Brompton Cemetery is one of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Victorian garden cemeteries. It covers a site of 16.5 hectares (41 acres) between Old Brompton Road and Fulham Road on the western edge of the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is the UK’s only Crown Cemetery and is managed by the Royal Parks under contract from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. As a Royal Park, it is well maintained and lacks the wildness of the other "Magnificent Seven" cemeteries. It is a Conservation Area and is also classed as a Site of Nature Conservation and Metropolitan Open Land.
Address: Brompton Cemetery, Fulham Road, London SW10 9UG (Map:; OS grid reference TQ257777)
History[edit | edit source]
Brompton Cemetery was opened in 1840 by the West London and Westminster Cemetery Company, which had been established in 1836 by Stephen Geary, an architect and inventor who had previously founded the cemeteries at Highgate and Nunhead. The site, purchased from Lord Kensington, was a simple flat rectangle half a mile long without any trees because it had formerly been a market garden. A grandiose landscaping and architecture scheme proved vastly more expensive than envisaged, leading to litigation by some of the shareholders, who persuaded the government to nationalise the cemetery under powers included in the Metropolitan Interments Act of 1850 (the main purpose of which was to prohibit further burial in congested urban churchyards). Brompton was the only private cemetery to be purchased by the government before the 1850 Act was repealed by the 1852 Metropolitan Burials Act. It is still Britain's only Crown cemetery, held for the past 50 years in the care of the Royal Parks.
Habitat[edit | edit source]
The cemetery habitats include acid grassland, roughland, scattered trees, scrub, secondary woodland, semi-improved neutral grassland and vegetated walls and tombstones. The grassland shows a rough division between neutral (over former arable land) and acid (over former meadow), with neutral grassland covering most of the site and acid on some of the western lawns. Because of its enclosing walls, the cemetery has retained a number of plant species typical of the 19th century countryside and not now common elsewhere in London. In addition, there are plants such as wild cabbages, garlic, radishes and strawberries that survive from when the site was a market garden. Trees (more than 60 species) are present throughout the site, occasionally forming a closed canopy. Small-leaved lime, common limes, holm oak and horse chestnut are the most abundant species. Dense bramble scrub occurs in places. Many of the tombstones are covered with ivy, and male-fern and hart's-tongue are frequent on the brick boundary wall with the West London railway line.
Species[edit | edit source]
According to the website of the Friends of Brompton Cemetery, resident birds include a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker that nest each spring in a clump of holm oak. Apart from that information, an internet search produces nothing more than photographs of Carrion Crow and Feral Pigeon perching on tombstones. Can any reader offer more information about the cemetery’s birds? (single green woodpecker seen March 2015)
Mammals in the cemetery include many Grey Squirrel (common and bold), plus at least a couple of families of Fox with earths in the vaulted accommodation beneath the tombs. Shrews and Wood Mouse also frequent the tombs. The trees provide permanent roosts for Pipistrelle bats.
The cemetery attracts a good range of butterflies — notably Purple Hairstreak. More than 200 species of moth have been identified, including Yarrow Pug, Oak-tree Pugs, Autumnal Rustic, Light Brocade, Olive and the micro-moth Teleiodes decorella. Honey Bee and 14 species of wasp hang out in the meadow grass.
Practicalities[edit | edit source]
There is no on-site public parking, and finding a parking space in the surrounding streets may be difficult. However, the cemetery is easily approached by public transport. The north gate is just yards from West Brompton station (mainline railway and London Underground District line). Bus routes 14, 74, 211 and 414 pass the cemetery. Other nearby bus routes are 190, 328, 430, C1 and C3.
The cemetery has two entrances: the south gate on Fulham Road and the north gate on Old Brompton Road. The cemetery is open from 8am to 8pm in summer and 8am to 4pm in winter. Well maintained footpaths across a flat site make it suitable for wheelchair users.
Toilets on the south side of the cemetery church, which is at the south end of the cemetery.
This information has been cobbled together from various internet sources by Andrew Haynes, who has never visited the site but thinks that it deserves a page on the London Bird Club Wiki. If you are familiar with the site, please correct, expand and/or update this information.