The Friends Of Kensal Green Cemetery

Kensal Green Cemetery

The General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green, is one of England's oldest and most beautiful public burial grounds, and certainly its most prestigious. One of the world's first garden cemeteries, and doyen of London's Magnificent Seven, Kensal Green received its first funeral in January 1833, and still conducts burials and cremations daily. The cemetery was innovative in having most of the site consecrated by the Church of England, but reserving the eastern spur for Dissenters and others to practise their own rites. Today, people of many faiths and denominations are buried throughout the cemetery. Uniquely among British cemeteries, Kensal Green has been managed by the same private joint-stock company since its inception: the General Cemetery Company(est. 1830) still has its offices by the Main Gate. The cemetery now covers some 72 acres (29 hectares) between the Grand Union Canal and Harrow Road in west London, and is open to visitors every day of the year.

About Kensal Green

History

The plan for London's first garden cemetery was initiated by the barrister George Frederick Carden, who was inspired by a visit to Père-Lachaise in Paris in 1821. Alert both to the need for new burial grounds, and the commercial potential of the venture, Carden founded the General Cemetery Company in 1830, with influential supporters including Andrew Spottiswoode MP and the banker John Dean Paul of Rodburgh, Bart. The cemetery was established by Act of Parliament which had its final reading in July 1832, during a cholera epidemic -- a coincidence that implicitly made the case for reform. The Bishop of London consecrated the first 48 acres in January 1833, and the first funeral was conducted a week later. Boardroom dramas saw Carden excluded from the company he founded, but Kensal Green went on to weather financial crises, changing fashions, even wartime bombing, to become a national necropolis of the great and the good, a valued local institution, and a heritage site of international importance.

Monuments

Kensal Green boasts some 140 Grade I, II* and II Listed buildings and monuments, including the magnificent Anglican Chapel (top photo), Dissenters' Chapel (bottom photo) and Main Gate (left). Despite an architectural competition won by the Gothic designs of Henry Edward Kendall, the Company eventually awarded the contract to the Neo-Classical designs of John Griffith of Finsbury, an active member of the Company who eventually became its Director. Kensal Green's funerary monuments represent every shade of taste, fashion and materials from the solid classicism of the Birkbeck and Paul family mausolea to the Gothic extravagance of Capt. Charles Spencer Ricketts and the 7th Viscount Strangford, by way of the Mughal tradition of Daboda Dewajee, the miniature art gallery of William Mulready RA, the 'Old Armchair' of composer Henry Russell, the broken down circus horse of equestrian Alfred Cooke, and the utter originality of the Ducrow, Casement and Molyneux family monuments, as well as several handsome modern Memorials by Artists.

Notable People

From the funeral of HRH The Duke of Sussex in 1843 to that of his nephew HRH The Duke of Cambridge in 1904, Kensal Green was the most fashionable cemetery in England. Its notable personalities include some 650 members of the titled nobility and over 550 individuals noted in the Dictionary of National Biography. Kensal Green is the resting place of the engineers Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the mathematician Charles Babbage, and the novelists Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray; Lord Byron's wife, Oscar Wilde's mother, Charles Dickens' in-laws and Winston Churchill's daughter; a cross-dressing Army doctor and the surgeon who attended Nelson at Trafalgar; the creator of Pears' Soap, and the original WH Smith; the funambulist Blondin and the Savoyard George Grossmith; the first man to cross Australia from south to north, and the last man to fight a duel in England; the Duke's nephew who ruined the richest heiress of the day, and the English adventuress who became a French baronne disgraced by the accusation of murder.

Kensal Green's Natural History

The plan for London's first garden cemetery was initiated by the barrister George Frederick Carden, who was inspired by a visit to Père-Lachaise in Paris in 1821. Alert both to the need for new burial grounds, and the commercial potential of the venture, Carden founded the General Cemetery Company in 1830, with influential supporters including Andrew Spottiswoode MP and the banker John Dean Paul of Rodburgh, Bart. The cemetery was established by Act of Parliament which had its final reading in July 1832, during a cholera epidemic -- a coincidence that implicitly made the case for reform. The Bishop of London consecrated the first 48 acres in January 1833, and the first funeral was conducted a week later. Boardroom dramas saw Carden excluded from the company he founded, but Kensal Green went on to weather financial crises, changing fashions, even wartime bombing, to become a national necropolis of the great and the good, a valued local institution, and a heritage site of international importance.

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Tours

The Friends of Kensal Green offer a two-hour introductory tour of the cemetery every Sunday from the beginning of March to the end of October, and the first and third Sunday only in November, December, January and February. Tours begin at 14:00 from the Anglican Chapel in the centre of the grounds, and finish around two hours later at the Dissenters’ Chapel, adjacent to Ladbroke Grove. Tours are offered in all weathers, so please dress appropriately. There is no need to book regular Sunday tours, except for groups of more than ten. Private and specialist tours can be arranged on any day of the week. A suggested donation of £7 per person (concessions £5) helps the Friends to restore monuments, study the cemetery and attract visitors to Kensal Green. Please note that, following condition surveys in preparation for the restoration of the Anglican Chapel complex, the catacomb is presently closed to visitors. All tours must be led by guides from the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery unless by prior arrangement with the FOKGC and General Cemetery Company.

Events At Kensal Green

There are a number of events that take place throughout the year that are open to the public and prove popular with historians, tourists and locals. Here you'll find a complete list of forthcoming events, activities, open days and lectures taking place at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Contact Us

If you would like to know more about Kensal Green Cemetery, we can be contact at the following address:

The Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery
c/o The General Cemetery Company
Harrow Road
London, W10 4RA
UK

Messages & enquiries: 07530 676151 (mobile)

Email: fokgc@hotmail.com

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