The Brompton Cemetery

My second book, Necropolis (Release Date: April 24th), is a humorous plot driven work of dark fiction about a psychopath, who works for the Burials and Cemeteries department in his local council.  Due to the cemetery theme I am dedicating this blog post to the cemetery closest to my own heart, the Brompton Cemetery.  I was born in a hospital adjoining the cemetery, spent countless hours of my childhood there – walking, skateboarding, feeding its many squirrels and inspecting its grave sites.  To this day I continue to live in the vicinity and regularly visit this remarkable sanctuary.  Perhaps one day I will find a permanent residence here.  Below is the Old Brompton Road entrance to the Brompton Cemetery.

Entrance

Consecrated in June 1840, the cemetery covers 16.5 hectares (39 acres). This necropolis is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ set of cemeteries that were built during this era, others include Kensal Green and Highgate Cemetery.  The Brompton Cemetery  (originally called The West of London and Westminster Cemetery) came into existence due to concerns that churchyards in central London were getting too full and that they posed a health hazard (London’s population doubled to 2.3m in the first half of the 19th Century).  Since 1840 over 205,000 people have been interred in the Brompton Cemetery.

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Taking an opportunity to visit during a lull in the relentless rain this week, I came across this fox (see above).  The lustre coat of this specimen bears testimony to the fact that it is not only the dead that thrive here.

I am not the only writer to have sought inspiration in the Brompton Cemetery.  Beatrix Potter lived close to the burial ground and would often take walks here.  She named many of the characters in Peter Rabbit after those buried in the cemetery, including Nutkins, McGregor, Jeremiah Fisher and Peter Rabbett.

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Amongst the many famous people interred here is Dr John Snow (see picture above).  Snow was a pioneering anaesthetist and the discoverer of the cause of cholera.  In 1887 two Oglala Sioux Native Americans, Surrounded By the Enemy and Red Penny, died whilst on tour with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  They were both buried in the cemetery.  To date I have been unable to locate the site of their graves.

The Brompton Cemetery abounds with magnificent architecture including a number of family crypts or mausoleums (see below).

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The main character in my forthcoming book Necropolis wishes to be interred in a mausoleum and I think I would too.  Seclusion is a wonderful thing in life and one can only assume it is also in death.  The Brompton Cemetery’s gravestones, tombs, plinths and mausoleums embrace a blend of grandeur, sombreness and good taste (see below).  This is not always the case in modern burial facilities, much to the chagrin of the main character Dyson in Necropolis.

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Many soldiers are buried in the cemetery.  Below is the memorial to the Brigade of Guards.

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The catacombs were originally added to the Brompton Cemetery as a cheaper alternative to burial.  However of the  thousands of spaces available, only about 500 were ever filled.  Below is  one of the catacombs as observed from ground level.

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The catacombs really don’t seem that enticing as a final resting place (see below)

Catacombs(Courtesy of www.thebohemianblog.com)

Below is the cemetery’s chapel as viewed from the colonnade.

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Surely there can be no better place to be laid to rest in this great city than the Brompton Cemetery.

12 Comments

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  • I’ve always had a bit of a fascination for cemeteries and my brother and I also used to play in a local cemetery when we were children. My husband thinks I am a bit weird but I think that the appeal for me is the history of the people that once lived in that area. I also enjoy looking at some of the old gravestones which are far more decorative than those erected nowadays, and I can remember large granite pillars with angels and other impressive structures. In the borough where I live there is now a maximum height permitted for gravestones and I wonder whether this rule applies throughout the rest of the country.

    • I bet the maximum height for gravestones rule applies everywhere. Councils are probably terrified of gravestones toppling over and squashing someone, a living someone that is. The historical aspect of cemeteries is indeed fascinating. Thank you for the comment Diane. Have a good weekend!

  • It’s a fascinating place and massive. Like the pictures. The catacombs seem quite an ignominious end. I’ll book a place.

  • Loved this tour. I have had a fascination with cemeteries since I was a kid. I lived on the East Coast and had some headstones dating back to the revolutionary war (oops I mean the war where the stupid colonists decided to break with the crown much to their own misfortune). Those catacombs look like a great place to visit at night.

  • A fascinating post Guy. I always found graveyards interesting and often beautiful places as well as downright odd on occasion with what people got away with putting on the gravestones. The PC brigade have spoiled things for future generations.

  • I enjoyed your post Guy.I know Brompton Cemetery well! I try and always attend their Open Days.We must look after these fine old graveyards….they really are treasures and contain great works of art!

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