Kensal Green Cemetery: Britain’s Most Prestigious Cemetery
The General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green, is one of England’s oldest and most beautiful public burial grounds, and certainly its most prestigious. Kensal Green was London’s first private garden cemetery. Before then, people were buried in churchyards, but the growing London population (and diseases that went along with it) made it a necessity to have an alternative. Inspired by a visit to France, George Frederick Carden set up a company to run a commercial ‘garden’ cemetery. Opened in 1833, Kensal Green still conducts burials and cremations daily and open to visitors.
Among its notable residents are members of the royal family, famous writers, engineers, artists, scientists, doctors, politicians, entrepreneurs, including Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his family, the mathematician Charles Babbage, and the novelists Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray; Lord Byron’s wife, Oscar Wilde’s mother, Charles Dickens’ in-laws, – over 550 individuals noted in the Dictionary of National Biography.
It was – and still is – very much a ‘garden cemetery’ – a place not only for the dead, but also for the living to walk around, contemplate and enjoy.
“My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.”
The Rolling English Road by G.K.Chesterton