Located in the London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Kensal Green Cemetery became the first garden cemetery in the capital when it opened in 1833. The cemetery was the first of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries brought to London by George Frederick Carden after he visited Paris and saw the example of Pere Lachaise as the way to solve the city’s desperate need for burial space.
It was architect Hugh Meller in 1981 who gave the group of cemeteries the nickname ‘The Magnificent Seven’ after the 1960 western film of the same name. Cemeteries before their arrival were the place of incidents such as graves being dug on unmarked plots that already contained bodies and sewer rats infiltrating the drainage systems of churchyards, nibbling away at the bodies of the deceased. The locations of all ‘The Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries were away from the centre of the city and in the instance of most, away from the Thames.
The cemetery has been immortalised in GK Chesterton’s poem The Rolling English Road where it says: “For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen; Before we go to paradise by way of Kensal Green.”
The cemetery took mass inspiration from Pere Lachaise, with most of the English garden cemeteries built during the time of the British Empire subsequently taking inspiration from Kensal Green.
During the large cholera outbreak in the early 1850s, the cemetery was one of the few that was not closed by the then health commissioner Edwin Chadwick, who saw the cemetery as one burial ground for all of west London. Chadwick wanted each area of London to have its burial needs catered for by one large cemetery, proposing a large garden cemetery in Abbey Wood to cover east London. The plans were abandoned in 1852 due to the treasury finding it to not be financially viable.
The cemetery features a wide range of different burial types and tributes, the funeral has large mausoleums, graves for the very young, military graves, royal graves, right through to standard graves.
Today the cemetery is home to 33 different species of bird along with many other types of wildlife and plants. It is a Grade one listed space on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, however it still remains in use. The cemetery has featured in many films and TV series due to its unique look such as 1973 horror comedy Theatre of Blood.
Steve Peregrin Took (28 July 1949 – 27 October 1980)
Steve Peregrin Took was a founder member of Tyrannosaurus Rex alongside Marc Bolan before the band was renamed T Rex. Took’s last appearance for Tyrannosaurus Rex was on percussion on third LP Unicorn, during his time with Tyrannosaurus Rex he played on the band’s first hit Debora. Took was eventually sacked by Bolan for spiking punch at the UK launch of Rolling Stone with halucinogene STP, an incident that earned him the nickname ‘The Phantom Spiker’. Took played in multiple other bands following his sacking as well as appearing as a backing vocalist on David Bowie’s BBC sessions. Took died after choking on a cocktail cherry after taking morphine and hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Alan Rickman (21 February 1946 – 14 January 2016)
Alan Rickman was an actor most famous for his role in the Harry Potter film series as Severus Snape. Rickman’s character Snape was one of the main characters in the Harry Potter series beginning as a villainous person and transitioning into one of the heroes, Rickman appeared in all of the films. Alongside his work in Harry Potter, Rickman is also well known for his role as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which earned him a BAFTA for what most consider to be his most impressive performance. Rickman’s last films Eye In The Sky and Alice Through The Looking Glass were released posthumously with both dedicated to him.
Ingrid Bergman (29 August 1915 – 29 August 1982)
Ingrid Bergman was an iconic actress during the 1940s for her roles in Casablanca, Joan of Arc and For Whom The Bell Tolls as well as her work with director Alfred Hitchcock for which she was best known. During her work with Hitchcock, Bergman starred in films such as Notorious, Spellbound and Under Capricorn. Bergman also famously spoke up against the racial segregation of the time in front of journalists at a press conference for Joan of Arc. Bergman also went to Alaska and Europe to entertain troops fighting in the second world war, where she saw the atrocities of war first hand and spoke up against them upon her return. Despite her most famous roles coming in the 1940s Bergman performed from 1932 to 1982.
Marigold Frances Churchill (15 November 1918 – 23 August 1921)
Marigold Frances Churchill was the fourth child of former prime minister Winston Churchill, she died after contracting septicaemia at a young age. It was initially thought that the child’s illness was just a cold and was reported by her nanny to have gotten over it, as the illness progressed the nurse sent for her mother however the illness proved fatal and she was buried at Kensal Green three days later.