A bit of an odd train change at the station before really confused me, but fortunately I arrived more or less intact. I did not use the main gate, but rather the gate next to St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery which was next door.
Kensal Green was the first commercial London cemetery to open in 1833 and was designed by George Frederick Carden. My first impression was of mausoleums all along the paths, and fortunately that did change as I went along, but they just kept getting grander and grander all the time.
While hunting VC graves I returned to this mausoleum and discovered a very nice sculpt of a drovers hat with gloves in front of it. The tomb belongs to Andrew Ducrow, a British Circus Performer. What does something like this cost? £3000 apparently (and that was in 1837).
On either wing of the building were magnificent statues, the one pictured being for Georgina Clementson. Apparently she was the daughter of John Graham Lough, who sculpted this memorial.
Continuing my exploration I finally arrived at the main gate, (which I had not used), it is an impressive building on its own, but it does pale into insignificance when compared to some of the mausoleums inside the cemetery.
I also came across the Dissenters Chapel which was also very impressive, and it is the first Nonconformist Chapel to be built in a public cemetery.
Then it was time to turn around and start searching for the Victoria Cross recipient graves, of which there are 15 in Kensal Green. The problem here is that the graves are not always that legible, and the weather was really starting to become a problem, as soft sleet was occasionally falling. My route took me back along the road I had come, pausing every now and then to check a section off on my list. The selection of graves beyond the pathway was less impressive memorialwise, and some were really beautiful.
Of course there are the angels and cherubs and strange statues, my personal favourite in any cemetery. Kensal Green has a lot that I had not seen before, but again there are just so many…
Generally I do not hunt down celebrity graves unless they are of interest to me, and I was fortunate to encounter two graves of famous people. The first was one of Britain’s finest engineers. He was responsible for so many feats of engineering and shipbuilding that he is legendary. I have seen quite a few odds and ends that Isambard Kingdom Brunel created, and this grave really is special to me.
Surprise number two was the grave of Jean Francois Cravelet Blondin (aka Charles Blondin), the man who crossed Niagara Gorge on a tightrope. In fact the list of “rich and famous” for this cemetery is a formidable one, but I did not have access to the list so may or may not have photographed some of the graves on the list. The Victoria Cross graves mean more to me than some of the graves of the rich and famous (and titled), and many of these are simple headstones, often missed amongst the ostentation of some of these creations.
Yet the cemetery is not only mausoleums and grand headstones, there are also section where the only ornamentation is a simple gravestone.
I do not have many images from here, but it was definitely a fantastic place, I just wish I had had the time to explore it more. Unfortunately a snow storm hit the cem just as I arrived at it and I had to abandon my photography session. I never did get back here again.
The first thing that caught my roving eye was the beautiful Belgian Soldiers Memorial which also seemed more worthy of being in a public place than in a cemetery.
The snow was starting to become problematic as I was struggling to keep my lens dry and search for a VC grave too. But I had to admit defeat and decided that I would grab more pics and then head out of there.
I now had five of the Magnificent Seven under my belt, and only two days to go before I leave for Southampton….. I hoped that one day I would be able to see West Norwood and Tower Hamlets, and that actually happened but nearly two years after this visit. I always regret never getting back to Kensal Green in better weather. My experience was really ruined by those grey skies and snow flurries. But that is the thing with grave hunting, sometimes you have to get the shot because tomorrow may be too late.
Kensal Green is managed by the General Cemetery Company since its inception in 1830 and they still have offices by the main gate. It is still very much a working cemetery, and there was a service happening during my visit. The Friends of Kensal Green run tours of the cemetery on a regular basis.