Updated: Jun 27, 2022
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 of British conservationism and of Victorian architecture, which relied on Gothic, Tudor Gothic, Classicism and Neo-Classicism styles of design.
It might seem strange to recommend touring graveyards on a travel blog, but if you are lucky enough to have some extra time during your stay in London, visiting the Magnificent Seven is a fascinating and curious study in Victorian history and well worth the time spent.
These cemeteries have profound histories and are rich with literary tales. In Victoria's 19th century, London saw a doubling of its population. With that increase came an increase in 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 describes seven private burial grounds in London; two north, and two west/southwest, one east and, two southeast.
Swain's Lane, London N6 6PJ
Opened in 1839, with an extension in 1856, Highgate Cemetery is the best known of the Magnificent Seven. Within the walled 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 are followers of all other faiths. 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 Cemetery, you will find the resting places of notable citizens from the United Kingdom and around the world. These include: Douglas Adams, Patrick Caulfield, George Eliot, William Froese-Green, Anna Mahler, Malcolm McLaren, Corin Redgrave, Yusuf Dad, and Christina Rossetti. The most visited site is that of Karl Marx. My sisters and I visited the cemetery on the day of George Michael's service. His site will soon be included in the guided tours of the cemetery.
215 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 0LH
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 created by combining the two estates of Fleetwood House and Abney House.
Abney House was owned by the 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 nightingale'. 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. Also interred in Abney Park are William Booth, a pawn broker and minister, and his wife, Catherine, an activist in the Temperance Movement. They founded the Salvation Army in 1865.
Harrow Road, Kensal Green, London W10 4RA
Kensal Green is the first and oldest of the Magnificent Seven. Grounds opened in 1833, with 39 acres and a neo-classical chapel with Doric pillars for Anglican residents. Fifteen additional and a chapel with Ionic pillars were added for Dissenters.
There 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 also buried at Kensal Green.
Fulham Road, Kensington, London SW10 9UG
Brompton Cemetery is a Grade 2 Listed, Neo-Classic resting place for over 200,000 people. The cemetery opened in Fulham in 1840, and is 39 acres in size. Originally planned for three chapels, only one was completed. There is also an open catacomb.
Emmeline Pankhurst, the notable leader of the women's Suffragette movement is interred at Brompton Cemetery. Also, here is the grave of Dr. John Snow, who discovered the source of cholera and is considered the founder of modern epidemiology.
Exiled India Princess Victoria Gouramma, mountain climber Elizabeth le Blond, fashion icon Marchesa Luisa Casati, racing driver Percy Lambert and famed banjoist, James Bohee have all been buried here.
Southern Grove, Mile End, London E3 4PX
This cemetery opened in 1841 and by 1889, 247,000 bodies were buried within its walls. The cemetery was bombed five times during the air raids on the City of London during WW2. The graveyard 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 procured animals for PT Barnum, is buried at the Tower Hamlets Cemetery, as is Dr. Rees Ralph Llewellyn, the doctor who preformed the autopsy on Jack the Ripper's first victim, Mary Anne Nicole. Also memorialised in Tower Hamlets are the victims of the Bethan Green Disaster. One hundred and seventy people were crushed to death as the entrance of the tube station they were sheltering in became blocked during the air raids on London in the Second World War.
Linden Grove, London, SE15 3LP
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 are numerous 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 both buried at Nunhead Cemetery.
Norwood Road, London, SE27 9JU
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. Its 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 many 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 Ralli family, Rodocanachi family and Princess Eugenie Palaeologue represent the Greek diaspora. Most notable at the West Norwood Cemetery is sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate, who used his fortune to found the Tate art Galleries. Paul Julius Baron von Rueter, founder of Rueter's News Agency, and cookery book writer Isabella Beeton, who died in childbirth at age 28, are interred at West Norwood Cemetery.
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