Founded in 1880 and now largely hidden behind thick undergrowth, Hyde Park's pet cemetery is home to over 300 deceased pets, including dogs, cats, birds and even a monkey. Curious visitors can book an appointment to view it through the Hyde Park police. However, for a 19th century description of the cemetery we turn to The Puritan, Volume 9, (1901) which can be found at Google Books and which we quote below:
A CEMETERY FOR DOGS.
BY BERTHA DAMARIS KNOBE.
A CURIOUS LITTLE GRAVEYARD IN THE HEART OF LONDON, OFFERING QUAINT TESTIMONY OF MAN'S AFFECTION FOR HIS DOG.
This burial ground for dogs, oddly enough, is conspicuously placed in Hyde Park. One day, the keeper of the lodge at Victoria Gate—that is, the man who was keeper nineteen years ago—was tearfully importuned to dig a grave in his flower garden for a fox terrier belonging to an aristocratic resident. Thereupon it became the custom for dogs of high degree in that locality to have a first class funeral and interment. That the London officials have allowed it, centrally located as it is, to remain undisturbed is due, there is no doubt, to the fact that Queen Victoria has the dogs who serve as her faithful companions carefully buried in a sequestered spot at Windsor Castle.
This city of the canine dead is an attractive spot. It is the conventional cemetery in miniature, with more foliage, perhaps, which makes a pleasing setting to the glistening white tombstones. It is entirely inclosed with well trimmed bushes and young trees, so that the passer by in the street is prevented from peering through the park fence into the sacred precinct. Even the would be visitor must secure a permit from the brass buttoned keeper of the lodge.
Once inside, one sees narrow walks laid out with regularity, and on either side rows upon rows of little graves, each small lot being marked off with bars of brown earthernware. The graves are covered with sod or ivy, while on some flowers have been planted. In one corner is a tiny greenhouse, where the mourning master may purchase a floral emblem.
For a dog to repose peacefully in this resting place does not cost an excessive sum. There is a tinge of charity about it all. for if a poor washerwoman conies along, as one did not long ago, with a common cur rolled up in her apron and a big lump in her throat, the kind hearted keeper of the lodge buries her dog for nothing. If the owner is well to do, and the pampered pet has been fed on pate de foies gras all his life, a corresponding charge is made.
In this cemetery some of the deceased adorned with the most curious tokens. There are shells bleached to whiteness, glass cases in which are wreaths—these cheap gewgaws are so common in all European cemeteries—and on one is a string of New Zealand shells, which a man placed over the mortal remains of his dog to signify that as long as they last love shall endure. After the owner has decorated the grave, it is not uncommon for him to order a photograph of it.
As to the epitaphs, they are undoubtedly the oddest contributions to graveyard literature. There are inscriptions in Egyptian and Italian, in poetry and prose, or. oftener still, some endearing term which was evidently in use before his dogship left for the happy hunting ground. One of the first epitaphs to attract the eye has a Biblical peroration. It reads: In loving memory of M. C. Trotter's Jessie. Born 1893, died 1900. "Not one of them is forgotten before God."- Luke xii, 6. Another reads: In fond memory of Gyp —" my Gippie "—who died February 1, 1899, aged seven years. He was a true little friend and companion, and will never be forgotten by his sorrowing mistress, M. B.
The owner of " Hetty " adds this to the usual dates of birth and death: And when at length my own life's work is o'er I hope to find her watching as of yore. Eager, expectant, glad to meet me at the door.
One of the most popular inscriptions —it is found on at least three tombstones—is the quotation:
There are men both good and wise who say that dumb creatures we have cherished here below shall give us kindly greeting when we pass the Golden Gate. Is it folly if we hope it may be so?
Close by is "' Poor little Prince," who was the pet of the Duchess of Cambridge, while "Pitkin" not only has an " Au Revoir," but the crest of the grand duke to whom he belonged. One woman went so far as to engrave on her dog's stone: She brought the sunshine into our lives, but she took it away with her.
Aside from the inscriptions, which are nothing if not unique, are interesting little tales connected with some of these dogs. The most pretentious stone in the cemetery—the majority are simple —was erected by a rich voting woman who was devoted to her "Lily." When this pet passed on, she purchased a good sized monument, the shaft of which is entwined with lilies. Around this grave are a stone coping and an iron railing, while a profusion of fresh flowers adorns the mound, the doting mistress being addicted to periodically slipping away from pink teas to leave a tear and a token over the remains of " Lily."
One mourning mistress adds "Faithful unto death" to "Spot Almond" and in a glass case which reposes on the grave are not only the conventional wax flowers, hut this message, written: In ever loving memory of our loving, faithful dog, Spot, for five years a faithful friend and companion of her devoted mistress, who will ever mourn her loss. Gone, but will never be forgotten.
Not one of the canary birds has a stone, but a parrot, known as the best talker in England and the winner of many pounds in prizes, has a small head piece. This post mortem care of pets, which is so oddly illustrated in the London cemetery, is a counterpart of the spirit that has ever induced fine companionship between man and the dog. When it comes to fidelity, the animal is so superior that a poet has put it: Oh, much enduring dogs to live With men! To you our praise we give.
Queen Victoria is not the only crowned head who has enjoyed these four footed friends "with soft brown eyes more eloquent than speech," and after their demise ordered a respectable interment. 'There are numerous other personages, crowned and uncrowned, who have recorded their comradeship in stone. History records that Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, erected near his castle, "Sans Souci" at Potsdam, a monument to his favorite greyhound, Biche.
This care of the canine dead in London may seem overdone. But the sojourner in that metropolis is impressed with the consideration shown all living animals, from the horses hitched to the great lumbering `buses to the cats of the street. Humane societies for animals abound, and one finds everything from a horse hospital to a home for stray cats. The workingman who walked many mile at night, carrying his dog, to beseech the keeper of the dog cemetery to give it a " Christian burial," serves as a sample of the animal loving type in England. It is doubtless owing to this universal spirit of kindness for dumb creatures that the burial ground for dogs has flourished in the center of one of London's most fashionable thoroughfares.
Labels: Kristine Hughes