Friday, June 20, 2014

Saturday Stroll: Brompton Cemetery

Another summer Saturday, another day out. Last Saturday we slept in far too late in the day (it was long past noon!) and didn't think we'd be able to get up to much. "Let's just go for a wander!" was the consensus. We decided to head toward the river and see where our feet took us. As it happens, they took us over the river, through Chelsea and went toward Fulham. Along the way we saw the gates of a place I've long meant to visit: Brompton Cemetery.

This beautiful Victorian cemetery dates from the mid-1800s, but in recent history much has become quite overgrown. In some ways this adds to the eerie beauty, but I also feel that in some ways it's quite sad as there are rather recent graves (from the past 40 years or so) still being attended to by families which are surrounded by overgrown grass, weeds, and brambles. Little spots around/leading to individual graves are kept clear by those who bring flowers to the memory of their not-so-long-gone loved ones.

These days, although parts are still an active burial ground, Brompton Cemetery is more of a park. We encountered dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, a few meditators sitting around the colonnade, and plenty of folks like us just enjoying a wander amongst the strange and beautiful setting.

As a longtime Beatrix Potter fan, I find Brompton particularly interesting as the long-standing rumor that she (who lived nearby in Chelsea for much of her life) likely found many of her character names while walking in the cemetery was confirmed in recent years. From a Peter Rabbett to a Mr. Nutkins, lots of our childhood friends' inspirations do (or did) exist on headstones. Additionally, great people like Emmeline Pankhurst and Dr. John Snow lie under the amazing trees and gardens there.

The Victorian cemeteries of London have long been on my list of places to visit. Most of them have guided tours either weekly or on a scheduled basis. Some are partly closed off (for safety and such), and some have been been totally left to nature. It's kind of silly that after many years of living quite close to Brompton Cemetery that this was our first visit. I do want to go back and walk in the peaceful stillness there. It's a bit sad (and a bit don't blink) but a lot beautiful.


Alice B said...

I really enjoyed Highgate Cemetery when I was in London last April, but it made me kind of sad to see so much of all overgrown and just... not all that cared for. :( Just sort of sad when things are left to fall over.

laura kate said...

At Brompton they had some signs about how they've gotten £30million from the Lottery Fund for restoration works. I'm hoping this means that some areas will get more caring for. I know that the cost of the gardening-type maintenance at many of the big Victorian cemeteries is why they let them go to seed, but it is sad to see things that are, relatively speaking, not terribly old get left to decay.

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