Opened in 1841 and closed to burials in 1966, the correct title for the cemetery was The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery (not to be confused with the City of London Cemetery in Newham) and it is locally known as 'Bow Cemetery'. There are over 350,000 people buried here.
All burials took place in either consecrated or unconsecrated ground. Those buried in consecrated ground would have been members of the Church of England. Those buried in unconsecrated ground would have been Christians of other denominations, those of other faiths and those of none.
Searching the Registers
The original company registers for the cemetery are held at the London Metropolitan Archives and are now available online.
The Register of Burials will show name, abode, when buried, age, when and by whom, private vault/grave etc. (Sept 1841 - Aug 1966).
The Daybook of Burials will show name, number of grave, abode, age, mode of interment, how the certificate was received (consecrated burials Oct 1854 - May 1901, unconsecrated burials Jan 1855 - May 1901). Once you have the identified the person you are looking for in the registers, the burial register or daybook will give the grave number, but unfortunately not for the very early public graves and these can never be located.
For a Private Grave also consult the Register of Private Graves, which is a plot purchase register in grave number order, and will show who else is buried in the plot, and the grid square number. Once the square number has been found, the 'square' plan can be searched for the grave number, the grave numbers do not run in sequence. Please note that the plans are not available on line and while the FoTHCP hold a copy of one set of plot maps, the London Metropolitan Archives hold a series of the plans.
Public graves are denoted by having a letter or symbol in the grave number. To find the location of a public grave is a frequently a difficult and time-consuming task, there were never any official maps for the later graves, and while the earlier graves are marked on the map the chances they no longer exist and all maps have to be searched to try and locate the grave.
Over the years we have built up extensive knowledge of where public graves may be located: to aid in locating the grave you should note who else is buried in the grave (even if they are not your family) and in the graves on either side.
Make a note of the grave number, square number, the register you obtained the information from, and all the details written in the register, or a copy of the image. If you wish help to locate the grave or further assistance please email them to us, at [email protected]
Please remember that we are a voluntary body and we will endeavour to reply as soon as we can.
We will help you whenever possible to try and locate the site.
The FoTHCP in conjunction with the East London History Society hold a regular memorial recording and help desk at 2pm the second Sunday of every month in the Cemetery Park at the Soanes Centre. Please contact us on [email protected] to let us know you will be visiting.
If you wish to locate a grave at any other time then please make an appointment with the FoTHCP staff at [email protected]
Please ensure you bring all the details with you
and we are always interested in turning the names on the memorials into people
and would be pleased if you would share a little of the history of the people
you are researching with us. Winter time is best for searching for graves,
after the vegetation has either been strimmed or died down.
The cemetery became a public park in 1966 and with the passage of time some grave stones and memorials are now missing, damaged, lying down, or standing but now illegible. Private graves if marked on the maps can usually be located, although not all graves are marked on the maps or may be marked incorrectly. To locate public graves can be more difficult and while we have a vast experience of most locations it may still is not always possible to identify the exact spot. Nevertheless the Cemetery Park is a peaceful and moving place to visit even if a memorial cannot be found.