Brompton Cemetery…

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Brompton Cemetery. It happens to be across the road from my photography college in Kensington and Chelsea. Consequently the place is full of would-be photographers. I think cemeteries can be very beautiful places, all the lovely stonework mainly, so I’ve quite enjoyed taking pictures here.

After the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, London ‘s population increased from 1 million in1800 to 2.6 million by 1850! With all the inadequate sanitary conditions and the consequent endemic disease, there was an immediate need for more cemeteries. London had 7 major cemeteries constructed, many of which have become famous. Brompton opened in 1840 with a formal layout of a central avenue leading to a chapel based on St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and linking the Fulham and Brompton roads. It is also under the aegis of the Royal Parks.

I discovered graves clumped in nationality zones, many Greeks and Japanese amongst them. Many interesting graves to see, including Emmeline Pankhurst, the Suffragette who was buried here in 1928. I found several graves with nautical emblems created around 1901. I’m not sure what this relates to, the only major war I can think of at that time was the Boer War, which didn’t involve the Navy. Also plenty of Chelsea Pensioners.

There are some very splendid monuments and mausoleums, clearly showing the wealth of people buried here. I think there are about 35,000 stones in total, but I liked the neglected ones the most. This is squirrel paradise, dilapidated graves suffering from subsidence, with lots of places to hide nuts.

The other 6 major cemeteries created at the time were:

  • Highgate (1839) in North London which famously holds the grave of Karl Marx
  • West Norwood (1837) a lovely place in South London fairly near my home
  • Nunhead (1840) another beautiful one in South London fairly near my home
  • Tower Hamlets (1841) in East London
  • Abney Park (1840) in Hackney, East London

I’ve been to Highgate, Nunhead, and spent a lot of time pushing my eldest son around West Norwood in his pram when he was tiny.

Brompton has many benches, including amongst the gravestones for quiet contemplation. It’s amazing how many people speak to you in this cemetery. The light was lovely when I was there with my course friend Lyndsey, that subdued overcast light just before a storm, perfect for photography. We walked for ages, chatted to people, took photographs of dogs and practised taking some shots for our ‘Third Man’ project – tilted, close up, wide angle images, unfortunately it was still daylight. I’ll put those pictures up another time. A good place to have lunch, just watch out for all the photographers.


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