It might sound macabre – or at least, pretty dismissive of all the other local attractions – to suggest that taking a stroll around a cemetery is one of the best things to do in Fulham… but it genuinely is worth making a trip to Brompton Cemetery.
Why? Well, to answer that we have to go back to the first half of the 19th century, when London’s population more than doubled to 2.3 million. Great for the factories, not so good for the tiny parish cemeteries that were attached to London’s churches, and beginning to get… cramped.
And so it was that London decided to build ‘garden’ cemeteries out in the suburbs, whose grandiose Victorian architecture and unmatched bucolic splendour have earned them the nickname The Magnificent Seven. They include Nunhead, Kensal Green, Highgate, Abney Park, and Brompton Cemetery, which stands out from the others in that it’s technically owned by the Crown, making it one of London’s Royal Parks.
There are some 35,000 monuments in its midst, along with some dramatic architecture: a domed chapel stands at the cemetery’s centre (you might recognise it from Goldeneye, of all things), while the two Grade II* listed colonnades were inspired by St. Peter’s Square in Rome, with the idea of creating a kind of open-air cathedral. It’s the combination of these classical buildings and the abundant nature in the ceremony that makes it such a surprisingly nice spot for a walk. There’s dozens of trees, plants and animals here, which make Brompton one of the borough’s most important natural conservation sites. In fact, the land had originally been used as land for crops, and you can still find wild garlic and cabbages growing around the gravestones.
Among the residents are Percy E. Lambert, the first person to ever drive a car at 100mph; Keats’ muse, Fanny Brawne; the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst; and Henry Cole, founder of the V&A, the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Music… and inventor of the Christmas card. According to local legend, Beatrix Potter – a former Old Brompton Road resident – might have named some of her characters after names on the gravestones here, which include a Mr. Nutkin… and a Peter Rabbett.
Brompton Cemetery’s free to visit, and open to the public daily – but if you’re strong-spirited, you should really come during London Month of the Dead, when all kinds of strange and spooky events are staged in the chapel, from shadow puppetry and fortune telling to torchlit processions through the cemetery in the dark…
NOTE: Brompton Cemetery’s open daily, and is free to visit. You can find out more HERE.
Brompton Cemetery | Fulham Road, London SW10 9UG
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