Brompton Cemetery

Coordinates: 51°29′06″N 0°11′27″W / 51.484882°N 0.19079600°W / 51.484882; -0.19079600

Brompton Cemetery
Established 1839
Location West Brompton, London
Country England
Type Public
Size 39 acres (16 ha)
Number of graves 35,000+
Number of interments 205,000
Website Official website

Brompton Cemetery is in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is managed by The Royal Parks, and is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries. Established by Act of Parliament and erected in 1839, it opened in 1840 and was originally known as the West of London and Westminster Cemetery.

Consecrated by Charles Blomfield, the Bishop of London in June 1840, it is one of Britain's oldest and most distinguished garden cemeteries. Some 35,000 monuments, from simple headstones to substantial mausolea, mark the resting place of more than 205,000 burials. The site includes large plots for family mausolea, and common graves where coffins are piled deep into the earth, as well as a small columbarium. There is also a secluded Garden of Remembrance at the northern end, for cremated remains. It is also an urban haven for nature. It has been awarded a National Lottery grant to carry out essential restoration and develop a visitor centre among other improvements.


Charles Booth 1889 map - detail showing Brompton Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery is adjacent to West Brompton station in west London, England. The main entrance is at North Lodge, Old Brompton Road in West Brompton, SW5, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. There is another entrance at South Lodge, located on the Fulham Road, SW10 near the junction with Redcliffe Gardens.


Brompton Cemetery Chapel
Tomb of Frederick Richards Leyland (the only Grade II* funerary monument in Brompton Cemetery)
The military section, Brompton Cemetery
Main avenue
Outer east section, Brompton Cemetery
Colonnade, Brompton Cemetery, London
Central roundel, Brompton Cemetery
Emmeline Pankhurst's grave
angels, Brompton Cemetery

By the early years of the 19th century, inner city burial grounds, mostly churchyards, had long been unable to cope with the number of burials and were seen as a hazard to health and an undignified way to treat the dead. In 1837 a decision was made to lay out a new burial ground in Brompton, London. The moving spirit behind the project was the engineer, Stephen Geary, and it was necessary to form a company in order to get parliamentary permission to raise capital for the purpose. Securing the land - some 40 acres - from local landowner, Lord Kensington and the Equitable Gas Light Company, as well as raising the money proved an extended challenge.[1] The cemetery became one of seven large, new cemeteries founded by private companies in the mid-19th century (sometimes called the 'Magnificent Seven') forming a ring around the edge of London.

The site, previously market gardens, having been bought with the intervention of John Gunter of Fulham,[2] was 39 acres (160,000 m2) in area. Brompton Cemetery was eventually designed by architect, Benjamin Baud with at its centre a modest domed chapel dated 1839, in the style of the basilica of St. Peter's in Rome at it southern end, reached by long colonnades, and flanked by catacombs. It was intended to give the feel of a large open air cathedral. It is rectangular in shape with the north end pointing to the northwest and the south end to the southeast. It has a central "nave" which runs from Old Brompton Road towards the central colonnade and chapel.

Below the colonnades are catacombs which were originally conceived as a cheaper alternative burial to having a plot in the grounds of the cemetery. Unfortunately, the catacombs were not a success and only about 500 of the many thousands of places in them were sold. The Metropolitan Interments Act 1850 gave the government powers to purchase commercial cemeteries. The shareholders of the cemetery company were relieved to be able to sell their shares as the cost of building the cemetery had overrun and they had seen little return on their investment and there were few burials at first.

During World War II the cemetery suffered bomb damage.

Heritage status

The cemetery is listed Grade I in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England and five of the individual monuments are listed as Grade II.[3][4] Frederick Richards Leyland's is the only Grade II* listed funerary monument.


Brompton was closed to burials between 1952 and 1966, except for family interments, but is once again a working cemetery, with plots for interments and a 'Garden of Remembrance' for the deposit of cremated remains.[5] Many nationalities and faiths from across the world are represented in the Cemetery.

Military graves

From 1854 to 1939, Brompton Cemetery became the London District's Military Cemetery. The Royal Hospital Chelsea purchased a plot in the north west corner where they have a monument in the form of an obelisk; the Brigade of the Guards has its own section south of that. There are 289 Commonwealth service personnel of World War I and 79 of World War II, whose graves are registered and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. A number of veterans are listed in the Notable Interments.[6] Although the majority of war graves are in the dedicated railed section to the west - also containing 19th century services graves - a number of servicemen's graves are scattered in other areas. Besides the British there are many notable Czekoslovak, Polish and Russian military burials.

