The pictures below (and linked here) are from a little place called Knowle in Hampshire, which used to have a mental institution. The place in question is a very small preserve, which has a very basic trail that wends its way through the trees and undergrowth in a pretty purposeless manner.What is fascinating, in a somewhat gruesome way, is the sheer number of souls buried on this diminutive graveyard of only two acres. The Knowle Hospital graveyard, over the period 1852 to 1971, became the resting place for the bodies of 5,578 staff, patients and local residents. This is a strange place, lacking in the usual ostentation and regalia of a regular graveyard. It is sparse, overgrown; a quiet, peaceful place that mourns gently in the rain and remembers wistfully in the sun. Standing here, the memorials are small and mostly anonymous, rare detail punctuating the placidity of the atmosphere. Stoneware rises out of the tangle of grasses, plants and vines, brief reminders of lives previously lived.
The path meanders uncertainly, as if unsure of its right to be here. Stepping off the path is an exercise in disquiet and reflection, beneath your feet lie the remains of so many, denied even the fleeting immortality of a iron numbered cross or a simple broken stone.
5,578 lives reduced to so little, captured only on paper records and half-hints in dormant documents, encapsulated in a finality that rests almost beyond memory and thought, bounded by wire and wood and the sanctity of obligation and respect.