London: The Magnificent Seven

Updated: Nov 14


Touring London: The Magnificent Seven describes seven Victorian private cemeteries that skirt around central London and are the final resting place for some of London's most famous residents. These sites which are now parks and nature reserves, are great examples British conservationism and of Victorian architecture, which relied on Gothic, Tudor Gothic, Classicism and Neo-Classicism styles of design.



It might sound strange to recommend touring graveyards on a travel blog, but if you are lucky enough to some extra time in London, visiting the magnificent seven is exactly what you should do.



These cemeteries have profound histories and are rich with literary tales. In Victoria's 19th century, London saw a doubling of it's population. With that increase came and increase of the capital's dead. Overcrowded churchyard burial grounds around 1840 century caused another migration of sorts. Upper and middle class citizens began to move their deceased family members to commercial, garden cemeteries which are now known as the Magnificent Seven. The term 'Magnificent Seven' describes seven private burial grounds in London; two north, two west/southwest, 1 east and two south east.


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HIGHGATE CEMETERY

Swain's Lane, London N6 6PJ

highgatecemetery.org

Opened in 1839, with an extension in 1856, Highgate Cemetery is the best known of the Magnificent Seven. In it's 37 acres, you will find 170,000 souls interned. There are two chapels; one for followers of the Church of England, and another for the Dissenters, which is everyone else. The heart of the cemetery is the Egyptian Avenue, built in a Tudor Gothic style. This path leads to the Circle of Lebanon, which is of a Classical style. There is also a catacomb, where 825 people rest in 55 vaults.



In Highgate, you will find the resting place of notable citizens from the United Kingdom and around the world. These include: Douglas Adams, Patrick Caufield, George Eliot, William Friese-Green, Anna Mahler, Malcom Mclaren, Corin Redgrave, Yusuf Dadoo, and Christina Rossetti. The most visited site is that of Karl Marx. My sister's and I were visiting the cemetery during the service of George Michael, whose site will soon be open to guided tours.


George Michael, Highgate Cemetery


ABNEY PARK

215 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 0LH

abneypark.org


Abney Park in the now fashionable Hackney, was laid out as an intentional arboretum. It now has over 2500 plant varieties and is a woodland memorial park and nature reserve. The cemetery was formed by combining the two estates of Fleetwood House and Abney House. The latter of these was owned by non-conformist Issac Watts and was the foremost burial place for Dissenters. Central to the design is the Gothic chapel, which is the oldest non-denominational chapel in Europe.



Notable residents include Betsi Cadwaladr, 'the forgotten Nightengale'. Betsi ran away from home and traveled the world as a ship's maid. At age 60, she joined the war effort as a nurse in the Crimea. Frank and Susan Bostock were menagerie owners, with Frank well known as a lion tamer. Joanna Vassa was the daughter of Olaudah Equiano, Britains first black activist. William and Catherine Booth, he a pawn-broker/minister and she an activist in the Temperance Movement, founded the Salvation Army in 1865.



KENSAL GREEN

Harrow Road, Kensal Green, London W10 4RA

kensalgreensemetery.com


Kensal Green is the first and oldest of the Magnificent Seven. Grounds opened in 1833, with 39 acres and a neo-classic chapel with Doric pillars for Anglican residents. 15 additional acres and a chapel with Ionic pillars were added for Dissenters.



The are 700 notable residents buried at Kensal Green. Sir John Rennie, the architect of London Bridge and Edward Cator Seaton, founder of the Epidemiology Society came to rest here. Novelists William Makepeace Thackeray and Anthony Trollope are buried at Kensal Green.


BROMPTON CEMETERY

Fulham Road, Kensington, London SW10 9UG

royalparks.org.uk/parks/brompton-cemetery


Brompton Cemetery is the Grade 2 Listed resting place for over 200,000 people. It's 39 acres opened in, what is now a very crowded Fulham, in 1840 in the Neo-Classical style. There were plans for three chapels, but only one was built. There is also an open catacomb.




