Hyde Park Pet Cemetery
Tucked away on the edge of Hyde Park is a secret pet cemetery where Victorians buried their faithful friends.
It’s filled with tiny marble headstones, each one bearing a touching reminder of a long-dead companion.
One of the first public pet cemeteries in the UK, over 1,000 dogs and cats have been laid to rest here. This unusual place has quite a tale to tell…
Establishing the cemetery
The story begins in the 1800s with a man called Mr. Winbridge, who worked as a servant to the Duke of Cambridge. After many years of service, the Duke – who was Ranger of Hyde Park – rewarded Mr. Winbridge with the post of gatekeeper at Victoria Lodge, on the edge of the park.
Mr. Winbridge moved into the pretty gatehouse, where he made a living by selling refreshments to adults and lollipops to children. A contemporary said that his ‘kindly benevolent countenance’ turned him into a ‘guardian angel’ and ‘presiding deity’ amongst local children – not least because of his ‘luscious eatables’!
The friendly Mr. Winbridge was also responsible for establishing the pet cemetery, which was located in his private garden behind Victoria Lodge. Thanks to a feature about the cemetery published in The Strand Magazine in 1893, we have his own account of how the cemetery was started:
‘It was like this, sir […] one gentleman he came, and he had a fancy to bury his dog in here, and then he told another, and so it got spread about and handed on from one to the other. But most of the dogs belonged to ladies.’
As Mr. Winbridge points out, many of those who buried their pets in Hyde Park were ‘ladies’ – members of well-to-do families who lived in grand houses on the edge of the park.
Hyde Park was also a prestigious address. It was a mark of sophistication to say that you’d buried your pet in a royal park – particularly as one of the cemetery’s first patrons was the Duke of Cambridge!
Image: Mr Winbridge, the Gatekeeper at Victoria Lodge (The Strand Magazine, 1893)
The Duke's dog
We have heard that Mr. Winbridge once worked for the Duke, who sometimes stopped at Victoria Lodge for a chat with his old servant. While they were talking one day, the Duke’s dog – Prince – ran into the road and was hit by a carriage. Though Winbridge rushed forward to try and save him, he was too late. Prince was buried in the new pet cemetery behind the lodge.
Image: Prince's grave in the pet cemetery, 1893
Poor dear Tappy
Other dogs from aristocratic families soon joined Prince in Hyde Park.
In 1892, Lord Petrie was grief-stricken when his dog, Tappy, died. He made the unusual request to attend the dog’s burial, but sadly died himself before this took place. Had he died of a broken heart? The Lord was only 46 years old when he passed, and by all accounts a kind and generous man. His dog’s headstone still reads ‘Poor dear Tappy’.
Cherry and Zoe
Two of the dogs buried at Hyde Park belonged to the family of Mr and Mrs J. Barned, who lived in nearby Cambridge Square. The first was a little Maltese terrier called Cherry, who was the first dog to be buried in Hyde Park – the family wanted him to lie at rest in ‘the spot he had loved so well in life’.
Cherry was adored by the family’s young children. They loved putting on theatrical performances, and often involved Cherry in these – on one occasion the dog was dressed as a soldier, complete with helmet and musket. In another performance, Cherry was put into a pram to take the role of a sick baby. ‘He always brought down the house’, the family later recalled.
When Cherry died, the family got a new dog called Zoe. When she died in turn in 1892, she was honoured with the following inscription on her headstone:
‘Alas! Poor Zoe. As deeply mourned as ever dog was mourned, For friendship rare by her adorned.’
To console his family, Mr. Barned composed a humorous autobiography supposedly written by Zoe. This recounts the biggest adventures of the dog’s life – including an incident in which she was stolen! Zoe explains that she was whipped away from her family by a dog thief, describing her time in captivity and – eventually - her happy reunion with her owners. At the end of the volume, Zoe goes on to narrate her death:
‘Alas! My dear master and mistress, I feel the hour approaching when I must take an affectionate leave of you, for ever, in this world. Sad indeed is the parting, but Time is laying his fatal icy hand on me, and when the silver cord is loosened I must fulfil the destiny of all flesh…
My last moments are soothed by the consciousness that I have never been naughty or caused you grief by wilful misconduct. I have never spurned the generous hand that has fed me, or returned hatred for love, or listened without an indignant growl to detractors who have spoken evil with a lying tongue.’
Topper the copper
Another dog buried in the pet cemetery is a fox terrier called Topper who belonged to Hyde Park Police Station. He was not a well-behaved dog – he often ran away from his police colleagues, preferring to go walking with the well-heeled aristocrats on Rotten Row. This gained him a reputation as a snob!
According to reports, Topper died from overeating. He wasn't the only dog with an unhappy end...
The most intriguing inscription that can still be read in the cemetery today commemorates a dog called Balu who died in 1899. His inscription reads: ‘poisoned by a cruel Swiss’. Unfortunately, the story behind Balu’s apparent murder appears to be lost to time.
(Image: Topper and his colleagues at the Hyde Park Police Station, The Strand Magazine, 1893)
The cemetery today
By the early 1900s, burials gradually ceased as the garden of Victoria Lodge was filled to capacity and Mr. Winbridge moved on. However, it was not forgotten. The little cemetery became a curiosity that inspired the imaginations of many visitors - including some well-known writers.
The cemetery features briefly in the famous Peter Pan stories written by J. M. Barrie, who lived very close to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It has also appeared in a number of films, including Peter Sellers’ The Optimists of Nine Elms (1973).
Today, the cemetery is looked after by The Royal Parks charity. It can be visited as part of one of our guided tour of Hyde Park. Keep an eye on the park events page for upcoming dates!
If you time your visit for the spring, you will see the gravestones surrounded by bluebells – it’s hard to imagine a more touching sight in central London.