West Norwood Cemetery was built as one of Victorian London’s “Magnificent Seven” garden cemeteries, but is now a wildlife haven covering about 16 hectares (40 acres) on a north-facing sloping site in south London. It includes a variety of habitats that attract wildlife. It is owned by the London Borough of Lambeth.
Address: West Norwood Cemetery, Norwood Road, London SE27 9JU (Map:; OS grid reference TQ323720)
History[edit | edit source]
West Norwood Cemetery was opened by the South Metropolitan Cemetery Company in 1837. It was built on fields purchased the previous year near the hamlet of Norwood. By the middle of the 20th century, the cemetery had become neglected and overgrown, and in 1966 it was bought by the London Borough of Lambeth, which maintained the cremation service and turned the grounds into a memorial park, removing many of the memorials.
The Council have received about £240:000 in 2017, from the Lottery Fund to finance a bid for £7 million to renovate the cemetery and make it more attractive for visitors.
Habitat[edit | edit source]
Habitats within the cemetery include flower beds, planted shrubbery, scattered trees, scrub, secondary woodland, semi-improved neutral grassland and vegetated walls and tombstones. The site is mostly managed as grassland, with a wide range of plants. The highest part of the cemetery includes a fine area of trees — both ancient Pedunculate Oaks (possibly remnants of the Great North Wood, from which Norwood gets its name) and a mixture of exotic species including Chile Pine and Cedar of Lebanon. Shrubs include Bramble, Ivy, Rose and Hawthorn. An area of the cemetery near the eastern edge is damp and is managed for nature conservation This no longer seems the case if ever?. Some stretches of the walls enclosing the cemetery support spectacular growths of ivy. Some of the ivy has been cut down by 2017.
In the last few months (spring 2018) there has been massive removal of smaller trees and cut back of undergrowth changing the look of the place considerably and clearing many of the old graves.
The Cemetery is on a hill and provides a pleasant walk with views over city and up to Sydenham Hill/Dulwich Woods.
Species[edit | edit source]
Birds According to London WildWeb, the trees and shrubs support a wide range of birds, including Willow Warbler, Kestrel and Tawny Owl. Can anyone add any more useful information? Fresh Tawny Owl pellet found 26/4/18. According to a Friends of Norwood Cemetery Nature Survey from 1982 - 83 there are no records of Tawny Owls stating "Probably but not observed". Though Bullfinch, Flycatcher (doesn't state which type), Greenfinch, Siskin (seen in 1982), House Sparrow, Starling (probably nested) and Linnet (June 1983), Warblers (again doesn't state which species) are all recorded. Also Song Thrushes - which I've not seen or heard at all since starting watching this site in August 2017.
I have visited several times (first time I've ever been here) in autumn 2017 usual woodland birds, active and visible Jays, Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Jackdaws over, Sparrowhawks regularly, 1 Woodcock seen 17th November in overgrown bramble areas, also 1 Fieldfare, 15 Redwing 30/11/17. There is an old rotten owl nest box from 90's or sometime in one of the oaks. There are many Feral Pigeons nesting inside many of the large tombs that have ornate holes. The Cemetery has received about £7 Million renovation award from National Lottery and want to increase visitor facilities which could turn a relatively quiet and attractive cemetery into a tourist attraction for grave spotters! Including 2 more entrances.
Birds seen in the cemetery since autumn 2017: Woodcock, Sparrowhawk (breeds - young heard in 2018 and pair seen copulating in 2019. Fledged juvenile seen near nest in 2020), Tawny Owl (not actually seen just found fresh pellet), Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Ring-necked Parakeet, Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Wren, Long-tailed, Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Nuthatch, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Goldfinch. Herring Gull landed in perimeter once. 8 House Sparrow landed briefly. Total 29. Seen over - Lesser-black Backed and Herring Gulls and flock of Starlings. 1 Swallow (22/4/18) Red Kite circling, 2 House Martins (3/5/2018), 6 Swifts (not many considering the residential area) and female Kestrel high up circling and dived east (24/5/2018)
February 2019: pr Peregrines 25th Feb - 37th species. March 2019: Pied Wagtail 4th March flew over - 38th species. Common Buzzard and Black-headed Gull (both over) Tuesday 5th March. April 2019 Redwing still on 14th April. Monday 15th April: female Kestrel, 1st Greenfinch and Dunnock total species now 42. June 2019 pr House Sparrows making repeat visits on 15th June first time seen on ground here. 19th June - 12 Swifts, female House Sparrow on front sign. 25th August 2 Spotted Flycatchers making 43 species total. December 2019 11th December pr Mistle Thrush first I've seen since I started here 44 species - minus Tawny Owl as not actually seen or heard. 43
January 2020: 18th January Grey Heron flew low over at dusk first I've seen in this area makes 44th species.
April: 26th April - Collared Dove and female Common Redstart, making species total now 46.
May: brown type female Cuckoo flew low over the trees, east.
November: 18th a Hawfinch seen by Paul Collins.
February: 10th a Song Thrush feeding with Redwings, surprisingly first I've seen here.
Total 49 species seen since late 2017 - Michael Mac
Other locals House Sparrows breed along the nearby Norwood High Street and on Knights Hill. Pied Wagtails successfully raised a brood on St Luke's Church in 2020.
No doubt there are plenty of foxes and grey squirrels on the site. Can anyone add further information? There are a lot of grey squirrels also seem to be a lot of cats come in to the place. Red foxes present not sure about bats and surprised there aren't any bat boxes?
According to Dr Iain Boulton (Environment Compliance Officer for Lambeth Parks) the only species of bat here is the Pipistrelle
Red-tailed Bumble Bee, Comma, Speckled Wood, Painted Lady, Common Blue, Gate keeper, Marbled white butterflies all seen on one visit in May 2018. 2019 doesn't seem to have that many - but I may be wrong?
Michael N Mac
Practicalities[edit | edit source]
The cemetery is a short walk from West Norwood station, which is served by Southern Railway, with connections to London Victoria, London Bridge, West Croydon and Crystal Palace. The cemetery can also be reached by bus route 2 or 196 from Brixton, which is served by London Underground (Victoria line) and South Eastern railways (London Victoria to Orpington line). Other bus routes passing the cemetery are 68, 315, 322, 432 and 468.
Access The cemetery has free public access. The gates open daily at 8am (10am on Christmas Day) and close at 6pm from April to October and 4pm from November to March (2.30pm on Christmas Day).
Pubs and shops can be found on the west side of the cemetery in Norwood Road, Norwood High Street and Knights Hill.
This information has been cobbled together from various internet sources by someone who has never visited the site but thinks that it deserves a page on the London Bird Club Wiki. If you are familiar with the site, please correct, expand and/or update this information. Please!