Here Lies Peter Rabbit And His Friends

on Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Note: If the title of this post intrigued you, I'm afraid you will have to read through this long post as I only refer to it at the end. Of course, you could scroll to the end, there-by bypassing all the tripe at the front but that would be cheating and just "not cricket" as the British would say.

One of my unusual hobbies is to visit and photograph cemeteries. Since I started blogging, I have met a few kindred spirits who share in this particular interest.

Of late, I have had very little opportunity to visit interesting graveyards or cemeteries. So during my recent visit to London last month, I was straining at the bit for an opportunity to visit the famous Highgate Cemetery in north London. Unfortunately, I was thwarted by the unholy combination of foul (wet, cold and miserable) weather, inconvenient public transport routes and schedules, and an unwillingness of the guides (which you need to follow if you want to visit the more interesting part of the cemetery) to brave the winter winds except on weekends.

It's a pity. Did you know that you can visit Karl Marx's grave at Highgate Cemetery? But then, some people dismiss it as just another "communist plot". "Communist plot", did you get it? I made a small joke.

Anyway, instead of Highgate Cemetery, I placed my sights on Brompton Cemetery which was just round the corner from where I was staying.

Entrance to Brompton Cemetery (LGS)

Brompton Cemetery is located near Earl's Court in West Brompton which is part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It was part of the Magnificent 7 which were a series of private cemeteries which were commissioned through Parliamentary Bill in 1832 to address the fact that the inner city church graveyards in London were overflowing as result of the big population boom in London in the early part of the 19th Century.

Architecturally, it is interesting as it tried to follow an European layout and the design of its small chapel was meant to mimic St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

View of the Graves and Gravestones (LGS)

Today, the cemetery is managed by the Royal Parks and is open to the public to use as a park although funerals and burials still do occur. It is believed that there is in excess of 50,000 monuments and graves of every imaginable type. Below is a picture of a rather unusual and ornate copper clad coffin.

Ornate Copper Resting Place (LGS)

I particularly like monuments that rather imaginatively record the passing of entire families, like this one below.

The Cross Rises from the Family Plot (LGS)

The Chapel (LGS)

The Spirit Highway (LGS)

This cemetery is quite atmospheric and a real gem right in the middle of modern busy London. It is not surprising therefore that this has been used as a filming location for a number of movies including the films, "The Wisdom of Crocodiles", "Johnny English" and the newly released movie "Sherlock Holmes" (2009) starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.

The Wilder Side of the Tracks (LGS)

There is a whole list of important and famous people who are buried here. For those of you who may be a dead celebrity watcher or a paparazzi who prefer a stationary target, you can follow this LINK for a list of the famous.

I was interested to learn that the Sioux Chief, Long Wolf, was buried here in 1892. He took part in a tour of the Europe as part of the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show but died of pneumonia. He was buried with a 17 month old Indian girl named Star Ghost Dog who is believed to have fallen from her mother's arms while on horseback. He was finally re-interned on tribal land in South Dakota in 1997 after spending 105 years in England's wet and green lands.

The other notable thing about this place is that it is the resting place of many childhood favorites. It seems that the famous author, Beatrix Potter, lived nearby at 2 Bolton Gardens and was a frequent visitor to Brompton Cemetery. For years there were rumours that she derived some inspiration from what she saw there. In 2001, James Mackay, a member of the Friends of Brompton Cemetery decided to investigate using recently computerised cemetery records and found a startling number of Ms. Potter's story characters were interned there. There is, for example, Peter Rabbett as well as headstones for Mr. Nutkin (which of course inspired the creation of Squirrel Nutkin), Mr. McGregor (whose walled garden is believed to be modeled on the colonnades in Brompton Cemetery), Jeremiah Fisher, Tommy Brock and even a Tod (as opposed to the more commonly used "Todd").

The Nutkin Family (Photo by Rehan Qayoom)

That's me bravely investigating the spookier side of the cemetery. (LGS)


Molly said...

