All the way back in the early 1800s, London’s rapid population growth proved too much for inner city burial grounds, which were literally overflowing with, well, bodies duh. Subsequently – and inspired by the success of the stunning Père Lachaise Cemetery over the Channel in Paris, the UK parliament decided to establish an array of private cemeteries in London that were actually based outside of the centre. Over the next decade, as series of seven were constructed. Their name? Yep, you guessed it – the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries:
Kicking off this roundup of the ‘Magnificent Seven Cemeteries’ in London you’ve just got to explore in London is, well, one of the most famous cemeteries on Earth, let’s be honest. Highgate is truly a spellbinding spot (no seriously) in which to wander around, and the graves and mausoleums – which are draped in plentiful foliage – are where funeral architects seriously let their imagination run riot.
In the West Cemetery, Victorian fascination with the Egyptians resulted in the stunning Egyptian Avenue, as well as numerous impressive tombs. Meanwhile, the equally impressive Lebanon Circle has appeared in many an Instagram piccie over the years. And less beautiful, but a lot more spooky (and supposedly haunted by a tall, sinister ghoul with bright red eyes) are the subterranean Terrace Catacombs – so only enter if you dare!
As if that wasn’t enough , you might also stumble across some celebrity graves – the most famous of which is none other than the famous German philosopher Karl Marx.
📍You’ll find Highgate Cemetery at Swain’s Lane, London, N6 6PJ.
🚇 Nearest station is Archway.
2. Brompton Cemetery, Fulham
The stunning, Grade I-listed Brompton Cemetery near Kensington is the resting place of well over 200,000 people, whose graves are commemorated with a range of intricate memorials – including towering columns and grieving angels. It’s also the final resting place of Emmeline Pankhurst – the courageous leader of the suffragettes who fought hard for the women’s right to vote – and Dr John Snow – whose pioneering work established the findings that cholera was spread through water.
As well as some pretty exquisite architecture dotted about, there’s also plenty of wildlife resident here as well as a lovely little café at the northern reaches – perfect for a post-walk cuppa and a slice of cake.
📍You’ll find Brompton Cemetery at Fulham Road, London, SW10 9UG.
🚇 Nearest station is West Brompton.
3. Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington
Another one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries of London, Abney Park is a really lovely place for a stroll. You know, for a graveyard and all. Wandering down crooked paths and amongst the extensive tree cover will lead you to some pretty stunning Victorian architecture, and a rather nice chapel at the park’s centre.
It’s also a designated local wildlife reserve, and there’s everything here from great spotted woodpeckers to sparrowhawks and even tawny owls! As with Brompton, there are 200,000 people buried here, and they also host regular events here like guided walks and even ‘ghost story walks’. Yikes!
📍You’ll find Abney Park Cemetery at 215 Stoke Newington High Street, London, N16 0LH.
🚇 Nearest station is Stoke Newington.
4. Kensal Green Cemetery, Kensal Green
Established all the way back in 1832, Kensal Green was the first ever garden cemetery as well as the first of the ‘Magnificent Seven’. 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! There’s also the ‘Anglican Chapel’ here which is found right in the heart of the cemetery, and it contains several tombs and even a spooky catacomb hidden beneath it. Best bring some company for that one then…
📍You’ll find Kensal Green Cemetery at Harrow Road, London, W10 4RA.
🚇 Nearest station is Kensal Green.
5. Nunhead Cemetery, Nunhead
Heading south of the river now to the fringes of Peckham and you’ll find yourself at the Nunhead Cemetery – arguably the most attractive of all seven of the ‘Magnificent Seven Cemeteries’ (ok, as a South East London I may be biassed).
At 52 acres, it’s the second largest of the seven, and only reopened after a significant period of closure back in 2001. Given that it’s perhaps the least well-known, it’s also the most wild of London’s cemeteries. Many areas are overgrown with ivy and tree climbers, adding to the creepy atmosphere, and this year they’re even showing ‘An American Werewolf in London’ here. So if you’re looking for a spooky Halloween screening, then you’d better get yourself here!
📍You’ll find Nunhead Cemetery at Linden Grove, London, SE15 3LP.
🚇 Nearest station is Nunhead.
6. West Norwood Cemetery, West Norwood
Another South London gem here, the West Norwood Cemetery features almost 70 Grade II and Grade II* listed buildings and structures, including a dedicated Greek Orthodox necropolis with 19 listed mausoleums and monuments, as well as catacombs and a beautiful rose garden too.
At 40 acres, it’s the smallest of the ‘Magnificent Seven’, though it’s well worth exploring if you’re ever in this neck of the woods. The catacombs are even open occasionally for guided tours… scary stuff!
📍You’ll find West Norwood Cemetery at Norwood Road, Norwood, London, SE27 9JU.
🚇 Nearest station is West Norwood.
7. Tower Hamlets Cemetery, Bow
The last of our ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries in London here, the Tower Hamlets Cemetery was first opened to burials back in 1841, and it is a beautiful spot in which to be buried to be honest.
The listed spot in between Stepney Green and Bow has a varied network of scenic paths that will take you on a tour through atmospheric woodlands and pretty wildflower meadows too. On your tour you will see many birds, butterflies and plants uncommonly seen in London, as well as past Grade II-listed monuments, graves and tombs of course too.
📍You’ll find Tower Hamlets Cemetery at Southern Grove, London, E3 4PX.
🚇 Nearest stations are Bow Road and Mile End.
And now for another cemetery in London worth a mention:
8. Camberwell Old Cemetery, Dulwich
Ok, so it may not be a part of the ‘Magnificent Seven’, but we still find this place pretty darn enchanting. It’s a peaceful and serene spot that’s well worth a visit if you’re wanting to get an insight into the history of Dulwich and its immediate surroundings and the people that lived within it.
There’s a Gothic Revival lodge here that was restored following a fire back in the 1970s, as well as 288 Commonwealth service war graves from the First World War. There are also two Screen Wall memorials, which mention the names of the men tragically killed during WW1 and WW2 respectively.
📍You’ll find Camberwell Old Cemetery at Forest Hill Road, London, SE22 0RU.
🚇 Nearest station is Honor Oak Park.
So there you have it – a roundup of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries in London that you’ve just got to explore. So whether you’re north, south, east or west in the capital, you’re sure to find one and enjoy a spooky Autumn wander. It’s almost Halloween after all, remember…