Category Archives: 19th Century

Paddington Old Cemetery

Nowhere near Paddington, it's in Kilburn, but was named for the Paddington Burial Board who opened it in 1855, and Brent Council has kept the name. It's a beautiful little cemetery with a pair of stunning chapels (only one is still in use). The cemetery starred in the Doctor Who story The Remembrance of the Daleks.

I was playing with a new lens (50mm f1.4 - so expect a lot of very shallow depth of field stuff until I get bored with that).

Visiting: Walkable from Kilburn, Kilburn Park or Queen's Park tubes; 98 bus stops outside. A fair few livings around, mostly dog walkers. Occasional drunks and swarms of bees.

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Tower Hamlets Cemetery

Visiting: Mile End tube, turn right and walk down Southern Grove. There's always something going on at Tower Hamlets. Met a nice lady who asked me if I was lost; I said no, I was just wandering; she said "oh good". An old gentleman told me I should have been here 30 years earlier to see more good stuff. This is the kind of cemetery I like.

Posted in 19th Century London Cemeteries Magnificent Seven | 10 Comments

Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead's often cited as the "least known" of the Magnificent Seven, and while this might be true, darling Nunhead is one of my favourite cemeteries in London. Though it doesn't have the most spectacular monuments (you want Norwood, Brompton or Kensal Green for those), it does have an absolutely irresistable atmosphere. It's being managed as a nature reserve, which means that much of it is fairly overgrown, but the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery are doing an absolutely amazing job of keeping it good as a cemetery too. Don't expect too many spectacular monuments - the inhabitants of Nunhead are mostly like to prove their solid respectability with square columns and box tombs - but there is nowhere in London with an atmosphere quite like this.

Nunhead's fortunes over the years have been mixed. Founded in 1840 by the London Cemetery Company (who also founded Highgate), on the death of its first superintendent in 1865, it was discovered that he had defrauded the company of thousands of pounds. Lower mortality rates (fewer customers!) didn't help, and by 1960, the cemetery had been bought by a property company planning to build on part of the land. Perhaps the harshest blow was in 1974, when the Anglican chapel was all but destroyed by an arsonist. With vandalism and tales of "black magic rituals" rife, the London Borough of Southwark stepped in, and in 1975 bought the cemetery for £1.

When we first visited Nunhead, nine years ago, I was unsure that the cemetery would win. Today, I was delighted to see that it has. The Chapel has been stabilised, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund; though it lacks a roof, it's still suitable for summertime concerts and exhibitions, and its slightly ruinous appearance just adds to the Romantic air of Nunhead: it looks like the ruin of a mediaeval abbey. Though many areas of the cemetery are still overgrown, at least the main paths are clear, and the more spectacular monuments intact.

Some parts towards the back of the cemetery have been turned over to lawn and are accepting new burials. This might feel incongruous, but at least it's generating much-needed funds to keep the rest of the place intact.

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South Ealing Cemetery

I'm a bit worried about dear little South Ealing. The graves seem to be lurching all over the place more than they ever were, and I spotted more than one stone which had fallen over and been left, rather than tidied up and made safe. The windows to the chapel have been broken and boarded up, and the back of the chapel is fenced off. All this smacks of a place that's being neglected rather. I hope I'm wrong, because it's a beautiful cemetery. It's covered with bluebells even at the end of April, and though it acts as a cut-through for locals (and is itself bisected by a fenced-in footpath), it's peaceful and rural. See it while it's still here.

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Hanwell Cemetery, Kensington

Not to be confused with the other Hanwell Cemetery owned by Westminster Council, this is the Hanwell Cemetery on the north side of Uxbridge Road, owned by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

It's a beautiful little cemetery, set back from the road and reached via a long driveway, so the traffic noise from Uxbridge Road is almost inaudible. The planting is Hanwell's glory: the trees here are beautiful and well-looked after. On a sunny Easter Saturday, I was the only person there and felt as though I were in the middle of the countryside. If you're visiting, don't miss the shell-topped grave of Edgar Albert Smith, conchologist at the British Museum.

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