I visited three of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London with friends — Highgate Cemetery, Brompton Cemetery and West Norwood cemetery.
The "magnificent seven" cemeteries
The "Magnificent Seven" is an informal term applied to seven large cemeteries in London that were established in the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds.
Kensal Green Cemetery (1832)
West Norwood Cemetery (1837) — read my review
Highgate Cemetery (1839) — read my review
Abney Park Cemetery (1840)
Nunhead Cemetery (1840)
Brompton Cemetery (1840)
Tower Hamlets Cemetery (1841)
History of the Brompton cemetery
The Brompton Cemetery is located near Earl's Court in West London and is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries. Established by Act of Parliament, it opened in 1840 and was originally known as the West of London and Westminster Cemetery.
Consecrated by the Bishop of London in June 1840, it is one of Britain's oldest and most distinguished garden cemeteries. Some 35,000 monuments, from simple headstones to substantial mausolea, mark the resting place of more than 205,000 burials. The site includes large plots for family mausolea and common graves where coffins are piled deep into the earth, as well as a small columbarium. 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.
Brompton Cemetery was designed by Benjamin Baud and has at its centre a modest domed chapel (in the style of the basilica of St Peter's in Rome) at it southern end, reached by long colonnades, and flanked by catacombs. The chapel is dated 1839.
The cemetery was designed to give the feel of a large open air cathedral. It is rectangular in shape with the north end pointing to the northwest and the south end to the southeast. It has a central "nave" which runs from Old Brompton Road towards the central colonnade and chapel.
Below the colonnades are catacombs which were originally conceived as a cheaper alternative burial to having a plot in the grounds of the cemetery. Unfortunately, the catacombs were not a success and only about 500 of the many thousands of places in them were sold. There is also an entrance on the south side from Fulham Road. The cemetery is Grade II listed and five of the individual monuments are also listed as Grade II.
Buried in the cemetery are 289 Commonwealth service personnel of World War I and 79 of World War II. Beatrix Potter, who lived in The Boltons nearby, may have taken the names of some of her characters from tombstones in the cemetery. Names of people buried there included Mr. Nutkins, Mr. McGregor, Mr Brock, Mr Tod, Jeremiah Fisher and even a Peter Rabbett, although it is not known for certain if there were tombstones with these names.
Brompton Cemetery has featured in a number of films, including:
David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises (Viggo Mortensen)
The Wisdom of Crocodiles (Jude Law)
Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (Jude Law) as the location of 'Lord Blackwood's Tomb'
Crush (Imelda Staunton and Andie MacDowell)
Stormbreaker (Alex Pettyfer, Ewan McGregor, Stephen Fry and Mickey Rourke)
Finding Neverland (Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet)
Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson)
The Wings of the Dove (Helena Bonham Carter)
The tomb of Frederick Richards Leyland
The highlight for me was the beautiful Arts and Crafts tomb of Frederick Richards Leyland (1832 – 4 January 1892), who was a British shipowner and art collector. His tomb is the only such work by Edward Burne-Jones and is the finest Arts and Crafts funerary monument in the UK, and is Grade II listed (see three photos below).
The tomb is a tall, slender Portland stone chest on short Romanesque piers with cushion capitals with a copper roof, worked to suggest fish scales. All four sides are decorated with low-relief floral scrolls in copper. It is the way the copper has aged to verdigris that most attracted me.
Take a virtual tour of the Brompton Cemetary
The following three photos are the magnificent tomb with copper roof of Frederick Richards Leyland: