Explorer of the Silent Cities: Jeane Trend-Hill

Photo collage of Jeane
by Les Trend and Jeane Trend-Hill.

Jeane Trend-Hill is an author, photographer, actress, and artist from London. She photographs cemeteries and writes about places of eternal rest for national newspapers and magazines and advises on grave symbolism. In 2006, she started the Silent Cities Project: taking photographs of many amazing memorials and becoming involved in restoration in order to help preserve some of our heritage so future generations can see what a Victorian cemetery looked like. Jeane has published 25 books, including the Silent Cities series about cemetery monuments, as well as The Lost Language of Cemeteries on grave symbolism. Visit her website here.

Cemetery Travel: How did you get interested in cemeteries in the first place?

Jeane Trend-Hill: One Sunday every month, my parents would visit family buried in the local cemetery. Whilst the adults chatted and arranged flowers, I wandered around and looked at the angels, crosses, etc. I found them so beautiful. As I got older, I began taking photos of them, purely for my own enjoyment. Someone suggested I do a book and it went on from there. I have grown up in cemeteries and always felt at home. I never thought of them as creepy places.

General view of Kensal Green Cemetery, including the headless angel. Photograph by Jeane Trend-Hill.

Cemetery Travel: You’ve been exploring Kensal Green and the other Magnificent Seven cemeteries for years. What’s your connection to them?

Jeane Trend-Hill: To alleviate the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in churchyards, seven cemeteries were built in a ring around London: Kensal Green (1832); West Norwood (1837); Highgate (1839); Brompton (1840); Abney Park (1840), Nunhead (1840), and Tower Hamlets (1841.) Unlike churchyards, these cemeteries were independent of a parish church and were privately run. They became known as the “Magnificent Seven.” They are some of the most beautiful cemeteries in London and I never tire of visiting them. I always seem to discover something new and interesting each time I go to one.

Cemetery Travel: Do you lead cemetery tours?

Jeane Trend-Hill: I don’t live in London now, so no. Occasionally I take friends or an overseas visitor around a cemetery or two.

Cemetery Travel: You’ve photographed cemeteries hundreds of times. What sorts of things draw your camera?

Monument for Mary Gibson at Kensal Green.
The angels originally held a wreath.
Photograph by Jeane Trend-Hill.

Jeane Trend-Hill: I love over-the-top monuments, unusual things, plain and simple graves, animals in churchyards, angels, famous graves, doves, anything weird and wonderful: you name it, I probably like it! I always have a camera (or two) with me, in case I spot something. I have been known to take detours when I’ve been going somewhere else and spotted a cemetery!

Cemetery Travel: You’ve published a bunch of Silent Cities books, collecting your cemetery photographs. Where’s the best place for a new reader to begin?

Jeane Trend-Hill: Each Silent Cities book is a collection of photographs from cemeteries of the UK and Europe. I deliberately don’t name where they are as it’s purely about the impact the image has. I have also produced a Best of Silent Cities, which includes my most popular photos and a little information about each one, so that is a good book with which to start.

I have a series of three children’s books called Magic, two of which are based on stories of birds and animals living in a cemetery, a book on hearses called Dispatches, plus an A-Z photo book on grave symbolism and its meaning called The Lost Language of Cemeteries. I think the children’s books and Lost Language are my favorites, as I had the most fun producing them.

My books are available here.

Egyptian revival at Kensal Green.
Photograph by Jeane Trend-Hill.

Cemetery Travel: Now you have a 2013 calendar for sale. How did you choose the images for it?

Jeane Trend-Hill: I compile them throughout the year, but it’s never easy to whittle that down to 12 plus a cover! I sell the calendar via my bookstore at the link above.

Cemetery Travel: Do you have other projects in the works?

Jeane Trend-Hill: I am currently working on Silent Cities volume 11, plus I have several magazine and newspaper articles/interviews in the pipeline. I’ve just finished photographing all the recent cemetery open days and will be starting to compile the photos for the 2014 calendar. I have an ongoing project, which is the restoration of the grave of architect Arthur Beresford Pite in West Norwood Cemetery London. I’m also photographing a catacomb that is not open to the public (one of the perks of the job!) and I will be off to Paris again soon to do some photography in several cemeteries there.

Cemetery Travel: Do you have a favorite tombstone?

Jeane Trend-Hill: It’s hard to pick just one, so in no particular order: The Kiss of Death in Pouble Nou in Barcelona, Spain; Mary, the sleeping angel in Highgate, London; and the monument for Mary Gibson at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

Cemetery Travel: Why should people care about cemeteries?

Jeane Trend-Hill: They are an important part of our history and heritage. It’s imperative that we try to help preserve them so that future generations can see what they looked like.

I always think it’s important to be respectful in cemeteries. I try not to step on anyone. I take only photos and always tidy up a little if I can, even if it’s just putting a vase or toy upright.

Cemetery Travel: Thanks for answering my questions, Jeane!

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