Kensal Green Cemetery was the fourth of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries we visited. It felt very different to the others. It lacked the grandeur of Highgate and Brompton and the charm of Abney Park. However, unlike the previous cemeteries we visited, it did feel like a functioning cemetery. As soon as we entered, it was clear Kensal Green is frequented more by the deceased’s families than tourists. After all, the cemetery is very much still active, both as a burial ground and crematorium, which would explain the foot traffic visiting graves.
The landscape is somewhat different to the others, too. It’s an open expanse of land without the wild growth, providing a very different atmosphere which felt less like the Victorian landscapes of the other cemeteries. Only the main avenue from the entrance to the Anglican Church felt anything like the other cemeteries and was undoubtedly the most interesting area.
Kensal Green Cemetery
Kensal Green claims to be “Britain’s Most Prestigious Cemetery”, probably because it has a few prestigious residents, but more on that later. Despite being a Victorian cemetery, one of the most striking memorials was built in 2014 in memory of Medi Mehra following the tragic story of his death, where he was thrown from a horse into a tree.
A Brief History
Established in 1832, it was the first of the “Magnificent Seven” garden cemeteries built in London during the Victorian era. If you’re wondering what the other Magnificent Seven cemeteries are, they are:
- Abney Park (read our guide to visiting Abney Park Cemetery)
- Brompton (read our guide to visiting Brompton Cemetery)
- Highgate (read our guide to visiting Highgate Cemetery)
- Tower Hamlets (read our guide to visiting Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park)
- West Norwood
For the purpose of this post, we’ve included elements and photos from the neighbouring cemetery – St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery. They are separated only by a wall, after all! Scroll down to Practical Information to see how to get into each cemetery.
Kensal Green Cemetery was London’s first commercial burial ground, which opened in 1833. The growing population and limited graveyard space led to the demand for larger cemeteries. In response to this need and public support for “detached cemeteries,” Parliament approved a bill incorporating the General Cemetery Company in 1832.
The company bought land in 1831 and held a competition for the cemetery’s design, in which Henry Edward Kendall won, who was one of 48 entrants. The brief for the competition was this – to include two chapels with catacombs, an entrance gateway with lodges and a landscaped layout for monuments.
Kendall’s Gothic-style plan included two chapels, a main entrance, and a landscaped area for graves. However, the company’s chairman preferred a different style. He had John Griffith, the surveyor of the General Cemetery Company, design new plans in the Greek Revival style, which were eventually used.
The cemetery was split into sections for Anglican use and another for Dissenters, with distinct architectural styles. The Anglican section was given 39 acres, and the Dissenters received 15 acres. The final landscape designs were by Richard Forrest, Head Gardener at Syon Park.
The cemetery featured wide gravel paths, trees, and plants, creating a picturesque setting. Notable for its combination of neo-classical architecture and lush landscaping, it became a prestigious burial place, especially after royalty was interred there.
Originally spanning 55 acres, the cemetery expanded by 22 acres and added a crematorium in 1939. The Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery, formed in 1989, have played a crucial role in conserving and promoting the cemetery, including restoring the Dissenters’ Chapel with support from various organisations.
Kensal Green Cemetery Famous Graves
It’s suggested that today, Kensal Green is the most exclusive and, therefore, the most expensive cemetery in the UK. Adding to its prestige are some of its residents.
Kensal Green Cemetery is the final resting place of many notable figures from various fields. Here’s a list of some of the most famous and interesting individuals buried there:
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel – a pioneering engineer known for his revolutionary work on bridges, railways, and ships. Interestingly, Brunel was voted the second greatest Briton of all time (after Winston Churchill) in a 2002 poll by the BBC.
- Sir John Franklin – an Arctic explorer who led the ill-fated expedition to navigate the Northwest Passage, where he and many of his crew died when their ships became icebound.
- T. H. Huxley – biologist and educator who ardently supported Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, earning him the nickname “Darwin’s Bulldog.” You can see a sculpture of him at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.
- Charles Babbage – mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of a programmable computer.
- Anthony Trollope – one of the most successful, prolific, and respected English novelists of the Victorian era, known for the “Chronicles of Barsetshire.” Although you might not know, he worked for the General Post Office and introduced the pillar box to Britain.
- Mary Seacole (in St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery) was a British-Jamaican nurse and businesswoman renowned for her bravery and medical contributions during the Crimean War. You can see her statue at St Thomas’ Hospital, on the opposite side of the River Thames to the Houses of Parliament.
Collectively, Kensal Green Cemetery and St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery have three entrances. The main entrance to Kensal Green Cemetery can be found on the east side, on Harrow Road. St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery can be accessed via its main entrance on the north side, on Harrow Road, and via a little gate on the west side, on Scrubs Lane. If you arrive at Kensal Green Station, you can enter both cemeteries via the north entrance.
🕙 GMT Mon-Sat 9 am – 5 pm, Sun 10 am – 5 pm, bank holidays 10 am – 1.30 pm
🕙 BST Mon-Sat 9 am – 6 pm, Sun 10 am – 6 pm, bank holidays 10 am – 1.30 pm
📞 0208 969 0152
Kensal Green Cemetery Photos
Search Quieries & FAQs
Is Kensal Green Cemetery worth visiting?
If you live nearby, by all means, you should visit. If you are to make a special journey, you might be better off visiting one of the other Magnificent Seven garden cemeteries. Some of them have more interesting architecture, surrounding areas and atmospheres.
Kensal Green Cemetery opening times
The opening times of the cemetery vary by day of the week and whether in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or British Summer Time (BST). They are as follows:
- GMT Mon-Sat 9 am – 5 pm, Sun 10 am – 5 pm, bank holidays 10 am – 1.30 pm
- BST Mon-Sat 9 am – 6 pm, Sun 10 am – 6 pm, bank holidays 10 am – 1.30 pm
Kensal Green Cemetery tours
Kensal Green Cemetery tours are available through The Friend of Kensal Green Cemetery and run on selected Sundays throughout the year. For more information, to check prices and to book, visit kensalgreen.co.uk
Kensal Green Cemetery nearest tube
Kensal Green is the nearest tube to the cemetery, served by the Bakerloo line and the Overground.
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