One foot in the grave | 7 London cemeteries
Posted on September 21st, 2021
Let me introduce you to the magnificent seven – a collection of private burial sights across what was once the outskirts of London. They were known as the ‘Lungs of London’, built to provide greener spaces where our Victorian ancestors could escape the busy streets filled with sickness – sounds rather familiar. They are the best known cemetries in London.
The most well known to many of us will be Highgate Cemetery, where you can ramble round the paths shaped by Gothic architecture. Now that the world is opening up, tours are available. But I recommend you take the time to explore yourself and you’ll find Karl Marx, the Rossetti’s alongside George Michael.
Nunhead Cemetery is one for nature lovers. The 52 acres of city wilderness are home to a variety of birds including the Spotted Woodpecker, Jays and Owls. Although it is on the muddier side, the view of St. Pauls with the backdrop of bird song is ethereal.
If you’re a romantic, Bunhill Fields is for you. William Blake lies there and it is one of the oldest surviving burial sights in the city, dating to 1665. Although much smaller now, it presents a slice of history where you’d least expect amongst the hustle of Barbican.
Abney Park is a first of its kind, as an arboretum cemetery. Now a century after its creation, the wild trees and crumbling chapel are the definition of an urban jungle. Plus if you’re a fan of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’, I suggest you take a visit.
Home to Emmeline Pankhurst, and the most accessible due to its long, flat avenues. Brompton Cemeterywas designed to replicate an Italianate open air cathedral, and whilst travel is complicated, it’s perhaps the closest we’ll get to the Pantheon this year.
Last but not least, and the first of the magnificent seven – Kensal Green Cemetery. It was home to the earliest royal burials in the city which made it a popular destination for those within high society. The design mirrors a botanical garden with Grecian and Parisian elements, you’re transported to other worlds.
Of course that was only six, as the seventh that was once Tower Hamlets, has been reborn as a park. Over the past 18 months of lockdowns, these graveyards have become a place to escape.
However, now that the new normal is in full swing, I’m continuing to explore these mysterious places because where else can you visit Karl Marx and the Rossettis in one place?