Notable interments


In the late 1880s when the nearby Earl's Court Exhibition Grounds played host to the American Show with Buffalo Bill, a number of First Nations American performers in the show, died while on tour in Britain. The Sioux chief, Long Wolf, a veteran of the Oglala Sioux wars was buried here on 13 June 1892 having died age 59 of bronchial pneumonia. He shared the grave with a 17-month-old Sioux girl named White Star believed to have fallen from her mother's arms while on horseback. 105 years later a British woman named Elizabeth Knight traced his family and campaigned with them to have his remains returned to the land of his birth. In 1997, Chief Long Wolf was finally moved to a new plot in the Wolf Creek Cemetery (ancestral burial ground of the Oglala Sioux tribe) at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. His great grandson John Black Feather said "Back then, they had burials at sea, they did ask his wife if she wanted to take him home and she figured that as soon as they hit the water they would throw him overboard, so that's why they left him here."[7][8][9]

There was a Brulé Sioux tribesman buried in Brompton named Paul Eagle Star. His plot was in the same section as Oglala Sioux warrior Surrounded By the Enemy who died in 1887 from a lung infection at age 22. Like Long Wolf, he took part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Paul died a few days after breaking his ankle when he fell off a horse in August 1891. His casket was exhumed in spring of 1999 by his grandchildren, Moses and Lucy Eagle Star. The reburial took place in Rosebud's Lakota cemetery. Philip James accompanied the repatriation.

Little Chief and Good Robe's eighteen-month-old son, Red Penny who travelled in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show is also buried here.[10] The resting places of both Surrounded and Red Penny remain a mystery.

Funerary Art

The richness of the art and symbolism contained in many graves traces art movements across two centuries. Aside from the stonemason's and sculptor's craft, there is a vast array of lettering, decorative ironwork (sadly in a very corroded state) and ceramics. Some graves and mausolea are the work of noted artists and architects.

Flora and Fauna

Although never envisaged as a park, JC Loudon devised the original planting scheme that was not fully realised. There are over 60 species of trees, of which the limes are dated to 1838. The fact of the enclosure of the cemetery by a wall, has preserved almost intact, a distinct area of Victorian country flora. Each season brings its features, like snow-drops and bluebells or wild lupin, broad-leaf pea and ferns. There are small scale wooded areas and meadows. Since the land was used for Market gardens, there are wild cabbages, asparagus and garlic among the slabs. In Autumn, there can be a display of fungi, a mycologist's trove. The evergreens and ivy are a haven for birds and countless insects. Over 200 species of moth and butterfly have been identified in the cemetery. Mammals are represented by bats, a range of rodents, including grey squirrels and several families of foxes. Among the birds, there are many garden species with the addition of green woodpeckers and occasionally, kestrels. The macaws are only visitors.

Public access

The cemetery is open daily to the public throughout the year, with opening times varying with the seasons. It is regularly visited by the Parks Police Service to monitor and curb occurrences of anti-social behaviour. Dog walking and cycling, under strict control, is permitted on indicated paths. Through traffic is forbidden and there is no parking. Any visiting vehicles must observe a 5 mph limit. The Bye laws are displayed on boards at both entrances. The Friends of Brompton Cemetery organise Open Days, regular tours and other public attractions.[11]


Nutkins gravestone

It was originally planned that Sir Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan fame would also be buried there with his family, until Queen Victoria insisted on his interment in St Paul's Cathedral. Beatrix Potter, who lived in Old Brompton Road nearby, may have taken the names of some of her characters from tombstones in the cemetery. Names of people buried there included Mr. Nutkins, Mr. McGregor, Mr. Brock, Mr. Tod, Jeremiah Fisher and even a Peter Rabbett, although it is not known for certain if there were tombstones with these names.[12][13]

The cemetery has a reputation for being a popular cruising ground for gay men.[14]

Brompton Cemetery has featured in a number of films, including David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises (starring Viggo Mortensen), The Wisdom of Crocodiles (Jude Law), Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (also with Jude Law) as the location of 'Lord Blackwood's Tomb', Crush (Imelda Staunton and Andie MacDowell), Stormbreaker (starring Alex Pettyfer, Ewan McGregor, Stephen Fry and Mickey Rourke), Finding Neverland (starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet) and Johnny English (starring Rowan Atkinson); The Wings of the Dove (starring Helena Bonham Carter), as well as being used as a location by photographers such as Bruce Weber (see "The Chop Suey Club").


See also


  1. "Brompton Cemetery".
  3. Leaflet entitled "Brompton Cemetery" issued by the Friends of Brompton Cemetery
  4. Historic England, "Brompton Cemetery (1000248)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 10 February 2016
  5. "Brompton Cemetery". Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  6. r. "Cemetery Details". CWGC. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  7. "Brompton Cemetery". BBC. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  8. "Chief Long Wolf goes home, 105 years late". CNN. 25 September 1997. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  9. Weaver, Maurice (5 May 1997). "Sioux reclaim tribal chief from English grave". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 26 September 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  10. "The Salford Sioux - Manchester's own native American community (Lancashire) Page 4 RootsChat.Com".
  11. "The Friends of Brompton Cemetery". The Friends of Brompton Cemetery.
  12. Barden, Karen (3 August 2001). "Grave inspiration to Beatrix Potter". The Westmorland Gazette. Newsquest (North West) Ltd. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  13. Baker, Erin (28 July 2001). "Beatrix Potter's cast list found on headstones". The Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  14. "Go west, young man" (PDF). QX Magazine International. Retrieved 21 April 2011.

Further reading

External links

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