This story starts a couple of months prior and an exciting trip underground, deep under the surface of London lies a Victorian crypt, mainly unseen to the public apart from the odd tour yearly to see the remains of the lead lined coffins of an era past. It wasn’t an easy feat to get inside, but for me it was breathtaking to see something you just would never see in normal everyday life. Some may say my heart is filled with darkness, but it could also be said that had we not been brought up to be so uncomfortable with death and dead bodies, there could in another world be part of our life. But for now they lie hidden from society, a fascination for the inquisitive.
Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The carriage held but just
Ourselves and immortality.
We slowly drove
He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility. Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886
My second adventure to the crypt stated at 11.30 in the safeness of my home, just a couple of weeks into 2015 and I was shooting my second shoot for my Underworld Series, beautiful Roswell Ivory arrived from Milton Keynes and soon followed by Rosie Lee to create some artistry on Roswell’s face and hair. We had great fun getting ready and trying on the beautiful gowns of Joanne Flemming who kindly sent them over for the shoot. Before long we were in the car with my husband Danny to drive us to our first location, we said goodbye to Rosie who had another makeup job on. Unfortunately after long we realised that the traffic on that day was truly horrific, we were racing for time to get to Brompton cemetery but it became clear that we were not going to meet our 4pm sunset deadline and we decided we would not waste anymore time trying to get there, deflated we spent more time sat in traffic.
We decided to go and eat some food at the location of the crypt. But on arrival it was clear that there was not any decent places to eat, it was cool though as we had time to kill before we could try and attempt to get into the crypt.
We headed over to the town we used to live and had a great tapas meal, with raised spirits we made our way back to the crypt, it was 6.30pm by now and in the cover of darkness we made our first attempt, but watching for a while from the car it was clear that the area still had a good few dog walkers and passers by, also a nosey neighbour meant we couldn’t proceed. We chose to go back to my house and return in complete night, it was hard to get inside when we did return, but we made it.
On receiving the dresses the day before, unzipping the beautiful Grand Sophy dress, I almost cried when I couldn’t get the zip back up again, the thing with zips is sometimes they fail and this one had chosen to fail at the most annoying time. But after a quick chat with Joanne, it was decided we would sew Roswell into the dress and here Danny is sewing her in. It worked perfectly and she we got the shot even with the wardrobe misfunction.
Roswell was a true ninja and we couldn’t have done it without the help of Danny, who was amazing. We shot in silence in the crypt for a couple of hours and then realised it was nearing 2am! We had shot 4 beautiful dresses and were super happy with the Victorian story of death and tragedy we had captured, tired we embarked on the massive task of getting out from at least 10ft underground.
It was a truly exhausting shoot and even a day later I was aching from head to toe and covered in bruises, but it was a special thing to be inside such an interesting place and to see dates on the coffins going back to the early 1800’s. The rotting hydraulic lift that lowered the heavy lead lined coffins into the crypt still remains, like a steam punk memory of time gone by, with an estimate 2500 coffins inside it felt to me almost calming to be so far away from the living and taking a step back in time to a world so distant from where we are now.