You are a hoot LGS! Imagine Squirrel Nutkin being buried with all those toffs! Did you secure a plot for yourself while you were there?
Youngest daughter used to sing out "Oh! There's Heaven!"whenever we passed a cemetery on family trips....."

VioletSky said...

Cemetaries can indeed be inspirational places. I'm rather fond of visiting them myself, and would actually be quite happy to live beside one.

geewits said...

Durn! I don't have time to read this as I have already stayed up too late and have to catch a plane in the morning, but I am dying to read this. After I get back, I'll read this and maybe do a post just for you of all my New Orleans cemetary pictures.
Great pics here.

the walking man said...

Never been a cemetery goer unless that is what the hour called for but you have certainly piqued my interest. Might have to (in the spring of course) go for a walk about.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Sadly, they don't allow scruffy "illegal immigrant" grey squirrels to be buried next to their precious Squirrel Nutkins.

Ditto. I think a cemetery that is well taken cared of and loved is a bright an sunny place. I have been to creepy cemeteries too though where the atmosphere is one of neglect.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I look forward with excitement and envy for your New Orleans cemetery photos. Certainly one of the places I wpould love to visit. Enjoy your trip and the rest of the attractions of that great city.

You are a story teller. I like the stories that I can learn about the people and the community from reading the inscriptions on the gravestones. There are the women who died during childbirth, the soldier who died of cholera on a distant outpost of the empire, the adventurer who was killed by tribesman or even a Sioux Chief dying away from his homeland as part of a wild west troupe. It is fascinating.

secret agent woman said...

You look a wee bit crazy-eyed in the last photo! :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

secret agent woman,
Dem be zombie eyes.

Cedar said...

You did not say "communist plot", yeah you did, and I am kind of proud.

When I lived back East I use to visit old Cemetaries all the time and I spent a good deal of time in Arlington Cemetary. I was disappointed when I moved to Seattle because they do not have a lot of really old Cemetaries, being really not that old of a city.

I have a large rubbing of a monk in my living taking from a tomb stone or something. It was a gift.

Anonymous said...

"Communist plot" har har! There are some great old cemeteries in Halifax, too. There's a big one I used to run in where Alexander Keith is buried (founder of the famous Keith's Brewery). Weekend mornings would find Alexander Keith's rather large tombstone surrounded by empty beer cans and bottles (Keith's, of course). I guess the kids thought it was a fine place to party. I'm sure Alexander Keith would have approved.

Joyce's Ramblings said...

Cemetaries are not as old over here but you can find some interesting stones in some of them. I have a deed to a plot from 1909 and it dictates where you can tie your horse when you visit. It was my father's brother that died at very young age. History is wonderful when you are out of school and don't need to remember dates for a test.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I have visited Arlington. It is impressive in a different, more organised way as befits a military cemetery. However, its history, especially how it started is very interesting as it was located on the land that belonged to Confederate General Robert E. Lee's family home. And thanks for supporting my "communist plot".

Thank you for laughing at my "communist plot". It encourages me to come out with more of the same. I have not been to Halifax but if i did go, I'd like to find a grave of someone who was a privateer from the 18-19th Century.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Interesting. How is it that your father's brother died so young? I agree about history. Certainly those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it but why is the actual date important? It's not like the British will repeat the same mistake on exactly the 4th of July 2010. ;)

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting place LGS, thank you for bringing it to my attention! These nice iron bars and fences should protect from the body snatchers, a defamed profession :)

olivia said...

I love doing this too -- kindred spirits, I knew it! ;-)

Beautiful images ... I especially like seeing the wilder parts, and the interesting monuments people have selected, as well as reading the bits of information. Great post LGS.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Oh yes, grave-robbing. That too is an interesting if macabre part of history. I wonder how common it really was?

Thanks. I find a lot of photographers do like cemeteries. Like I said, maybe its for the paparazzi -wanna-bes who prefer stationary targets. :)

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin