apparently the summers of volunteering under duress rubbed off on me and, while studying in London, I got out and involved on a few projects including one tidying up around monuments and beating back brush at the Brompton Cemetery. on this occasion, I managed to trick Becca into joining me though now I don’t recall how. the film “Finding Neverland,” some of which filmed in and around the cemetery (as well as in Hyde Park) though I don’t think it was released before we volunteered. perhaps I had a sense that some degree of celebrity might rub off on us or something. the novelty of celebrity was still fresh at the time; while I’d seen a few celebrities up to this point — both around London and elsewhere — I’d never faced the inconveniences that can accompany movie sets. in addition to “Finding Neverland,” Brompton Cemetery has featured in numerous films, most recently in the first of Guy Ritchie’s two “Sherlock” films.
begun in 1836 and consecrated by the Bishop of London in 1840, Brompton is one of the oldest garden cemeteries in London. over 35,000 monuments mark the final resting places of some 205,000 people buried over the course of more than a century. while the park covers some 39 acres of land once belonging to the Lord Kensington, the cemetery had to close to burials between 1952 and 1996 due to space constraints; it has since begun allowing burials once again, however.
following the economic and commercial shifts on the Continent that resulted from Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the living population of London exploded in the early-mid 19th century — as did the dead population. the rapid increase in number of necessary burials necessitated more burial space. designed by Benjamin Baud, Brompton is one of seven cemeteries constructed around what was the outskirts of London in the mid-19th century in response to health hazards posed by the existing overburdened, overflowing, inner-city burial grounds. it’s central chapel was modeled on St. Peter’s Basilica and features impressive colonnades, catacombs, and private mausoleums. for whatever reason, the catacombs never attracted much interest and most of the spots remain unoccupied.
some interesting facts about the cemetery before wrapping up: Beatrix Potter took naming inspiration from headstones in the cemetery; several Native Americans were once buried in the cemetery following their unexpected and untimely deaths while touring in England (as part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show). after researchers in the late twentieth century traced the families of two of the men (Chief Long Wolf and Paul Eagle Star, both Sioux), their remains were returned to tribal territory in the United States for reburial.
turns out I don’t have any photos of our afternoon of weeding, but here’s a video tour of Brompton Cemetery if you’re interested in seeing what it looks like.