By Richard Rawlinson
The row at Haycombe crematorium in Bath over the replacement of the cross-etched 1960s window with a clear pane – offering a neutral blank canvas for visitors of different faiths and none – is contextualised by this example of tolerance and diversity.
The pictures here are of North London’s New Southgate Cemetery and Crematorium, which probably reflects the capital’s multicultural diversity more than any other, catering for religions and traditions including Catholic, CofE, non-religious, Bahai, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish burials and many more besides.
With its cemetery established in 1860 and its crematorium opened in 1957, New Southgate offers dedicated burial areas for Greek Orthodox, Caribbean and Catholic communities, plus wooded areas for people who wish to have more natural surroundings. Wander round and contemplate the statue of Our Lady one minute, and peaceful green havens the next.
The traditional chapel, which offers an organ as well as a CD system, appeals to everyone from Hindus and Sikhs to secularists. Peace and common sense prevail. Crosses and other religious symbols can be changed or removed to create the right setting for each individual service, but the point is that it remains the spitting image of a handsome Victorian church. In other words, it reflects our Christian heritage, an unpopular phrase, but one that is simply accurate.
No-one is lobbying to knock down its steeple, like poor relations of Reformation icon-smashers or the cultural cleansers of the Chinese Revolution. Far from demanding it resembles an industrial incinerator devoid of any ‘offensive’ character, all faiths and none are sharing this beautiful inside and outside space for their funerals.