Step inside Brompton Cemetery and you’ll find one of Britain’s oldest and most distinguished garden cemeteries. Call
me slightly morbid, but it’s also one of the coolest and most beautiful places in London.
After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, London became the world’s commercial capital. Its population doubled to over 2.6 million by 1850. Consequently the inadequate sanitary conditions led to disease and death and the existing burial grounds were unable to cope. Parliament authorized the establishment of seven commercial cemeteries around London (the ‘Magnificent Seven’) forming a ring around the edge of London.
Now listed as Grade II in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, Brompton Cemetery is considered one of the best Victorian metropolitan cemeteries in the UK. Previously the site had been market gardens which were purchased from Lord Kensington. Its 39 acres were designed to give the feel of a large open air cathedral. It has a formal layout with a central avenue leading from Old Brompton Road towards colonnades and the a chapel based on St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Below the colonnades are catacombs which were originally conceived as a cheaper alternative burial to having a plot in the grounds of the cemetery.
Today you can roam freely around this eerily beautiful cemetary and spend hours discovering the amazing headstones and sculptures, pondering the out of place homemade wooden crosses, avoiding the evil black crows and being followed by aggressive squirrels who obviously have been fed one too many times by tourists.
Even Beatrix Potter who lived in The Boltons nearby, took the names of many of her animal characters from tombstones in the cemetery and it is said that Mr. McGregor’s walled garden was based on the colonnades. Names on headstones included Mr. Nutkins, Mr. McGregor, a Tod, Jeremiah Fisher, Tommy Brock – and even a Peter Rabbett.
The gothic splendour of Brompton Cemetery and the elaborate Victorian gravestones and buildings have been the backdrop for many films. Brompton Cemetery has featured in a number of films, including David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, Stormbreaker, and Finding Neverland. The chapel on the Fulham Road side of the cemetery was used in the Pierce Brosnan’s first James Bond film GoldenEye. The colonnades above the catacombs feature in the spoof-Bond film, Johnny English
Today in Brompton Cemetery, amongst its shady walks are over 35,000 monuments from simple headstones to mausoleums that mark the resting place of more than 205,000 burials. But there’s still space available if you fancy being buried somewhere extravagant. You can ‘lease’ it for a period of 75-100 years. My only question is, what happens when your time is up and your family doesn’t want to pay up a century later?
Brompton Cemetery Brompton Road and Fulham Road, London SW10 9UG