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In pictures: the magnificent cemeteries of London

Each year, 80,000 Londoners shuffle off this mortal coil. Here are some of the places where they're laid to rest

By Things To Do Editors |
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They might not seem like obvious destinations for a day out in London, but the city’s cemeteries really are rather spectacular. Swap an afternoon in one of London’s parks for a wander through these grand and picturesque resting places. 

Abney Park Cemetery
Fred Adams Photography

Abney Park Cemetery

London's population reached a record high in 2017 – some 8.8 million people. But with so many lives, so come deaths.

An angel in Brompton Cemetery.
Lisa, Flickr

An angel looks over Brompton Park Cemetery

In London's earlier years, Londoners buried their dead in local churchyards scattered throughout the capital. But between 1800 and 1850, the population of London suddenly doubled from one million to two million.

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A statue in Abney Park Cemetery
Andrew Ridley

A statue in Abney Park Cemetery

And more people meant, well, more corpses. And London's churchyards were full to bursting, while Industrial Revolution-era sanitation and overcrowding meant public health was an increasing concern. 

Gravestones in a London cemetery
Loz Pycock

Graves and graves and graves

Throughout the early 1800s, the Government ordered seven huge cemeteries to be built on what were then the outskirts of the city: Kensal Green, West Norwood, Highgate, Abney Park, Nunhead, Brompton and Tower Hamlets. 

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Summer in Brompton Park Cemetery, London
Flamenco Sun

Summer in Brompton Cemetery

Since then, these 'Magnificent Seven' cemeteries have interred over 1.6 million Londoners who have shuffled off the proverbial mortal coil.

An angel statue in Manor Park Cemetery
Umbreen Hafeez

Angel statues in Manor Park Cemetery

In each, there are large numbers of barely marked graves, interspersed with mighty mausoleams dedicated to the great and good of the Victorian era.

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Catacombs at West Norwood Cemetery
J Silver

Catacombs at West Norwood Cemetery

In some cemeteries, such as Kensal Green and West Norwood, there are also catacombs.

Graves engulfed by foliage at Abney Park Cemetery
Simon Hadleigh-Sparks

Graves engulfed by foliage at Abney Park Cemetery

Each cemetery has contended with overcrowding and commercial pressures. As a result, many have temporarily or permanently closed to new burials, and during times of insolvency, become wildly overgrown.

Trusts or 'Friends' groups now seek to maintain the cemeteries, but the eruption of greenery that took place during intervals of neglect remains, lending a gothic atmosphere to certain areas.

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Wilderness in Highgate Cemetery

These areas are also valued as natural urban habitats, home to a variety of bird species, foxes, and other animals grateful for a some decent undergrowth in the midst of the metropolis.

Blossom over Brompton Cemetery
Flamenco Sun

Spring blossom over Brompton Cemetery

In the warmer months, however, the plantlife can be quite colourful. Some areas are now used as general parks and even host events.

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