Kensal Green Cemetery, London   4 comments

Oh. My. Dear. Lord.  What a great park!  And, so full of good architecture and points of historic reflection you feel it is a pity that it is so sacred a place…I get the same feeling in good churches, but I really love a decent cemetery and Kensal Green is one of the best I have ever seen, filled with more of the great and good than you could hope to find in a single visit. Here was our little tour from Thursday (the first here, but certainly not the last).

We entered and got a quick guide to some of the interesting sites, but it took a minute or two to orient ourselves; Jackie really wants to be dragged off to immortality in one of these horse hearses so I took a quick shot of it:

kensal green 02 hearse 2

Near our entrance we examined a few interesting decorations like the one for the “Special Lady” and another for the Queens Park Rangers fan (the blue and white is the jersey of the local football club).

kensal green 03 qpr shirt  kensal green 05 special lady

Also nearby, we found the Rattigan family plot under which, unmarked, you will find the ashes of Terence (I do love the boy’s plays).

kensal green 04 rattigan

I learned most from the pamphlet we bought from the Friends of the Kensal Green Cemetery the founder of which was an Honours Doctor of Arts (which I had to look up thinking he was a Dutch veterinarian or ‘hondarts’). He might well have designed the clever coat of arms, though.

kensal green 06 jws litten detail  kensal green 07 jws litten

The statuary is unusually intact in this garden and the first decapitated monument was for George Solon Ladd that, it turns out, was a pioneer of radio communications.

kensal green 08 george solon ladd radio man

The next one was an unusual little altar for Elisabetta Lamertini, the only Google search of which I could find was a woman working on a civil engineering PhD (which could be used to design a repair plan for her namesake’s monument).

kensal green 09 elisabetta lambertini

Before heading on to the great and good, here are some of the other cool monuments we found around the grounds. Elizabeth Prince had a nice azure glass and white marble plot, while Thea Altieri got a fantastic metal statue of the Spirit of Ecstasy. There was some nice glass on the Caxton stone, and several of the Caribbean spots were crowded with family artefacts.

Prince's blue and white

Prince’s blue and white

Spirit of Ecstacy

Spirit of Ecstasy

Caxton

Caxton

kensal green 51 busy grave

Close family

We headed toward the dissenter’s section (unlike Bunhill which is small and all for dissenters — but still marvelous and yet only mentioned obliquely in these pages — Kensal Green has a separate section for non C of E residents) and along the way spotted Jean Francois Blondin, a tight rope walker famous for crossing Niagra.

kensal green 13 jean francois blondin

There was also the great monument, left by the celebrity chef Alexis Soyer to his wife Emma with the inscription “To Her.” Awesome stuff. We found this while unsuccessfully searching for Wilkie Collins, a much less magnificent stone.

kensal green 17 to her

Another we found, on purpose, was Dr. James Miranda Barry. Hard to read, the stone marks one of the most singularly interesting characters of the 19th century…a doctor from modest means who was the first to perform a modern Caesarian section, served in every major military venue contemporary with their achievements, fought several duels over their carriage, became Inspector General of surgical hospitals, fought with Florence Nightingale, oh, right, AND was discovered to actually be a woman after his/her death.

kensal green 18 dr james (miranda) barry 2  kensal green 19 dr james (miranda) barry 1

We found an interesting rock over John Hobhouse who was Lord Byron’s friend and Best Man and who travelled with him. Hobhouse later founded the Royal Geographic Society.

kensal green 20 john cam hobhouse

The Egyptian mausoleum of Andrew Ducrow was a puzzlement. Turns out he was an acrobatic equestrian that presented plays entirely on horseback (hence the hat and gloves at the base).

kensal green 22 andrew ducrow  kensal green 23 andrew ducrow detail  kensal green 24 andrew ducrow 3  kensal green 25 andrew ducrow hat gloves

The metal cross nearby is still a question mark for us:

kensal green 26 metal cross near andrew ducrow

Edmund Molyneux was a nice find as we have spent many happy times in Savannah, Georgia where he was British Consul from 1831 until the middle of the Civil War.

Molyneux, our Savannah connection

Molyneux, our Savannah connection

The four angels atop the temple to Mary Gibson deserve a better story; Mary died of kidney disease at 18.

Mary Eleanor Gibson

Mary Eleanor Gibson

William Mulready has a spectacular monument with incredible detail in his death sculpture and nice little incised bits of his artwork (he was a book illustrator and painter).

kensal green 33 william mulready 3

kensal green 32 william mulready 2

kensal green 31 william mulready 1

William Casement’s little temple is supported by the bodies of those he ruled in life as the Governor-General of India. He is actually buried in Calcutta, so this is an especially arrogant installation.

kensal green 36 william casement

The Brunel Family plot was anticipated to be ostentatious, massive, and perhaps gaudy as they had been responsible for so many massive and important engineering projects–many still in use today. Their simple stone was like an after dinner mint cleansing the funereal palate.

kensal green 38 brunel

Nearby, though, Commander Ricketts ornately detailed box is fairly eye-catching. Rickets went to sea as a boy and served under Nelson and later married into money and became High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire.

kensal green 37 charles spnecer ricketts

We knew Thackery was nearby but the stones were too weathered on top to make out the names or dates. On the end of this one, though, we saw the distinctive monogram of William Makepeace Thackery still intact.

William Makepeace Thackery's rock

William Makepeace Thackery’s rock

kensal green 39 william makepeace thackery detail

The name Percy Smythe rang a bell (but not George Augustus Frederick Percy Sydney Smythe, nor did 7th Viscount Strangford). Looking him up later we found him to be a novelist and friend of Disraeli. He was also a mouthy git which led him to fight many duels, including the last one in England.

Viscount Strangford

Viscount Strangford

Feargus O’Connor has an interesting hexagonal spire for his headstone. He was a social reformer and muckraker who drew 50,000 to his funeral.

kensal green 43 feargus o'connor

It is probably best to end this little trip with something simple but quite moving in its own way. Boots Davidson was credited as the guy that brought steel drum music to England and taught music and founded important bands in the genre for decades thereafter. Here are his markers…simple, austere, and they actually stand out in stark contrast the thousands of tons of marble nearby.

kensal green 44 boots davidson cross

Philmore “Boots” Davidson, cross

kensal green 45 boots davidson marker

and marker

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