19th Century · Kensal Green

A taste for the dramatic: the grand monuments of Kensal Green

One of the things that has always appealed to me about the big Victorian cemeteries is their sense of drama, and their grand, elaborate memorials.  Of course, there’s nothing new about the moneyed commissioning ostentatious memorials for themselves and their loved ones, but in the grand cemeteries of the big cities, like London, it’s possible to see lots of dramatic memorials clustered closely together, all vying for prominence in burial grounds that were designed to be visited by the living as well as being places for the dead to rest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kensal Green, one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries, is home to many wonderfully dramatic monuments.  Opened in 1833, it was inspired by the famous Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, and the burial of one of King George III’s sons, Prince Augustus Frederick (died 1843), made Kensal Green a fashionable place to be laid to rest.

Continue reading “A taste for the dramatic: the grand monuments of Kensal Green”

14th Century · 16th Century · 20th Century · City of London

The ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars and the grave of a “she-wolf”

I remember the first time I saw Christ Church Greyfriars – I was on my way to a job interview near the Old Bailey, and as I was walking up Newgate Street from the tube station by St Paul’s I saw the ruins of a church.  Intrigued, I went over to the ruin to read the sign explaining what the site was.  I’ve always been fascinated by ruins – not just the reasons why a building became a ruin, but also why the ruin itself was preserved.  When one considers how valuable every square foot of space is in the City of London, it’s quite something to come across a ruin that’s stood there for over seventy years.

DSCN0151

Continue reading “The ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars and the grave of a “she-wolf””

12th Century · 19th Century · 20th Century · City of London

Temple Church: the hidden church founded by the Knights Templar

The term “hidden gem” gets bandied around a lot in relation to all sorts of places in London – bars and restaurants, museums, galleries and historic buildings.  It’s a bit of an overworn phrase, but the subject of today’s post definitely fits the criteria for a hidden gem: small and off the beaten track, pretty and perfectly formed.

Through a little gateway on Fleet Street lies the Temple, the inner sanctum of Britain’s legal profession.  It’s a curious name – one that always intrigued me when I was younger, going through Temple Station whilst on the District Line and wondering if there actually was a temple there.  There is no temple, but amid the chambers of barristers is a little old church that has a history going all the way back to the Knights Templar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading “Temple Church: the hidden church founded by the Knights Templar”

19th Century · Camden

The abandoned Temperance Hospital in Euston

Not far from London’s Euston station is a slightly spooky old derelict building.  The former London Temperance Hospital on Hampstead Road has been closed for many years now, leaving a shell of mismatched buildings falling into disrepair.  The idea of a hospital set up by members of the temperance movement intrigued me, so I decided not only to have a closer look at the old hospital itself but also dig into its history.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading “The abandoned Temperance Hospital in Euston”

20th Century · East Sheen

East Sheen Cemetery and the “Angel of Death”

Opened in the early 1900s in a well-heeled area on the edge of Richmond Park, East Sheen Cemetery seems at first to be an entirely typical 20th Century burial ground, its paths lined by stone and marble monuments, sheltered by pine trees.  Sadly, it’s suffered from vandalism over the years and a number of crosses and headstones have fallen or been pushed over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However, there is a dramatic surprise waiting for visitors to this otherwise unassuming cemetery.

Continue reading “East Sheen Cemetery and the “Angel of Death””

19th Century · Lambeth

Discovering the “impossibly handsome” Roupell Street

I first came across this beautiful street while a tube strike was in progress – disruption to my usual route to work meant that I had travelled on a National Rail service into Waterloo, and had then covered the rest of my journey to work on foot.  Turning off the busy Waterloo Road into a maze of residential streets, following the people heading in the direction of the City, I found myself on Roupell Street and felt as though I had stepped back in time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading “Discovering the “impossibly handsome” Roupell Street”

12th Century · 16th Century · City of London

St Bartholomew the Great: a Romanesque gem in the City

Nestled between pubs, restaurants and the hospital buildings of St Bart’s on West Smithfield is a Tudor gatehouse.  During the week office workers, hospital staff and the traders of nearby Smithfield Market hurry past this structure without giving it a second glance, but groups of people on guided tours usually stop outside this rather incongruous site.  The gatehouse marks the entrance to the City of London’s oldest parish church, St Bartholomew the Great, a rare survivor from the Great Fire, albeit much changed from its early years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading “St Bartholomew the Great: a Romanesque gem in the City”

19th Century · Chelsea

Brompton Cemetery, an open-air cathedral of remembrance

A couple of weekends ago, I was invited to attend an event being held as part of the London Month of the Dead at Brompton Cemetery in west London.  The main cemetery entrance is on Old Brompton Road, not far from Earl’s Court station, in that slightly ragged edge of town where Chelsea, Fulham and Kensington meet, and where genteel houses make way for seedy hotels and dreary bedsits with grimy windows.  Behind high railings, and through an imposing gateway, is one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continue reading “Brompton Cemetery, an open-air cathedral of remembrance”

19th Century · Clerkenwell

Among the rioters and resurrectionists: the turbulent history of Spa Fields

Situated just to the south of trendy Exmouth Market, Spa Fields in Clerkenwell is today a park that is enjoyed by locals and office workers alike, a rare green space in an area filled with offices, tower blocks and retail units. Only a couple of plaques installed by Islington Council give any indication of the area’s raucous and sometimes dark history.

20141027_124133

Continue reading “Among the rioters and resurrectionists: the turbulent history of Spa Fields”

17th Century · 18th Century · City of London

Pye Corner: Flames, poltergeists and bodysnatchers

Pye Corner, the site where the Great Fire of London famously came to an end in 1666, has a long and grisly history of which the Great Fire is only one chapter.  Accounts of the Great Fire tell us that the Fire began at a bakery in Pudding Lane and ended three days later (having consumed 13,000 houses and 87 churches) at Pye Corner.  Christopher Wren’s towering Monument to the Great Fire of London is close to Pudding Lane, but where is Pye Corner?

DSC_0382

Continue reading “Pye Corner: Flames, poltergeists and bodysnatchers”