and behind two rows of graves is the grave of Dame Anna Neagle.

The red arrow and blue spot mark the position of the grave.

Historical Note 
Anna Neagle was an English stage and film actress, singer and dancer. She was born in Forest Gate, East London, to Florence (née Neagle) and Herbert William Robertson on the 20th October 1904.  She was named Florence Marjorie Robertson.

She took the stage name Anna Neagle, using her mother's maiden name.  She appeared on stage and in films, and became extremely successful, being voted the most popular star in Britain in 1949. Anna Neagle was famous for making musicals, comedies and historical dramas. Almost all of her films were produced and directed by Herbert Wilcox, whom she married in 1943.

Anna Neagle was awarded the DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1969 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to drama.

In her later years she suffered from Parkinson's Disease, and was thought to have cancer when she died on the 3rd of June 1986, aged 81.

The grave was re-commemorated by Princess Anne on 6 March 2014.

Link to more information about Dame Anna Neagle

Link to a video showing a newsreel of Dame Anna Neagle making the film “The Courtneys of Curzon Street”

Continue down Southgate Road and about halfway down, on the left, are two graves side by side, marked Tucker and Bentley.  


Historical Note 

These are the graves of two police sergeants, Robert Bentley, and Charles Tucker. They were two of the three policemen who were shot dead on 16 December 1910 by a gang, originally from Latvia (then part of Russia) labelled by the press as  “anarchist revolutionaries” attempting to break into a Houndsditch jewellers.

This shooting was the start of a number of incidents over a couple of months which culminated in The Siege of Sidney Street of January 1911.  The siege (also known as the Battle of Stepney), was a gunfight in the East End of London between the remnants of the revolutionary gang and a combined police and army force overseen personally by Winston Churchill as Home Secretary.

Link to more information about the Siege of Sidney Street

Continue to the end of Southgate Road, follow it as it bends left, then turn left into Central Avenue.


Central Avenue contains a number of the reburials from City of London churches. This was done because of the overcrowding in City churchyards and the subsequent health risks, and also to allow for the demolition of many of the unused City churches.  

In addition, during the Blitz, a lot of London churches were destroyed. Human remains from these churches were moved to this cemetery.

Link to more information about the City church reburials

Look out for the reburial monuments as you walk along Central Avenue.  The first that you will come to, on the left, covers reburied remains from All Hallows, Bread Street.  

As you walk along Central Avenue you will see on the right set back a little way, a tall white square block with an urn on top.  This is the reburial monument of St John the Evangelist, Watling Street (Watling Street still exists in the City of London, just north of Mansion House underground station. It is on the route of the original Roman road).

Next you will come to the reburial site of Holy Trinity, the Less (on the left).

A little further up, on the left, is the reburial monument of St Helens, Bishopsgate.

Historical Note
St Helens church, in Bishopsgate, survived the great Fire of London and the Blitz, and still stands today. It contains more monuments than any other church in Greater London except Westminster Abbey. It was the parish church of William Shakespeare when he lived in the area in the 1590s.

One of the people reburied here is Sir Robert Hooke (1635 – 1703). Hooke was an English polymath.

Hooke wrote Micrographia, the first important work on microscopy. He also made many contributions to human knowledge.  His work included Architecture, Astronomy, Biology (he discovered and named Cells), Chemistry, Physics (Hooke’s Law), Surveying and Map Making.  He also designed and constructed scientific instruments. 

Link to more information about Sir Robert Hooke

Continuing along Central Avenue you will also see the reburial monuments for:

- St Mary Sommerset and St Mary Woolnoth (opposite St Helens church, Bishopsgate).

- St Antholin, Watling Street (on the right). The inscription is interesting and refers to the Great Fire of 1666

- St James, Dukes Place (on the left).

- St Mary, Colechurch (on the right).

- St Andrew, Holborn and St Sepulchre (on the left). This inscription is also interesting and refers to building of the Holborn Viaduct.

Continue up Central Avenue.  On the left, just before it crosses Chapel Avenue is an interesting memorial dedicated to the Hindu community. 

Cross over Chapel Avenue, and just on the right in the continuation of Central Avenue is the Vigiland Memorial.

Historical Note
The Vigiland Memorial commemorates Ordinary Seaman David John Vigiland, who died of an illness, aged 20, whilst serving on HMS Chitral. He was originally buried in the military cemetery section of Mombasa (Mbaraki) Cemetery, Kenya in 1946.

After David's death, his father John Vigiland started a campaign to have David's body returned to England. This succeeded, and the body was returned to the UK and reinterred here on December 9 1952.   

The memorial is based on Rubens’ Deposition (Descent) from the Cross. It was carved in Italy from a single 25 ton block of white marble and dedicated in 1955. 

Link to more information about the painting that the memorial is based on

Turn around and return to Chapel Avenue, then turn right, and head for the main gate. 

Just to the left of the gate is the Poppy Cafe (open until 4.00pm) and some toilets.

Leave the cemetery through the main gate.  Turn left and join the path that runs alongside the cemetery fence.  Continue along until you get to the South Gate of the cemetery (usually locked).  


Just ahead is the railway line that goes through Manor Park and starts at Liverpool Street, soon to be part of the Elizabeth Line.

Historical Note 
It’s thought that the proximity of the line (then part of the Eastern Counties Railway, (later the Great Eastern Railway) was one of the factors for building the City of London Cemetery here in 1856. Two years before, the London Necropolis Railway had opened a railway line to carry corpses and mourners between London and the newly opened Brookwood Cemetery, in Surrey.  The service was never developed at the City of London Cemetery.

Link to more information about the London Necropolis Railway


Turn right, and with the South Gate of the cemetery behind you, cross over the Rabbits Road and walk on to the Manor Park Flats. Walk on the footpath that runs parallel to Forest View Road (on your left). Continue until you get to the main road, Forest Drive. Turn left onto Station Road. There is a pedestrian crossing across to Manor Park Station.




Send us your feedback!

Link to feedback form

Let us know if you enjoyed the walk and if you have any other feedback we could use to improve it.

Russell & Paul