Here Lies Peter Rabbit And His Friends

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)

2 thoughts on “Here Lies Peter Rabbit And His Friends”

  1. Graham,
    I have heard much of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast where many shipwrecked sailors and passengers died and also of many abandoned mining towns, now half swallowed by the sands. These places would have grave markers which give a fascinating glimpse of life in times gone by.

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