A visit to Joey’s

I mentioned on October 23rd that we had been to Brighton with friends but I did not mention then that when we changed trains at East Croydon, I left my shoulder bag on the train! I eventually contacted lost property and they took down my details, saying that if they found the bag, it would take up to a week to let me know. As a week has passed, I can only assume that the bag has either not been recovered or has not been matched with my claim.

Tailback on Pentonville Road
Tailback on Pentonville Road

So this morning I set off on foot to Kings Cross, intending to buy a new bag in a luggage shop there. I walked, partly for the exercise, but also because there is a tube strike today which means the roads are jammed and it is quicker to go by Shanks’s pony than to take the bus.

When it's quicker by Shanks's pony
When it’s quicker by Shanks’s pony

Another reason for walking was because I wanted to take another look at the park on the way. This photo, taken from one end, may give you some idea of the park’s history. Note the gravestones piled against the far wall and the copper features in the foreground.

Once a burial ground, now a park
Once a burial ground, now a park

The section of the park shown in the picture used to be the burial ground of Pentonville Chapel, later known as St James’s Episcopal Chapel (built 1787-8), which was demolished in 1980. The burial ground had already become a public garden in the 19th century and was extended in the 20th.

Dog-free area
Dog-free area

The park has a combination of shaded areas, as in the first photo, and open grass, such as the dog-free area above, fenced off and entered by a gate.

An adventure playground
An adventure playground

The park includes a basketball court and the adventure playground shown in the above photo. For many people, however, the importance of the park has to do with a person whose grave is preserved in the old burial ground.

The park's famous tomb
The park’s famous tomb

You may be able to read the name on the plate in front of the grave but, if not, the name of the park gives away his identity: The Joseph Grimaldi Park. I am told that professional clowns and entertainers visit the grave to this day.

Drama masks on Joseph Grimaldi's tomb
Drama masks on Joseph Grimaldi’s tomb

Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) lived and died near here in Clerkenwell. His debut on stage, at the age of 3, was in Sadler’s Wells, but a stone’s throw away. He grew up to be much loved by the public and admired by professionals. The familiar word “Joey”, meaning a clown, comes from his name. It’s good to think that he is still held in people’s affection today and is celebrated by the borough in which he lived.

Old walls with buttresses
Old walls with buttresses

The oldest features of the park are perhaps the walls which, as seen here, are bulging in places and have had to be buttressed.

Copper objects: are they art works?
Copper objects: are they art works?

These are the copper objects I mentioned at the beginning. What do you reckon they are? They look a bit like graves and bear RIP inscriptions, one of which is to Joseph Grimaldi, whose tomb is, as we have seen, elsewhere. And why is there a grille all the way around – to let their ghosts out on Hallowe’en? And what are the panels for?

Copper grave with panels
Copper grave with panels

The panels are not lids – I did try them to see whether they would open! I got a glimpse of their true purpose only by accident when I irreverently walked across one of the “graves”: when you tread on a panel, this rings a bell, and each bell has a different note. Only some of the panels actually ring but I imagine all of them are supposed to do so. I therefore deduce that this is some kind of public art, reflecting the original purpose of the park.

Remains of a drinking fountain
Remains of a drinking fountain

I walked on down, almost to Kings Cross station, and found a suitable bag in the shop there. Then I walked all the way back up the hill to home because the traffic was still crawling at a snail’s pace.

The traffic: still crawling at a snail's pace
The traffic: still crawling at a snail’s pace

Near Kings Cross station is this pub or cafe or restaurant, which rejoices in a French name. It always amuses me to see this “Bistro de la Gare”, which would certainly not be out of place in an analogous position in a town in France but looks a little strange here.

Bistro de la Gare
Bistro de la Gare

I am not sure that it is really French – the only vaguely French dish they advertise is raclette cheese – but I shouldn’t prejudge. I must go in there one of these days and find out.

The bag

I am not at all excited by the purchase of a new bag. After all, a bag is a bag is a bag, and one should not get too attached to it if one is in the habit of leaving on the train. It will do to carry my book and a raincoat and maybe one or two other things as the occasion demands. I can’t imagine that it would be of any interest to you to see it either, but, just in case, here it is. 🙂

Copyright © 2010 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to A visit to Joey’s

  1. WOL says:

    What a fascinating park. Interesting how they preserved the gravestones. Surely their “owners” were moved to a more suitable location. The “copper objects” ringing bells when stepped upon suggests the practice of rigging a new grave with a bell that could be rung from inside the coffin to summon aid in the event someone was inadvertently buried alive — a reasonable fear in those days, given the state of Medicine at the time. I like the “dog free zone” — no doubt reserved for those who enjoy pastimes that involve running about, making noise and falling down in the grass and who prefer doing so in an area that has not been boobytrapped with dog poo!

    Nice bag. Here such a bag would be referred to as a “man purse” with tongue firmly in cheek — a tacit acknowledgement that their usefullness outweighs the danger of being chivvied by their “buddies” for using one. Europeans, Brits included, seem to be much more pragmatic about such matters.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I think the law allows cemeteries to be decommissioned a certain number of years after the last burial and that they then simply remove the gravestones, either to one side or completely, and landscape the ground. I don’t think they remove the incumbents. After all, where would they put them – in another burial ground? No, I think the “residents”, or what remains of them, are still in place. You quite often find some tombs left in situ, either because they contain famous people or in order to add a picturesque note to the place.

      Your remark about the bells is perspicacious. I hadn’t thought of that myself but you are probably right that the artist had that in mind.

      More and more parks now have dog-free zones or are closed to dogs altogether, because of the mess that dogs leave and fears of the diseases these can cause. In other places, there are special red rubbish bins for “dog waste” which owners are supposed to deposit therein.

      I do carry a handbag (“purse” in American?) as it happens. This one, however, is larger than that, similar in size to a laptop case. I carry such a bag when we go out because I prefer it to a rucksack. I put in it things like a spare pullover, raincoat, book, etc.

      I’m not bothered by people making fun of me having a handbag. I’m past the age where I feel the need to establish my masculinity or seek the approval of others.

  2. AEJ says:

    I find it sad that the tombstones are ever removed. I traveled to the Turks & Caicos islands to find my ancestors’ tombstones and was rewarded with many to photograph.

    • SilverTiger says:

      In cities there are always conflicting demands on land and it’s probably better that these old burial grounds be transformed into pleasant open spaces than that they be built on.

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