Soldiers, adventurers and rumours of a time machine: tales from Brompton Cemetery

A few weeks ago, I went to Brompton Cemetery again.  I was with my friend Sharon, a fellow graveyard explorer, and I also had a new camera lens to put through its paces.  Since my last visit, a lot of the undergrowth that had swallowed up a good many gravestones had been cleared, and as a result we came across many graves that I’d never seen before.  Last time I wrote about Brompton, I felt that I’d not been able to do the place justice in just one article, so it seems like a good time to revisit the cemetery and look at more of its rich heritage.  Some of the graves featured this time around are grand and mysterious, others are modest and unassuming; yet all of them have their own fascinating stories to tell.

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Cimetière de Montmartre: an abandoned quarry transformed into a stunning necropolis

Cimetière de Montmartre, in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, did not have the most glamorous or auspicious of beginnings.  It was originally a gypsum quarry, situated outside of the city walls, and after the quarry was abandoned, a section of it was used as a mass grave during the turbulent years of the 1790s.  Yet this rather grim location was over time transformed, and it is now a peaceful haven where thousands of Parisians lie at rest beneath beautiful memorials.

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Graves with a view: exploring the Isle of Mull’s picturesque burial grounds

The beautiful landscape of the Isle of Mull is dotted with tiny burial grounds, each of them with their own stories to tell.  We’ve already visited Pennygown, with its ruined chapel and graves ranging from the medieval period to the present day.  Some of these cemeteries are close to settlements, others seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  They are all in stunningly beautiful locations.  The words and symbols preserved on the gravestones offer us a glimpse into the history of the island, and of the lives of the people who have lived and died there over the centuries.

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The stories behind the statues at St Patrick’s cemetery

If you’ve ever travelled east of Stratford on the London Underground’s Central Line, you’ve probably seen the vast graveyard of St Patrick as the train clatters between Leyton and Leytonstone.  It is the final resting place of around 170,000 residents of East London.  On a pleasant Saturday afternoon, I explored this fascinating cemetery with my friend and fellow graveyard enthusiast Sharon and we discovered so many stories about the people buried there – stories of war, of love, of immigration, of the faith that united all of those buried at St Patrick’s.  Along with St Mary’s at Kensal Green, which Flickering Lamps visited earlier this year, St Patrick’s is one of only two cemeteries in London to cater exclusively to Catholics.

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Moving a church tower from the Square Mile to Twickenham: the story of All Hallows

It’s a little known fact that more of the City of London’s churches were demolished during peacetime than were destroyed during the Blitz.  As London expanded, the population of the Square Mile declined.  Fifty one of the eighty-seven churches consumed by the Great Fire of 1666 had been rebuilt, but as the City’s population dwindled during the 19th and 20th Centuries, congregations fell and many churches became surplus to requirements.

However, as you make your way along the Chertsey Road in Twickenham, towards the famous rugby stadium, an unexpected sight looms into view: a baroque Christopher Wren church tower.  This is one of the lost City churches, All Hallows Lombard Street, reborn as a suburban parish church.

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The spectacular Tradescant tomb: “a world of wonders in one closet shut”

Tucked away in a pretty garden that was once an old churchyard near the River Thames is an extraordinary, richly-carved tomb.  Decorated with exotic scenes and creatures, it marks the resting place of members of the Tradescant family, who made a name for themselves in the 17th Century collecting plants and other curiosities from all over the world.

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The Victorian splendour of Highgate’s Western Cemetery

Highgate is London’s famous cemetery – it’s the one that most people think of first when Victorian cemeteries are mentioned and it’s the most well known of the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries that date from the early Victorian period.  Its location on a hillside overlooking the towers of central London draws thousands of visitors, and the overgrown western cemetery has inspired quite a few chilling tales over the years.  Although it retains the glamour and prestige it commanded in its heyday, Highgate looks quite different now compared to its Victorian beginnings.  Despite the many years of neglect (now being remedied by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery), this wonderful burial ground is still one of the finest locations of Victorian funerary architecture in Britain.

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