Golders Green Crematorium
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Golders Green Crematorium

Golders Green Crematorium in London was designed by the late Victorian architect Sir Ernest George (1839-1922). George was a leader of the English Domestic Revival and the pre-eminent designer of crematoria in Britain.

Golders Green Crematorium in London was designed by the late Victorian architect Sir Ernest George (1839-1922).  George was a leader of the English Domestic Revival and the pre-eminent designer of crematoria in Britain.  He was celebrated during his lifetime, but his subsequent reputation has been eclipsed by contemporaries such as Norman Shaw.  George’s output encompassed public, ecclesiastical and commercial buildings, but he was primarily a domestic architect; his reputation rests upon a splendid series of town and county houses designed for an elite clientele. 

Although he was primarily known as a domestic architect, George developed an innovative solution to the design of crematoria and became a leading authority in this field.  The commission for Golders Green Crematorium (1902) came about because George had previously designed a house for Robert J. Crawshay, whose mother, Rose Mary Crawshay, was a founder of the Cremation Society.[i]  The committee felt that George ‘would command the confidence of the public’.[ii]

 

The history of cremation in Britain dates back to the Bronze Age, but the practice was virtually eradicated by the arrival of Christianity and its doctrine of resurrection.  In the nineteenth century, however, factors such as urban expansion, soaring population and the inadequacy of existing burial grounds meant that cremation was revived, offering as it did a hygienic and efficient means of disposing of the dead.  In contrast to Indian tradition, cremation in Britain developed as an indoor practice, meaning that it required an architectural form.  In creating this form, George faced a number of problems.  The lack of historical precedents meant that there were few architectural models to follow.  Cremation in Britain developed as an essentially secular practice; George’s design therefore had to allay deep-seated public scepticism and indeed religious prejudice.  His solution was to use the Lombard Romanesque style, which was ‘less dogmatically Christian’ than Gothic and which suggested a link with Roman practice.  Again, George’s sketchbooks provided valuable source material: his design was informed by the churches of Como, Milan, Pavia and Verona.  For example, his furnace tower took the form of a detached campanile or bell-tower and incorporated an ingenious device that prevented the visible emission of smoke.  This softened the impact of a structure that could have appeared glaringly modern and macabre.  George’s model for crematorium design was profoundly influential.

Among those whose ashes are retained or were scattered here, are:

Enid Blyton

Marc Bolan

Sigmund Freud

Ernest George

Sid James

Yootha Joyce

Alexander Korda

Edwin Lutyens

Keith Moon

Anna Pavlova

Peter Sellers

Bram Stoker

Amy Winehouse

Bibliography

Hilary J. Grainger, The Architecture of Sir Ernest George


[i] The Arts and Crafts architect CFA Voysey was considered briefly, as his father was another founder of the Society.

[ii] William Robinson quoted in Grainger, p356.

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Comments (14)
Ranked #10 in Architecture

Another interesting building with elaborate history, Michael.

Great account of Sir Ernest George and his professionalism in composing these intricate details in his work. Thanks Sir

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks, gentlemen.

Cool history!

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Cheers, James.

Excellent,man..

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thank you, sir!

Well shared history and education about cremation. I learned from your well presented article.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Thanks for the kind words, Roberta.

Dear Michael, thank you for this interesting post on cremations. Hope to avail your friendship and your continued support for me. Voted up.

Ranked #11 in Architecture

Superb work Michael, a crematoria structure without the emission of smoke - an excellent design by Sir Ernest George.

I learn a lot from your work. Voted!

Hello Michael. You signed here another very informative and well-written post, as usual. 

Your research is thorough, well done.

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