Hampstead Cemetery

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The Bianchi Monument in Hampstead Cemetery

Hampstead Cemetery is a historic cemetery in West Hampstead, London, located at the upper extremity of the NW6 district. Despite the name, the cemetery is three-quarters of a mile from Hampstead Village, and bears a different postcode. It is jointly managed by Islington and Camden Cemetery Service and opens seven days a week, with closing times varying throughout the year.

Location and History[edit]

One of the Neogothic chapels and the central porte-cochère

Hampstead Cemetery is situated on Fortune Green Road and is bordered on the northern side by the sports ground of University College School. A public footpath running from Hocroft Road to Fortune Green runs through the cemetery, effectively splitting it in two.

Hampstead Cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of London and opened in November 1876. The entire site covers 26 acres (0.11 km2), and an estimated 60,000 people are buried there. While there are no new grave spaces available, there is an area for cremated remains to the north of the cemetery, by the Fortune Green Road exit.

The cemetery has a pair of Gothic style mortuary chapels, both of which are Grade II listed buildings. The southern chapel was originally Anglican, and the northern non-conformist; they share a common porte-cochère. Currently, only the southern chapel is in use as an inter-faith place of worship.[1] There is also an entry lodge made of Kentish Rag and Bath stone. The Heritage Lottery Fund has funded restoration work on the buildings.

A large number of Celtic crosses can be found in the area to the southwest of the chapel, marking the presence of several Scottish families. The northeastern corner has some notable examples of modern and Art Deco stonemasonry, in particular the Bianchi monument and the sculpted church organ in memory of Charles Barritt.

Notable Burials[edit]

Amongst the famous people interred there are:

War Graves[edit]

There are buried in the cemetery 216 Commonwealth service personnel from the First World War and 44 from the Second, besides one Polish and one Czech serviceman from the latter war. Those whose graves could not be marked by headstones are listed on a Screen Wall memorial near the north boundary, right of the main entrance.[2]

Other Notable Monuments[edit]

The cemetery also contains several graves notable either from an architectural point of view or for the eccentric inscriptions they bear.

Architecture[edit]

The Eastern part of the cemetery houses the so-called Bianchi Monument, a large triangular grave for the Gall family, executed in the finest Art Deco style. The most prominent feature of the grave - a stylised sculpture of a female angel raising her hands to heaven - has become famous in its own right, and often adorns the covers of local guidebooks.

Similarly, the tomb of James Wilson ('Wilson Pasha'), Chief Engineer to the Egyptian Government (1875-1901), executed in red marble and also found in the eastern section, has a striking Egyptian look to it.

The monument built by the sculptor Sir William Goscombe John to his wife Marthe (d.1923) was stolen from the cemetery in 2001 but later returned after being spotted at an auction a few months later. It was then moved to East Finchley Cemetery but was once more stolen from a storage area in autumn 2006. It has not been recovered.

Inscriptions[edit]

The cemetery contains more than one grave with humorous or bizarre inscriptions. On the main avenue of the eastern section can be seen the grave of John Kensit (died 1902), a religious protestor who was "struck down by the missile of an assassin in Birkenhead", actually a chisel thrown by a member of a crowd he was preaching to (the man was charged with manslaughter but later acquitted).

The following epitaph is carved on the tomb of Charles Cowper Ross, "a man of the theatre":

What will be said,
When I am dead,
Of what I used to do?
They liked my smile?
I failed with style?
Or, more than likely, "Who?"

Flora and fauna[edit]

The cemetery has a large number of mature ash trees. Other trees include yew, sycamore, Norway maple, silver birch, Lombardy poplar, purple cherry-plum, willow and Swedish whitebeam.

There is a wildlife area in the north part of the eastern half of the cemetery. This has been planted with trees, shrubs and wild flowers especially attractive to wildlife, such as field maple, hazel, oak, oxeye daisy, common knapweed and bird's-foot-trefoil. This is where most of the site's butterflies are to be found, including small white, speckled wood, holly blue, meadow brown and small copper.

Birds recorded in the cemetery include jay, robin redbreast, green woodpecker, long-tailed tit, goldcrest, willow warbler and linnet. It is also home to the ubiquitous grey squirrel, as well as many species of fungi.

References[edit]

  1. ^ English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (477347)". Images of England. Retrieved 22 January 2009. 
  2. ^ [1] CWGC Cemetery Report.

Further reading[edit]

The Good Grave Guide to Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green, by Marianne Colloms and Dick Weindling, Camden History Society, 2000: ISBN 0-904491-47-1

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°33′19″N 0°12′00″W / 51.55528°N 0.20000°W / 51.55528; -0.20000