Kensal Green Cemetery in west London is one of England’s oldest – and certainly the most prestigious – burial grounds.
Established in 1832, Kensal Green was the first ever garden cemetery as well as the first of the Magnificent Seven – which include West Norwood, Highgate, Abney Park, Nunhead, Brompton and Tower Hamlets cemeteries. It held its first funeral in 1833 and they still happen on a daily basis today. It spans some 72 acres between the Grand Union Canal and Harrow Road in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. (? by Adrian Scottow)
The burial ground, often referred to as the General Cemetery of All Souls, is the final resting place for hundreds of different people; from princes to paupers, writers and actors, engineers and artists, and so on. Amongst other notable names, you’ll find authors William Makepeace Thackeray and Wilkie Collins, and engineer Charles Babbage, who is known for his invention of the first automatic digital computer. (Although, strangely, not all of Babbage has been left to rest at Kensal Green – half of his brain can be found at the Hunterian Museum while the other half is preserved at the Science Museum.)
Kensal Green Cemetery is listed Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, and boasts some incredible Gothic monuments. The Anglican Chapel, found in the centre of the cemetery, contains several tombs, with a catacomb hidden beneath it. One of very few in London, the catacomb can be visited as part of a guided tour lead by the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery on Sunday afternoons. It still has a working coffin-lift, which was restored in 1997.
Elsewhere in the cemetery, you’ll also find The Reformers’ Memorial, which was built in memory of those who have given their time and means to improve the life and happiness of all classes of society. The site is also acknowledged as a conservation area; home to dozens of rare flora and fauna, as well as lots of wildlife – particularly birds.