Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kensal Green Cemetery

I finally had an opportunity yesterday to go explore Kensal Green Cemetery, which bills itself as "one of London's oldest and most distinguished public burial grounds." I don't dispute it. I wandered around for a couple of hours and found all kinds of fascinating stuff.

The cemetery is located not far from our flat, and it's kind of amazing that I haven't made it over there before now. I run past it all the time along the Grand Union Canal, which forms its southern border. (Running to keep myself out of a cemetery, I suppose, though as Rose says to Cosmo in "Moonstruck," "I just want you to know that no matter what you do, you're gonna die, just like everybody else.")

That's the gas works in Ladbroke Grove across the canal from the cemetery. (You've seen it before in this post, but I wouldn't expect you to remember!)

Kensal Green Cemetery dates back to 1833 and covers 72 acres, including several chapels, a crematorium and a rose garden. It was supposedly inspired by Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. I saw all sorts of gothic, mossy and generally illegible headstones dating back to the mid-1800s, some tilting at crazy angles. Walking off the main footpaths was challenging, as the ground is very uneven.

I also saw new headstones, and a few relatively recent graves. Kensal Green is still an active area for burials.

It's interesting how people choose to be remembered -- a writer, a gardener, a cat lover. I saw graves decorated with toys, pinwheels, flags and figurines of pixies and fairies.

Some graves were decorated with wildlife -- just pigeons and squirrels. (I've always heard cemeteries are great places for birdwatching but this is the best I did. Still, he is a very handsome pigeon.)

The tombs and mausoleums along the cemetery's central thoroughfare are especially grand. Still, I don't really get burial -- I would much rather be cremated and scattered somewhere. Spending eternity in a tomb -- even one of these fancy boxes -- just seems so static.

I did find a few famous people -- I'll tell you about them tomorrow!

I didn't even begin to cover the entire cemetery. It's just too big. It warrants a repeat visit.


  1. What an awesome cemetery! Your line about cemeteries being good for birdwatching reminded me of the so-called Patagonia picnic table effect, which basically suggests that places become renowned for attracting rare birds mainly because they attract lots of birders. The more birders you have sitting at any random picnic table, the more likely rare birds will be spotted.

  2. That IS a very handsome pigeon!
    Wow. I would love to spend hours in that cemetery. One of my favorite places in my favorite place (Cozumel, Mexico) is the cemetery in the downtown area. For some pictures of a very, very different (and yet, with similarities) place to spend eternity, you can go see the pictures I took in Cozumel last January.

  3. Well, it's timely to visit cemeteries in October, so maybe that's why you haven't been until now.

    Gorgeous pictures!

  4. I love old cemeteries. I think we need to get out & visit some of our favorites this fall.

    I also agree that that is a very handsome pigeon!

    Mike & I want to be cremated, although as a historian he hates the idea of cemeteries dying out (pun intended).

  5. I love exploring cemeteries and reading the epitaphs on the gravestones.

    This cemetery looks very intriguing. The old ones are the best.

    I keep telling myself to drive over to Sleepy Hollow and visit the cemetery there. It would be the perfect time of year for that, yes? I just don't want to meet up with the Headless Horseman!

  6. You got some great photos here. On one of my visits to London, I toured Highgate Cemetary and this reminds me very much of that place.

  7. Lorianne: England has amazing cemeteries, I gotta say. You gotta love something called the "Patagonia picnic table effect"! I've never heard of that, but it makes sense that birds would be more readily perceived in a place with a lot of birders.

    Ms. Moon: The cemetery in Cozumel looks amazing. A bit like the one in Key West, actually. Cemeteries are often such fascinating places.

    Reya: I didn't even think of my excursion in relationship to your post about the ghosts out and about at this time of year! But you're right, it IS timely!

    Bug: Indeed! Post pictures!

    Lynne: Sleepy Hollow would make a GREAT blog post. I'm guessing the Headless Horseman is retired by now. :)

    Sharon: Highgate is on my list of places to visit as well!

  8. I love this post. Modern cemeteries are so sterile and boring.

  9. So dark and melancholic, I love it. I'm visiting Savannah in July and am looking forward to spending a few, languid hours touring Bonaventure Cemetery.