London Cemeteries - The Magnificent Seven


'The Magnificent Seven' London cemeteries were built to relieve the gothic horrors of the city's myriad small parish churchyards, which had become dangerously overcrowded after hundreds of years of burials. In the first half of the nineteenth century the population of London more than doubled from 1 million to 2.3 million and its graveyards had become a serious heath hazard with visible body parts and decaying matter flushed directly into the sewer system and Thames. Seven new "great gardens of sleep' were built  by order of Parliament as private enterprises in the then suburbs at:

Kensal Green (1832)
West Norwood (1837)
Highgate (1839)
Abney Park (1840)
Nunhead (1840)
Brompton (1840)
Tower Hamlets (1841)

They remain amazing lovely garden lungs in the city - often underused and under appreciated.  All have active voluntary groups dedicated to their conservation. London Month of the Dead will take place in the Brompton Cemetery and Kensal Green cemetery chapels.  We are helping raising awareness of the cemeteries themselves and the fundraising efforts being made to protect and restore these extraordinary historical places for Londoners.


The General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green, is one of England's oldest and most beautiful public burial grounds and its most prestigious. One of the world's first garden cemeteries and the first of the Magnificent Seven, it was inspired by the Parisian 'city of the dead' Pere Lachaise. Kensal Green received its first funeral in January 1833 and still conducts burials and cremations daily. People of many faiths and denominations are buried throughout 72 acres between the Grand Union Canal and Harrow Road.

Famous residents include the engineers Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the mathematician Charles Babbage, and the novelists Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray; Lord Byron's wife, Oscar Wilde's mother, Charles Dickens' in-laws and Winston Churchill's daughter; a cross-dressing Army doctor and the surgeon who attended Nelson at Trafalgar; the creator of Pears' Soap, and the original WH Smith; the funambulist Blondin and the Savoyard George Grossmith; the first man to cross Australia from south to north, and the last man to fight a duel in England; the Duke's nephew who ruined the richest heiress of the day, and the English adventuress who became a French baronne disgraced by the accusation of murder.

You can become a Friend of Kensal Green Cemetery a charity dedicated to the preservation, conservation and restoration of the monuments, buildings and burial records. The Friends maintain the Dissenters' Chapel  for funerals, special events and exhibitions, as well as running weekly tours, an annual Open Day (usually, the first Saturday in July) and seasonal evening lectures. Membership of the Friends is open to anyone with an interest in the cemetery, its history and heritage. As well as helping to support conservation, restoration and research at the cemetery, Friends enjoy unlimited free access to the Sunday afternoon tours, a quarterly magazine, reduced admission to lectures, special offers on publications, and occasional events including visits to sites of interest around Greater London.
Visit the Kensal Green Cemetery website

Brompton Cemetery, consecrated by the Bishop of London in June 1840, is one of the Britain's oldest lovelliest and most distinguished garden cemeteries.

Grade I Listed Brompton's principal buildings were designed by Benjamin Baud as part of his vision of the cemetery as an open air cathedral, with the tree-lined Central Avenue as its nave, and the domed Chapel, in honey-coloured Bath Stone, as its high altar.  Two long colonnades embrace the Great Circle, reputedly inspired by the piazza of St. Peter's in Rome, and shelter catacombs beneath. Narrower paths run like aisles parallel to main axis, shaded by an array of mature trees. Many of these, like the limes on Central Avenues, are as old as the cemetery itself.

Some 35,000 monuments, from simple headstones to mortuary chapels, mark some 205,000 burials. Brompton was closed to burials between 1952 and 1996, but is once again a working cemetery, with plots for interments and a Garden of Remembrance for the deposit of cremated remains.

The famous residents include epidemiologist Dr. John Snow, suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, tenor Richard Tauber, author George Borrow, critic Bernard Levin, V&A founder Henry Cole, cricketer John Wisden, Egyptologist Joseph Bonomi, novelist George Henty, shipping magnate Sir Samuel Cunard, colonialist Admiral Sir Charles Fremantle, playwright Walter Brandon Thomas, composer Constant Lambert, auctioneer Samuel Leigh Sotheby, and no less than 12 recipients of the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for military gallantry.

You can become a Friend of Brompton Cemetery for £10 and  receive three newsletters per year, with news about the cemetery, events and activities, biographical sketches of notable personalities, nature notes, reviews, anecdotes, poetry.

Visit the Brompton Cemetery website