The most notable person resting here is the leader of the women's

Suffragette Movement, Emmeline Pankhurst. Also at Brompton Cemetery is Dr. John Snow. He discovered the source of cholera and is considered the founder of epidemiology. Others include exiled Indian Princess Victoria Gouramma, mountain climber Elizabeth le Blond, fashion icon Marchesa Luisa Casati, speed demon Percy Lambert and famed banjoist James Bohee.


TOWER HAMLETS CEMETERY

Southern Grove, Mile End, London E3 4PX

fothcp.org


This cemetery was opened in 1841 and by 1889, 247,000 bodies were buried within it's walls. The cemetery was bombed five times during the air raids on the City of London during WW2. The graveyard was closed to burials in 1966 and is now a local nature reserve, natural woodland and park.



Notable burials here include 279 military servicemen, several prominent educators and labour leaders. Charles Jarmusch, who provided animals to P.T. Barnum is here as is Dr. Rees Ralph Llewellyn, the doctor who preformed the autopsy on the first victim of Jack the Ripper, Mary Anne Nichols. Also memorialised in Tower Hamlets are victims of the Bethan Green Disaster. 170 people were crushed to death as the entrance of the tube station shelter became blocked during an air raid.



NUNHEAD CEMETERY

Linden Grove, London, SE15 3LP

fonc.org.uk


Nunhead Cemetery in Southwark, opened in 1840, is the second largest of the Magnificent Seven with 52 acres. It has views of the City of London and St. Paul's Cathedral. The grounds are now a local nature reserve populated with songbirds, woodpeckers and tawny owls.



The first person buried at Nunhead was 101 year-old grocer, Charles Abbott. There is a large number of war dead; Commonwealth, Canadian, South African & Belgian buried and commemorated here. Other notable residents include Shakespearean actor George John Bennett and English test cricketer Robert Abel. Known for designing the serif and display typefaces, Vincent Figgins has a memorial here, and American genealogist and poet Joseph Lemuel Chester are buried here.


WEST NORWOOD CEMETERY

Norwood Road, London SE27 9JU

fownc.org


West Norwood opened it's 40 acres in 1836 and there are more than 200,000 internments. This cemetery is home to the finest collection of sepulchral monuments in London, with 69 Grade 2 listed buildings. It's design is Gothic Revival and though to be the most significant in Europe. There is also a Greek Orthodox necropolis, catacombs and a crematorium.



There are a large number of interred inventors, engineers, architects and builders at West Norwood. Also resting here are entertainers, medical professionals and sportsmen, all well-known in their day. The Greek diaspora is represented with the Ralli family, Rodocanachi family and Princess Eugenie Palaeologue. Most notable here is sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate, founder of the Tate galleries, Paul Julius Baron von Rueter, founder of Rueter's News Agency, and Isabella Beeton who was a famous cookery writer who died in childbirth at age 28.


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Fearing the empty nest? Don't! Since my children have flown the coup, I have had time to refocus on my passions of travel, art, and writing.  This little blog is a handy tool that helps me share what I have learned with others.

 

I grew up in the States, but have lived a large chunk of my adult life in the UK. I now split my time between London and South Africa as well as chasing the sun around the world. 

 

 When my nest emptied, I began to plan my trips according to my own schedule, indulging in going solo. Once one gets used to traveling solo, it can be a very freeing experience. I seek out interesting, informative and unique experiences, and proffer advice with my network of readers.  I also have a lot of fun!

 

 Spa retreats and personal growth travel are core to what I do.  If there was a master's degree in the art of booking massages, I would be a scholarship student! I also plan to conquer Europe one city break at a time and with all that effort, I need as many beach holidays as possible. 

 

So please enjoy reading my tales of travel. I hope you are encouraged to get on that plane and perhaps have a few giggles along the way.

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When my large family was quite young, we lived in several international postings. In an age before Google Translate,  I negotiated the grocery stores of foreign countries in search of tasty ingredients. I soon became an expert at discerning information from food labels and also learned to cook healthy, quick meals from local sources. 

 

From this experience, I became quite the foodie, even before 'foodie' was a word. And now as an empty-nester and devotee of food travel networks, I  interpret those old recipes into smaller, even tastier versions. 

 

Being an editor and food/wine travel columnist,  I travel the world sampling indigenous recipes which I share on Old Bag on a Plane. I also love wine!

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