Posted by Richard Rawlinson
After her funeral service at St Paul’s Cathedral last week, Margaret Thatcher was driven to Mortlake Crematorium in west London before the committal of her ashes alongside her beloved Denis at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Mortlake is a pleasant 1930s building surrounded by peaceful, landscaped gardens. HG Wells, who cremated his wife here, wrote this of its ‘rear of house’ facilities:
I should have made no attempt to follow the coffin had not Bernard Shaw, who was standing next to me, said: ‘Take the boys and go behind. It’s beautiful’. When I seemed to hesitate he whispered: ‘I saw my mother burnt there. You’ll be glad if you go’. That was wise counsel and I am very grateful for it. I beckoned to my two sons and we went together to the furnace room. The little coffin lay on a carriage outside the furnace doors. These opened. Inside one saw an oblong chamber whose fire-brick walls glowed with a dull red heat. The coffin was pushed slowly into the chamber and then in a moment or so a fringe of tongues of flame began to dance along its further edges and spread very rapidly. Then in another second the whole coffin was pouring out white fire. The doors of the furnace closed slowly upon that incandescence. It was indeed very beautiful. I wished she could have known of those quivering bright first flames, so clear they were and so like eager yet kindly living things.
For a virtual tour, click here.