Pet cemeteries are not a common sight nowadays, and even human graveyards are becoming a rarity. Here in the UK, we are fast running out of space for human burials, which is why many are turning instead to cremation – for both ourselves and our companion animals. However, in the early 1900s burial was the preferred option and pet cemeteries were beginning to become more popular as the human-animal bond further developed.
Did you know one of the first pet cemeteries was located in London’s famous Hyde Park? It all started when a Maltese Terrier called Cherry was laid to rest in the garden of Victoria Lodge in 1881 by the gatekeeper at the time. By 1903 there had been over 300 burials in the informal cemetery, each with a miniature headstone, and it was declared full.
Other pet cemeteries began to pop up all over the UK, including one in Chobham in Surrey which has recently been restored by an amazing team of dedicated volunteers.
Chobham Pet Cemetery was formed in 1932 by local residents Millicent May and Col R.H.N. Baxter. They wanted a special place to bury their Airdale’s when the time came, so they made a hand-shake deal with a local farmer for a piece of land. Eventually, their own ashes would join their beloved Airedales in the cemetery.
Since then over 330 pets have been buried in Chobham Pet Cemetery, with the last interment taking place around 1970. The grounds are filled with miniature headstones and memorials to beloved cats, dogs, rabbits and more.
One such grave is that of Moffat Treasure, an Old English Sheepdog who was awarded both a Brave Dogs’ Collar from the Daily Mirror and a special medallion for Bravery from the Tailwaggers’ Club for stopping a runaway horse back in 1935. You can read more about this amazing dog’s courageous actions here.
Following over 50 years of neglect, in 2018 a team of local volunteers decided to take on the project of restoring the grounds. From raking leaves to replacing gates, the volunteers have made excellent progress and have even been trying to find the present owners.
Chairman of the Friends of Chobham Cemetery, Barry, gave us an overview of the work that’s been carried out over the last couple of years: “Trees cleared, paths laid, graves uncovered, dogs, cats & even a horse, & cleaned up to reveal some very touching inscriptions on headstones to show what people thought of their pets over the years. We have built a new footbridge at the existing entrance & had the original iron gates restored, new brick pillars built & the gates re-hung at the original entrance, all funded by generous donations.”
Barry added: “The Pet Cemetery benefits not only the community but the village of Chobham itself, not many villages can boast of such a unique place steeped in so much history.”
A huge thank you to Barry of Friends of Chobham Cemetery for helping us with this blog post, and for lovingly restoring the cemetery. Click here to follow the efforts of the volunteers on the Friends of Chobham Pet Cemetery Facebook page.