Saturday, September 3, 2011

Woodland Cemetery Walking Tour

Today's post is about a frugal activity that a person or family could do that incorporates healthy lifestyles (walking), a history lesson, and an opportunity to open up discussion with those closest to you about the taboo subject of death.

As you may already know, I live in London, Ontario. My hometown is rich with history, being chosen for the provincial capital in 1793. While it never did become the capital of our beautiful province, our city was founded in 1826. Not as old as some other cities in the country, it does have a history unlike any other.

Recently, a Facebook page was started on a whim, to talk about what Londoners remember from our past (and perhaps learn a thing or two as well). Entitled, "If You Grew Up In London, Ontario, You Will Remember...", there are tons of pictures and documents talking about the near and far history of our beloved city. It's also being used as a springboard for the London and Area Heritage Association to get new members, and to gain votes for Canada's Favourite Ballpark Contest (It's down to 2: Our own Labatt Park and Thunder Bay's Port Arthur Stadium. Visit to learn more an vote.),

Of course, my contribution would be to say that you can learn much about an area's past by visiting the local cemeteries. We have several in this city that I will feature on my blog, but today, I want to talk specifically about Woodland Cemetery.

Located at 493 Springbank Drive, Woodland Cemetery has it's roots in the Anglican Church. For the history of the Cemetery itself, visit Woodland's History page. Woodland opened in 1879, but has graves that had been moved there from burials dating back as far as 1830.

If you visit the Cemetery Office, you can ask for a Walking tour pamphlet, which will point out some interesting facts about the cemetery and points of interest during your stroll. The are some notable figures buried here, including John & Amelia Harris, who lived in what is now known as Eldon House (another fantastic London historical landmark), John K. Labatt (of Labatt's Breweries), Bishop Benjamin Cronyn, and Josiah Blackburn (founder of the London Free Press).

If you take this walking tour, you will also see the Railway Monument, a tribute to the nine railway men who lost their lives as a result of accidents on the Great Western Railway between 1857 - 1873. It would also be difficult to miss the McClary Monument, a tall grey obelisk that rises 9.6 metres above the ground (that's over 31 feet).  There are also rare, hillside vaults, built in the early 1880's. Nothing of it's kind is used in this day and age.

Also buried in Woodland Cemetery is George J. Goodhue, who is often described as London's first "millionaire". His son, Charles built Waverley Mansion in 1883, with the money inherited from his father, which is located on Grand Avenue, and is still standing, being used as a retirement home.

If you were to take this walking tour, I would imagine that following the route set out by the cemetery, it would take about 1 - 2 hours, stopping at all the points of interest along the way. If you have never been in this cemetery, I suggest you take your time, and read some of the monuments other than the highlighted ones. The grounds are beautiful throughout the year, but especially fall, when all the trees are showing off the glorious colours of autumn.

Take a water bottle, wear comfortable walking shoes, and encourage discussion about our city's history with your family. This tour could have off shoots of visits to different parts of history in varying other parts of the city, and could become a memorable event for your family. I invite you to give it a try.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE wandering through cemeterys. I live right beside Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and I'm always curious about the stories behind my adopted city. I will totally do the walking tour of Woodlands someday. Maybe you can guide me?!