There’s something slightly odd about suggesting a cemetery as a place to visit, but something about a few of them captivates us. Seemingly unusual, we recommended Cimitero Monumentale as the number one thing to do in Milan. And although Brompton Cemetery isn’t as grand as that, it has its own charm and captivating stories wrapped up in its 39 acres that make a visit worthwhile.
Brompton Cemetery in West London is a Grade I listed site and the resting place of over 200,000 people. Royal Parks manage the cemetery on behalf of the Government. They also manage St James’s Park, our favourite park in London, and most definitely worth a visit.
What sets it apart from the average cemetery is that it was designed as a garden as valuable for the living as it was for the dead, which still appears true today. Much like Kew Gardens, the cemetery is peaceful despite the noisy planes overhead en route to Heathrow. Despite being a resting place for the dead, it is teeming with life.
There’s a popular dog walking route, it’s a busy thoroughfare between Earl’s Court and Chelsea, and it has a visitor centre, toilet and cafe. As far as a cemetery goes, it’s comprehensive regarding facilities!
It’s also a haven for wildlife with bats, beetles, birds, butterflies, and plenty of squirrels. Crows. There are also loads of crows. What is it with crows and cemeteries? Then there’s the history and the famous graves to make you want to visit.
A Brief History
Established in 1840, Brompton Cemetery was one of the “Magnificent Seven” garden cemeteries created to address the increasing demand for burial space in rapidly growing Victorian London. Designed by architect Benjamin Baud, its purpose extended beyond mere internment, aiming to provide a serene space for reflection and recreation.
If you’re wondering what the other “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries are, they are:
- Abney Park (read our guide to visiting Abney Park Cemetery)
- Highgate (read our guide to visiting Highgate Cemetery)
- Kensal Green (read our guide to visiting Kensal Green Cemetery)
- Tower Hamlets (read our guide to visiting Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park)
- West Norwood
The cemetery’s design reflects the Victorian fascination with the sublime. Brompton Cemetery is an architectural marvel with its grand entrance, impressive colonnade, and paths. Its layout combines a garden and a necropolis, creating a tranquil environment for the living and the deceased.
The architecture within the cemetery is impressive, with the most notable parts being the Great Circle and Chapel. You can’t miss the Chapel – it’s at the end of the 600m long Central Avenue. And when you’re in the Great Circle, look for the steps leading down to some locked gates. You can’t miss them. Inside, you’ll find the catacombs that can hold up to 500 coffins.
But don’t forget to wander off Central Avenue. You’ll find all sorts, from wildlife to maple trees, and a small section containing 380 Commonwealth War Graves from the First and Second World Wars.
Brompton Cemetery Famous Graves
The cemetery is the resting place of several famous people, with the most notable below. And there’s an entire page dedicated to famous graves and burials, should you like to browse through the names. You will notice small metal discs with numbers on them. They correlate to Brompton Cemetery’s top 100 points of interest, of which there are four self-guided walks you can go on to find them all. You can download the resource in the link above. Below are a few we picked out during our visit.
Emmeline Pankhurst, a British political activist who organised the UK suffragette movement and helped women get the vote, is buried just a stone’s throw from North Lodge. In 1999, she was voted by Time as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, quoting that “she shaped an idea of objects for our time” and “shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back.”
Another is John Snow, a physician and leader in developing anaesthesia and medical hygiene. He is considered one of the founders of modern epidemiology and early germ theory, partly because he traced the source of a cholera outbreak in London’s Soho, which he identified as a particular public water pump. If you go to the John Snow pub in Soho, you’ll find the memorial water pump, which was reinstalled in its original location where the famous outbreak of cholera in 1854 killed over 600 people.
Reginald Warneford VC, a Royal Naval Air Service officer who was the first naval aviator to receive the Victoria Cross for his daring mission to air-bomb a Zeppelin during the First World War, is also buried in Brompton Cemetery. He has a very noticeable headstone on the side of Central Avenue in the Great Circle and Colonnades.
Brompton Cemetery Map
The Royal Parks website has a great Brompton Cemetery map. It contains all the necessary information, including visitor information, cycle parking, food and drink locations, points of interest, and monuments. You can also download the Brompton Cemetery map, which provides a basic guide to access, photography, wildlife and penalties. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s worth a look.
🕙 7am – dusk
Search Quieries & FAQs
Brompton Cemetery Tours
Tours are available courtesy of The Friends of Brompton Cemetery. There are various tours, including the Friends’ Tour of the Cemetery and Catacombs tours. The catacomb tours only happen a handful of times a year, last about 20 minutes, and must be booked. The Friends’ Tours are frequent – on most Sundays at 2pm. A donation is requested, but you can turn up on the day without booking. See their events page for the latest tours on offer and everything you need to know.
Brompton Cemetery Opening Times
The cemetery is open daily from 7am to dusk. Check the official website using the link above for today’s opening times.
Is Brompton Cemetery worth visiting?
Yes, it is. The cemetery is an interesting place. It’s easy to get to, peaceful, has a rich and interesting history, and even has a cafe. It’s a beautiful place, designed with the living in mind as much as the dead, and worthy of a stroll through.
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