Sunday, November 6, 2016

Brompton and Kensal Green Cemeteries - two more of the Magnificent Seven

I have recently discovered I like visiting Victorian cemeteries - the elaborate graves and history intrigue me.  Normal cemeteries...not so much but the Victorian ones are so over the top I love it.

The Magnificent Seven cemeteries were created due to parish church yards becoming over crowded.  This was because of London's population boom in the early 1800's.  In the first fifty years of the 19th century, London's population went from 1 million to 2.3 million.  Overcrowding in the cemeteries led to decaying matter getting into the water supply and the grisly sight of children  playing with the bones of the deceased.  Rats defiled the bodies as well.  Yes, I know....gross!!!! Something had to be done so in 1832 the government passed a bill encouraging the establishment of private suburban cemeteries.  Seven cemeteries were established and much later in 1981, were dubbed "The Magnificent Seven" (after the movie) by architectural historian Hugh Meller.

Last year I visited Nunhead Cemetery as it was within walking distance of the airbnb I was staying at in Brockley, South London.  I had visited the nearby Brockley and Ladywell cemeteries and my airbnb host mentioned that Nunhead was close. I then visited the East side of Highgate Cemetery (still have to visit the west side but heavy rain stopped my visit last time) in March of this year.  Earlier this year a fellow guest at my airbnb in London got me interested in visiting all the Magnificent Seven cemeteries and together we took a Sunday afternoon tour of Brompton Cemetery in West London.  Thanks Loraine!

I must say I am now well and truly hooked so before I left London in May I visited Kensal Green Cemetery in Kensal Green.... it was a rather quick trip as it was one of those days where I couldn't decide what I was going to do and I had a timed entry to an exhibition at the British Museum later that I probably spent only an hour there. In this post I will cover both Brompton and Kensal Green.

Kensal Green, established in 1833 is the oldest of these cemeteries so let's go there first.

I got off the underground at Kensal Green station and walked for about ten minutes along the perimeter of the cemetery before finally finding an entrance!

Bond, James Bond!  Hey, close enough! 

Could there be a knight in shining armour in there?  We know how I love my knights in shining armour!

I thought this was so beautiful. 

I would like to take a tour of this cemetery to learn more.  One day!

Earlier in May (the day after I got back from Scotland) I met up with Loraine at Brompton Cemetery on a sunny Sunday afternoon to take a tour.   Brompton Cemetery was opened in 1840 and is Grade 1 on the list of English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.  It is located in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea...a (much) rather more "posh" area of town than Kensal Green.

Brompton Cemetery IS like a park and is a handy "shortcut" or at least a pleasant walk between Old Brompton Road and Fulham Road.

I thought this crypt was beautiful.

John Snow...a leader in the adoption of anesthesia and medical hygiene. He discovered the source of a cholera outbreak in London in 1854 which led to changes in the water and waste systems in London. These were adopted in various cities around the world.  We have a lot to thank him for.

Yes it is a park that families use as well.  I love that idea.

Beatrix Potter lived nearby and it is generally thought that she came up with her character Squirrel Nutkin from this grave.

 The "handshake" is a common Victorian symbol on gravestones.  It can mean the bond between man and wife and represents the parting as well as unity in life and death.  It is one of the most common symbols on Victorian gravestones.

Both visits were so interesting but a tour is definitely the way to go.  I've already made note of the times of the tours for the three remaining Magnificent Seven cemeteries I have yet to visit (four if you include the West side of Highgate Cemetery which needs to be booked and paid in advance) and hope to visit them on my upcoming trip.

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