Cemetery Archives: Kensal Green Cemetery

The very evil custom of interring the dead in towns

I love this article from the Penny Magazine of August 2nd, 1834. It was published 18 months after the first burial took place in Kensal Green Cemetery. It's a great bit of PR, and Mr Carden, the General Cemetery Company and whoever was responsible for their marketing are to be roundly congratulated, even from this distance.

The very evil custom of interring the dead in and near the places devoted to public worship is, to the best of our knowledge, peculiar to Christian countries. Its introduction seems to have been very early; for we find interments in cities altogether prohibited by an edict of the Emperor Theodosius, in which is very truly stated that such a practise is very injurious to the public health, while monuments by the way-side present salutory memorials to the traveller. A person infringing this law forfeited a third of his patrimony; and an undertaker directing a funeral contrary to this prohibition was fined forty pounds of gold.
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Posted in 19th Century London Cemeteries Magnificent Seven | 1 Comment

Putting the fun in funereal: Kensal Green Cemetery Open Day

An Evening Standard columnist once said of Kensal Green's annual open day: "It was like a cross between a funeral, a gig by the Cure and a village fete." He wasn't wrong. For me, it's one of the highlights of the cemetery calendar.

The open day centred around the Anglican Chapel, with a range of stalls: most were Etsy Live, with artisans selling everything from jewellery and jams, to cemetery photographs and books. Gingerbread coffins, complete with iced skeletons, were much in evidence, and classic hearses lined the main avenue. Death, Goths and a man on a penny farthing milled about. It was magic.

Top of the bill for me were the tours. The Friends of Kensal Green run tours regularly on Sundays, but Open Day has many to choose from, including the opportunity to go into the catacombs. The latter are fascinating: please go if you have the chance. At 2,000 deposits in the last 170-odd years, they're not exactly a commercial proposition, but they are still being used. And seeing 150-year-old coffins with their red velvet covering still intact and even a trace of gilding left on the coffin furnishings is amazing.

Special hat-tips: Dr Julian Litten for the most excellent tour of the above-ground cemetery (and his equally excellent pre-need gravestone); the guys from Silent Cities: great to finally meet you; all the Friends for their amazing work and such a good day out.

Inevitably, there are more KG photos...

Posted in 19th Century Events London Cemeteries Magnificent Seven | 2 Comments

Kensal Green opens for burials

From The Times, 1st February 1833

General Cemetery Company, Kensall-Green, Harrow Road. The Directors hereby inform the public, that the cemetery is now ready for interments. The ground has been surrounded by a lofty wall and duly consecrated by the Lord Bishop of London. A spacious catacomb has been constructed, with accomodation in separate chambers for families, or a depository for an individual as may be required, and mausoleums, vaults or common graves may be treated for at the office, on Great Russell street. A regular register will be kept, by which coffins deposited in the catacombs may be at any time visited or inspected by relatives of the deceased and the Directors offer the fullest security against exhumation or any other disturbance of the solemnity of the grave. The terms for the sale of the catacombs, as well as the vaults and graves will be found on enquiry to be considerably below the prices usually charged. All communications to be made at the office, 95 Great Russell street, Bloomsbury to Mr Bowman, the Clerk of the Company, who will give every information that may be required.
C B BOWMAN, Clerk of the Company, 95 Great Russell street, Bloomsbury

I can't help thinking there's mixed messaging here. It's secure and you can have your own chamber in the catacombs... but it's also cheap. If I'd been selling it, I'd've made it expensive, and exclusive, at least at launch: I wouldn't have mentioned common graves in that copy at all.

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New graves in the old cemetery

Most of the photos that I - and other people - take in Kensal Green are all about the old graves, the Victorian craziness and the pompous monuments. It's easy to forget that this is still a working cemetery, and has new graves popping up all the time, sometimes in the western part, but also amongst the older graves. Here are some photographs of newer monuments in Kensal Green.

With apologies to Leonard Cohen for the title.

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Kensal Green Cemetery

A few more pictures from Kensal Green today.

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