Inventory Site Record

Kensal Green Cemetery * (Kensington & Chelsea)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Kensal Green Cemetery opened in 1833, the first commercial public cemetery to be established in London and built by the General Cemetery Company. The contract for the layout was awarded to John Griffith, with grounds to designs by Richard Forrest, head gardener at Syon Park, and laid out as an informal landscape park with a number of formal features. By 1834 the wall, gateway, lodges and Nonconformist chapel were completed; the C of E chapel was built in 1836-7; the catacombs were built along the north boundary wall. The cemetery was extended by a further 9 hectares in the late C19th and the Crematorium built here in 1939.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Kensal Green Cemetery of All Souls
Site location:
Harrow Road
W10 4RA
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Kensington & Chelsea
Open to public?
Opening times:
Weekdays: 9am - 5pm (1/10-31/3) or 6pm (1/4-30/9); Suns: 10 am - 5pm (1/10-31/3) or 6pm (1/4-30/9); BHols: 10am-1.30pm
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 2 times, most recently in 2012.
Special conditions:
Parking (access from West Gate); toilets
Open days, regular tours including catacombs 1st Sunday of month, lectures in the Dissenters' Chapel. Has participated in OGSW
Public transport:
London Overground/Tube (Bakerloo): Kensal Green. Tube: Ladbroke Grove (Hammersmith & City) then bus. Bus: 18, 23, 28, 52, 70, 295, 316, 452
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.kensalgreencemetery.com

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

The cemetery is within two boroughs, the smaller proportion of the site in LB Hammersmith & Fulham. Kensal Green was founded as a result of a successful long campaign to establish new cemeteries in London to replace the overcrowded churchyards throughout the capital, many of which were in a parlous state. London's population had increased, particularly as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Founded in 1830, the General Cemetery Company purchased a 22-hectare site bounded by Harrow Road to the north and the Grand Union Canal to the south. Established by Act of Parliament in 1832, Kensal Green Cemetery was London's first necropolis and remains in private ownership today, still administered by the General Cemetery Company who from the first wanted to create the cemetery as a park as 'a place of recreation that would be morally uplifting and edifying to the general populace'. Although the competition for the chapels, colonnaded catacombs and gateway was won by Henry Edward Kendall, his Gothic designs were not to the classical taste of the Cemetery Company's financial backer Sir John Dean Paul, and John William Griffith of Finsbury was awarded the contract.

The cemetery was consecrated in 1833 and by March 1834 the wall, gateway, lodges and Nonconformist chapel in the south-east corner had been completed. The Church of England chapel was built in 1836-7 and forms the central architectural feature in the cemetery. Catacombs were built along the north boundary wall. A further 9 hectares were added at the western end of the site in the late C19th, which has the Crematorium of 1939. The layout of the cemetery, gently curving paths on either side of the Centre Avenue, running east-west through a circular scheme crossed north-south by Junction Avenue towards the C of E chapel, has been attributed both to Griffith and to a pupil of John Nash, Mr Liddell. The grounds were landscaped by Richard Forrest, head gardener at Syon Park (q.v.) and planted by William Ronalds of Brentford, and had well-kept lawns and large numbers of specimen trees and shrubs; trees planted along the avenues and singly among the monuments include plane, cedar, chestnut, beech, lime, holm oak, poplar and yew. There are more free-standing mausolea here than in any other cemetery in England and the majority were constructed in the owner's lifetime.

From its opening in January 1833, prominent members of C19th society sought burial plots at the cemetery, erecting fine monuments some of which were executed by well-known sculptors, including Basevi, Burges, Cockerell, Gibson, J B Papworth, Owen Jones and Eric Gill. Those buried here include members of the Royal family: Augustus Frederick Duke of Sussex and Princess Sophia, the children of George III, and the Dukes of Cambridge, Portland and Somerset. The cemetery pioneer John Claudius Loudon is buried here, as is Decimus Burton; figures from the literary world include Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hood, Anthony Trollope, Thackeray and Terence Rattigan. Sir Marc Brunel and Isambard Kingdom Brunel are also buried here. There are three catacombs: the Colonnaded Catacomb on the north wall and those beneath the Dissenters' Chapel and the Anglican Chapel, the latter being the largest working catacomb in the country with a capacity of 4,000 coffins. A hydraulic mechanism, reinstated to full working order in 1997, would dramatically lower the coffin from the chapel to the catacombs below following the funeral service. The Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery was established in 1990 to undertake restoration work to the buildings (Dissenters' Chapel refurbishment completed, Anglican Chapel planned), monuments and environment. The London Wildlife Trust advises on habitat conservation. Adjacent to West London Crematorium (q.v.)

Sources consulted:

Hugh Meller & Brian Parsons, 'London Cemeteries, An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer', 4th edition (The History Press, 2008). See EH Register: GLC Survey of London XXXVII, 1973, p335-339; J S Curl, 'A Celebration of Death', 1980 p.214-223; N Pevsner 'London except . . . Westminster', 1952, pp302-3. Kensal Green Conservation Area Proposals Statement

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ231825 (523195,182532)
Size in hectares:
26.2 (18 in RBKC)
Site ownership:
General Cemetery Company
Site management:
Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery
John William Griffith; grounds: Richard Forrest
Listed structures:
139 LBs, including LBII*: Anglican Chapel; Main entrance gateway; Dissenters Chapel; Mortuary Chapel, Tomb of Andrew Ducrow. LBII: Colonnade/Catocombs; gateway opposite Wakeman Road. C.100 monuments are listed
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade I
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Kensal Green Cemetery
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Metropolitan Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Metropolitan Importance
Other LA designation:

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.