Brompton Cemetery is the third of London’s so-called Magnificent Seven Cemeteries that I’ve visited. I’ve previously been to Norwood and Kensal Green (twice), but Brompton has been the most enjoyable of the three.
Brompton was built in 1840, and it’s as much a nature reserve as a cemetery. Because it’s surrounded by a wall, a distinct area of Victorian flora has been preserved virtually intact. There are over 60 species of trees, of which the limes date back to 1838. Snow drops and bluebells are amongst the flora that appear seasonally, and because the land was once used as a market garden, it’s not unusual to find wild cabbages, asparagus, and garlic sprouting amongst the graves. There’s loads of animals too. Foxes, bats, and some incredibly tame and Instagram friendly squirrels.
Most people tend to view Brompton Cemetery as park that just happens to have some gravestones. And in fact it’s actually maintained and managed by The Royal Parks. I came across sunbathers and picnickers, cyclists and joggers, dog-walkers and scooter riders. Even a teenage dance troupe having a practice session. Because, as nobody will ever hear me say, jazz hands always make the world better place.
Brompton Cemetery has been an attractive place for filmakers over the years. Indeed, there’s a bit of a James Bond thing going on. The chapel was used in GoldenEye, the outside standing in for the church in St Petersburg where Izabella Scorupco hides from the evil Janus
And the colonnades above the catacombs are used in the far more realistic spoof-Bond film Johnny English, where Rowan Atkinson plays a twit.
Of the many famous residents of Brompton Cemetery, in my mind the most significant is British Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Time magazine clearly agree, because in 1999 they named her as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, stating “she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back”. Unfortunately her gravestone was in deep shade, shrouded by numerous trees, so I didn’t take a photo. However, below is the rather grand memorial of boxer John “Gentlemen” Jackson, winner of “Champion of England” in 1795. I believe this went untelevised.
Lead an empty life with far too much time on your hands? Then why not check out my other Magnificent Seven photos?
Norwood Cemetery: here