Last Saturday I went to the Makespace Studios Christmas Open Studio because a friend of mine, Hiroko Imada, now has a studio there. I wrote about her work before when she was at the Palace Wharf Studio, sadly now being knocked down to make way for luxury flats, but found her new studios even more interesting. Want to know about the Necropolis railway? Read on.
Makespace Studios are located just across the road from Lambeth North tube station, in an area where it seems every building is being demolished and replaced by something new. In the middle of all this transformation the studios stand as a proud testament to the past. You reach them up a very steep set of stairs because they’re balanced on top of a set of old railway arches that house the showrooms of CP Hart, the bathroom specialists, and Poggenpohl kitchens.
Inside the place is warm and cosy, with a long central corridor lined with doors to artists rooms and a rather nice little cafe in the middle. The paper Christmas decorations were made by Hiroko, who also makes jewellery and prints.
These large monochrome pictures aren’t finished works at all; they’re the blocks from which prints will be made. They’re made of plywood, which is water absorbent while the painted areas resist water.
Completed prints were for sale as well.
It wasn’t until we left that a friend mentioned the studios occupy the last remaining section of the Necropolis Railway.
In the first half of the nineteenth century London population increased massively, and burial grounds became so crowded it was impossible to dig a new grave without cutting across an old one. Decaying corpses contaminated the water supply and cholera was the result. In 1851 burials were forbidden in London and the newely-formed London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company built a new cemetery outside London, at Brookwood. The Necropolis Railway, built to carry the bodies from Waterloo station direct to Brookwood, opened in 1854.
Between 1854 and 1941 over 2,000 bodies a year were carried by the railway to Brookwood. But then the railway arch connecting the line to the London terminus and the terminus itself were badly damaged in an air raid and the railway was never used again.
So now it’s artists’ studios, though how long they will survive in an area of such constant redevelopment is anyone’s guess. If you want to take a look, go soon, and visit the studios while you’re there. Hiroko Imada can be contacted via her website.