Sunday, 26 October 2014

Death in Autumn - Key Hill Cemetery

Key Hill cemetery, autumn 2014. The old cemetery, the General Cemetery as it was once known, where the dead lay siege to the castle, was built in 1836 and designed by Charles Edge. It is the last home to the great and the good of a bygone Birmingham, located north-west of the city centre between the Jewellery Quarter and the Middleway. Among the residents are two Joe Chamberlains no less.

Two empty beer cans lie back on the S-shaped, slatted green bench overlooking mature trees and row upon row of broken tombstones and monuments. Their engravings have faded over a century and a half of weathering and fingers caressing away the names of the dead in acknowledgement and grief. Until they join them. Some have been caught in the middle of being forgotten and remain for the present as partial names; a letter here and there, disappearing into deeper strata of history. Many tombstones are flaking away as if nothing but a page. And the words left the Earth. Angels have lost their features too. Who would send a cherub out in this weather? Their faces have worn away into a state of absolute anonymity; such is the sacrifice of keeping watch, of remaining vigilant. 

The paths are covered in golden leaves to soften your step and the green glow of lichen guides you on through the rows and columns. Not a living soul about, this is one of the quietest places in the boisterous city until the tannoys the Jewellery Quarter station cut through the cool, crisp air lest any of these good people miss their heavenly connections. The buildings of the Jewellery Quarter sit high up at the back of the cemetery on brick-enforced embankments. They loom over the graveyard like an imposing castle. The dead lie at its foot. Remember us, they moan. The castle quarrels. The dead be silent, it demands. Castle business, castle rules.

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