The Magnificent Seven: A Photographic Guide
Samuel Johnson once said ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life‘. Yawn. We’ve all had that quote shoved down our throats at some point. Yes yes, London is never boring, etc etc. However, if you really are tired of London life, and fancy a slice of London DEATH, the seven grand Victorian garden cemeteries are the places you must go! Havens of history, architecture, eternal rest, nature and peace, you must visit at least one during your time in London.
But what if you have time for only ONE of the seven? How do you choose which one to go to?
I have been digging through my photo archives of the last 3 years, hunting down all my hidden, forgotten cemetery photography that I never did anything with. And I’ve found photographs from all seven of the Mag 7, never before posted on this blog, or used, or even VIEWED in some cases. Have a scroll through and let these vast garden cemeteries capture your imagination.
Each one is free to visit (except Highgate EAST, where a donation of £4 is expected at the gate, and Highgate WEST, which is guided tours only)* and each one will provide you with exercise, a nature walk and a journey back in time, all in one go.
Top tip: wear appropriate footwear. And choose a sunny day!
Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 0LH
Open from 8am year round (current closing time: 4.30pm)
Come for the falling down Gothic chapel, stay for the wildlife. (We went in November. It was freezing. Wear warm clothes). It’s like a mythical forest inside a city. Perfect for escapism.
Fulham Road, London. SW10 9UG – South Gate. Old Brompton Road – North Gate
Open daily from 8am
The ‘Open Air Cathedral’ hidden in plain sight in West London.
East side open from 10am Monday – Friday and from 11am Saturday. West side open for guided tours only.
The West Side – stately, imposing, half hidden by foliage and full of Egyptian – inspired architecture
The East Side – more modern than it’s west side cousin. Home to Karl Marx and Douglas Adams among others. The more modern graves in the newer part of the cemetery include some truly creative memorials worth seeing.
Harrow Road., London W10 4RA
Open 9am – 6pm (April – September) and 9am – 5pm (October – March) Monday – Saturday, and 10am – 5/6pm Sundays.
Sheldon, dressed as the 4th Doctor, explores the graves at Kensal, January 2013
Kensal Green is vast, and hard to cover in one visit. My top tip: plan carefully for your visit. Which graves do you most want to see? And as demonstrated in the above photo…it can get quite muddy.
Nunhead Cemetery (I particularly like their web page, because it even tells you what digit to put into your Sat Nav if it requires a street number! You have to be impressed by this sort of attention to detail).
Linden Grove, London SE15 3L
Open 8.30am – 4pm during the winter, and ‘open slightly later’ in the summer
Visiting Nunhead is like a walk in the woods. In the middle of urban south London. And it’s easy to get lost, so make sure you pay attention when walking further and further into the cemetery. The winding pathways lead you up a hill, and there’s a great view across to St Paul’s Cathedral from the top.
Southern Grove, London E3 4PX
Open from dawn until dusk.
Old meets new at Tower Hamlets
Walking through Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, you really get the sense that nature is trying to take back the city, and reclaim this bit of history for itself.
Norwood Road, London SE27
May I recommend you visit Norwood in the springtime? So much life in such a dead place!
All photos by Christina Owen
Except for the first photo of the chapel at Abney, taken by Stephen Roberts
*if you want to get pedantic about it, it’s £12 to visit Highgate West and you can visit the east side on that ticket too!