musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Photo Essay: The Colonnades at Kensal Green

The Colonnades at Kensal Green are fascinating; a seemingly derelict structure with no apparent reason for having been made originally. 

A bit of reading on the Kensal Green Website reveals the following: the structure was designed by Sir John D Paul, Chairman of the General Cemetery Company and John Griffith in 1833, and it is a listed Grade II building. It was originally used to display tablets and monuments with a brick-vaulted catacomb beneath it, the base and stairs now hidden by the undergrowth.

The colonnade is made of Portland stone with  the roof being constructed of metal beams which are fixed into the boundary wall and are supported by the columns. The underside is infilled with roofing tiles and concrete to form semi-circular vaulting. The rear wall is divided into bays and each bay would have contained memorial tablets, although most of these have fallen off or been damaged over the years.

Most are blacked (possibly by pollution?) and some have been vandalised.

The catacomb was originally entered from the western side and has steps which are partly hidden by undergrowth. Coffins were lowered into the catacomb via a central shaft, now infilled with concrete. The catacomb extends in front of the colonnade to form a terrace. 

My images from 2013 reveal more of the front of the structure, but I just do not know where the entrance is.  I do recall that the colonnades were marked as being unsafe back then, but I saw no similar signage this time around. 

It is very difficult to understand how this structure may have looked or the size of the catacombs beneath it, and whether those who scratch obscene messages describing their genitalia have any idea as to what is beneath their overpriced designer trainer shod feet. Certainly tenants of the building behind the colonnades seems to accept that throwing their litter out of the window is an acceptable way to dispose of it.  

This faded and crumbling structure is fascinating, and I must try to find some sort of period imagery of it. I know that I would love to see what lies beneath, but would be very concerned as to the safety thereof. Technically there should be at least 8 feet of soil above the roof of the catacombs to allow for the burials above it, but maybe I am overthinking that part. It is really difficult to know given how overgrown the area in front is, especially when I saw it in 2016. 

There is a book in the British Library called “Illustrated guide to Kensal Green Cemetery. By W. J. Published in 1861 that advises that the catacombs under the colonnades were already full at the time of print. (The book is available on the Google Play Store for free). Sadly, it did not provide an illustration of the structure.   

And so a mystery it shall remain. 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 13/06/2016. Some text taken from the Kensal Green website.  

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