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Kensal Green Cemetery



Records for the second ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemetery in the Deceased Online database will be released on Boxing Day


We are delighted to announce, just in time for Christmas, that all cremation and burial records from 1833 to 1901 for Kensal Green Cemetery will be launched on the database this week. Later records will be available in the New Year. When all 340,000 records are on the site (by early February), there will be over 3 million individual burial and cremation records for London available on Deceased Online representing approximately 8 million data items. The Kensal Green records include those of the West London Crematorium (est. 1939), which is located in the grounds of the Cemetery.


The Main Entrance to Kensal Green Cemetery

1833-1860 was a busy time for this part of West London and the new Kensal Green Cemetery, which was the first commercial burial ground in London. Laid out between the Harrow Road and the Regent’s Canal in 1832, the cemetery was built over 55 acres (later extended to 77) in the emerging suburb of North Kensington. By the 1830s, sanitation in parts of the area was poor and little helped by the increasing numbers of corpses needing to be buried. Thus there was an urgent requirement for burial spaces beyond church graveyards. In response, over the next nine years seven private cemeteries, built by independent companies, were established on the outskirts of central London.


Kensal Green was the first of these celebrated ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries to be built. Its founder, a barrister and editor of The Penny magazine, George Frederick Carden (1798-1874), was inspired to create the burial ground after visiting Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Carden petitioned Parliament in 1830, and soon afterwards, a number of bills were passed, allowing for the creation of commercial cemeteries in the more rural suburbs of London. The General Cemetery Company was created to manage the New Cemetery (or General Cemetery), Kensal Green, and continues to do so more than 180 years later.


The Grade I-listed Anglican Chapel

In 1832, when the cemetery was laid out, 39 acres were allotted to Church of England burials, and 15 for Dissenters. The style of the landscaping was influenced by Pere Lachaise and designed by Richard Forrest, a former Head Gardener of the beautiful Syon Park. The buildings were typical of the Regency period, built in a neo-Classical style and laid out in an Arcadian landscape.


Central Avenue
  Soon after opening, the cemetery became the resting place for notable citizens of the time, including:

  • ·         John St John Long (1798-1834), quack doctor and pharmacist - buried beneath this magnificent memorial [insert photo]
  • ·         Mary Hogarth (1819-1837), sister-in-law of Charles Dickens and the inspiration for the character of Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop.
  • ·         Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843), sixth son of George III - the popular uncle of Queen Victoria, he requested not to be given state funeral.
  • ·         Dr George Birkbeck (1776-1841), the founder of Birkbeck College in London
  • ·         George III’s twelfth child, Princess Sophia (1777-1848), who wished to be buried near her brother, Prince Augustus, and is remembered by this extraordinary sarcophagus.

Brunel Family Plot

Both engineers, Sir Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) and his more celebrated son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) can be found here. The Brunel family plot, which also includes Isambard’s mother, Sophia Kingdom, lies by Centre Avenue.


Among the most ornate memorials is that of Andrew Ducrow (1793-1842), a circus owner and equestrian trick rider. When he died in 1842, he left the enormous sum of £800 for the decoration of the family tomb at Kensal Green Cemetery.


Kensal Green is also a memorial to some of those significant in the history of British social reform. Located here is the resting place of the Chartist leader and founder of the Northern Star, Feargus O'Connor MP (1794-1855), who after years of promoting the rights of the working man, died penniless and insane. He was given a public burial at Kensal Green on 10 September 1855, at which 50,000 people followed the funeral procession. Despite his decline in later life, O’Connor was hugely influential and popular - you may even find one of your ancestors was named after him! 

Cenotaph dedicated to the memory of Sir Robert Owen (1771-1858)
 A cenotaph erected in 1879 stands in memory of Sir Robert Owen (1771-1858), philanthropist and major social reformer, who was buried in his birthplace of Newtown, Wales. The cenotaph reads:


HE ORIGINATED AND ORGANIZED INFANT SCHOOLS, HE SECURED A REDUCTION OF THE HOURS OF LABOUR FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN FACTORIES. HE WAS A LIBERAL SUPPORTER OF THE EARLY EFFORTS IN FAVOUR OF NATIONAL EDUCATION AND LABOURED TO PROMOTE INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION. HE WAS ONE OF THE FOREMOST ENGLISHMEN WHO TAUGHT MEN TO ASPIRE TO A HIGHER SOCIAL STATE BY RECONCILING THE INTERESTS OF CAPITAL AND LABOUR. HE SPENT HIS LIFE AND A LARGE FORTUNE IN SEEKING TO IMPROVE HIS FELLOW MEN BY GIVING THEM EDUCATION, SELF-RELIANCE AND MORE WORTH.

Reformers' Memorial
Owen’s name is recorded along with other philanthropists and radicals on the Reformers’ Memorial (next to the cenotaph) that was erected in 1885:


to the memory of men and women who have generously given their time and means to improve the conditions and enlarge the happiness of all classes of society. They have felt that a far happier and more prosperous life is within reach of all men, and they have earnestly sought to realize it. The old brutal laws of imprisonment for free printing have been swept away and the right of selecting our own law makers has been gained mainly by their efforts. The exercise of these rights will give the people an interest in the laws that govern them, and will make them a better men and better citizens.

Two lesser known connections to the Romantic poets, Keats, Byron and Shelley, are found at the cemetery in the form of the burial places of the writer, James Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), and Byron’s rarely-mentioned wife of just one year, Anne, Lady Byron (1792-1860).


Next week I shall be looking at the great Victorian novelists and others who were buried at Kensal Green between 1860 and 1900. In the meantime, do let us know if you find any of your ancestors among the records. We love to hear from you on our Facebook and Twitter pages.


And finally, we’d like to take this opportunity to wish all our users a very Happy Christmas from everyone at Deceased Online!


Sources:

The Era (London, England), Sunday, February 13, 1842; Issue 177.



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