Monday 3 March 2014

The Finest Victorian Cemetery in London?

The title to this blog is a fairly bold statement to say the least. Many of my fellow Bromptonians would of course put forward Brompton Cemetery as being the up there with the best, perhaps with Highgate. For me however it is Kensal Green...and for good reason.

Whenever I am in the area I often wheel my Brompton (as cycling is not permitted) and amble from one side to the another - usually as a shortcut to Ladbrook Grove and beyond.

The cemetery was opened in 1833 and its 72 acres is home to many of the great and good from the cream of Victorian Britain. Wilkie Collins, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, William Makepeace Thackeray, dozens of Fellows of the Royal Society and several Royals including the son of George III are but a few of the famous names.

Burials in this modern age seem to be a thing of the past as the majority of people choose to be cremated instead. Several monuments and larger mausoleums are listed structures and rightly so as many are mini works of art from a bygone era.

If you are brave you can actually go on a guided tour of the catacombs. There you can see lead-sealed, triple shelled coffins. Photography is not permitted but believe me you'd find the experience too interesting to be bothered.

Believe it or not you can actually book your own slot within the catacombs - but at a price. The talk of how much is rather vulgar however I imagine it would be considerable.

Apart from the fascinating graves and monuments the cemetery is also a haven for wildlife. Go early enough and you will see birders out with their binoculars looking for one of over 30 different spices of bird. It is one of the few places you have a very good chance of spotting all three British Woodpeckers - Green, Lesser Spotted and Great Spotted. The Grand Union Canal at the bottom end of the cemetery is in recent years a good place to spot Little Egrets - once a very rare sight in the UK.

As well as Victorian graves the cemetery is used to this day and often you will see family members tending the graves of a recently departed loved one.

This is a really unusual location to visit and you are sure to find lots to interest. One word of warning thought, don't go too near to closing in the winter months as when darkness starts to fall things take on a very different atmosphere!

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