Summer days out in London
The weather is London has been beautifuly sunny this weekend, it’s been the first proper weekend of summer London has had this year so the whole of the city was out in the parks and green spaces basking in the sunshine (whilst it lasts!). I had a lovely weekend going to some old summer favourits like Hyde Park (which is good year round but gorgeous in summer) and visiting undiscovered landmarks, undiscovered to me that is, like Brompton Cemetery.
Brompton Cemetery is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven‘ London Cemeteries which includes Highgate, Kensal Green, West Norwood, Abney Park, Nunhead and Tower Hamlets cemeteries. They were built when the graves of inner London started to become dangerously full. At the time all seven were on the outskirts of the city, through all have long since been absorbed.
We visited Highgate Cemetery a few years ago and it was a fascinating afternoon going around with the guided tour learning about its history, the symbolism of things on the grave stones and who was buried there. Brompton cemetery is not nearly as well kept and there were no tours when we went on Saturday, but is was fascinating none-the-less to wander around. The central area is well preserved and kept, it is more the periphery which is in a sorrier state. I’d say it is worth reading up a bit more on the history of the cemetery before going and looking at the symbolism of grave markings.
Brompton Cemetery: History
Brompton Cemetery was built in the Victorian age and consecrated in 1840 making it just a year younger than Highgate. Opened in 1840 it was closed to burials between 1952 and 1996. It might seem surprising when you first walk in the over grown South Gate as we did, but it is still a working cemetery with recent burials. The most recent we saw were several from 2009. The cemetery was built with catacombs below the colonnades. Originally these were billed as a cheaper alternative to a full burial, which would have been an expensive affair back in the 19th century. Unfortunately they were not as popular as the cemeteries owners had hoped and gradually the cemetery failed to make a return on its rather substantial investment. This led to is being sold to the government in the 1850’s.
Visiting Brompton Cemetery
If you visit make sure to take your time, though we went for part of the afternoon you could spend much longer studying the myriad grave stones, family mausolea and architecture. Take time to walk around the central domed chapel as well as the flanking catacombs. Its a very peaceful area, perfect for a quiet afternoon. I followed the directions on the website for entrances which I got a little confused with. If you arrive at Earls Court aim for the North Gate as it is far closer. Before going be warned there aren’t any facilities there so have lunch or a cup of coffee first and if it’s hot bring some water as you are in the open most of the time.