West Brompton

West Brompton, Kensington & Chelsea

A compact and pleasant residential locality – squeezed almost out of existence by Fulham, Chelsea and Earls Court, between which it lies – dominated by a big, beautiful cemetery

A shady corner of Brompton Cemetery

West Bromp­ton was an area of fields and mar­ket gar­dens until the late 18th cen­tu­ry. Much of the land was acquired from 1801 onwards by the Gunter fam­i­ly, con­fec­tion­ers of Berke­ley Square.

Over the course of the 19th cen­tu­ry the Gun­ters and their lessees built thou­sands of hous­es on new­ly cre­at­ed streets, named after a vari­ety of fam­i­ly asso­ci­a­tions. Edith Grove, for exam­ple, hon­ours Cap­tain Robert Gunter’s daugh­ter, who died of scar­let fever at the age of eight. Fin­bor­ough Road is named after the coun­try seat of the Pet­ti­ward fam­i­ly, anoth­er local landown­er.

Bromp­ton ceme­tery (shown in the pho­to­graph above) was found­ed in 1837 as the West of Lon­don and West­min­ster ceme­tery, on a site that had pre­vi­ous­ly been fields and nurs­eries, main­ly owned by Lord Kens­ing­ton. An addi­tion­al 4½ acres was obtained in 1844 from the Equi­table Gas Com­pa­ny, giv­ing access to Ful­ham Road.

The ceme­tery has a for­mal lay­out with a cen­tral chapel, based on the design of St Peter’s Basil­i­ca in Rome (in minia­ture, of course). It was com­pul­so­ri­ly pur­chased from the pri­vate own­ers in 1852 by the Gen­er­al Board of Health, becom­ing the first and only Lon­don ceme­tery under gov­ern­ment con­trol.

Around 200,000 peo­ple have been buried here, includ­ing eleven hold­ers of the Vic­to­ria Cross, 3,000 Chelsea Pen­sion­ers, suf­fragette leader Emme­line Pankhurst, and singer and operetta com­pos­er Richard Tauber. In 1997 the Sioux Indi­an Chief Long Wolf was reburied in South Dako­ta, hav­ing been interred at Bromp­ton in 1892.

Accord­ing to the 2011 cen­sus, West Bromp­ton’s Red­cliffe ward has Lon­don’s great­est con­cen­tra­tion of res­i­dents from Italy and else­where in con­ti­nen­tal west­ern Europe.

The Fin­bor­ough pub­lic house has a high­ly regard­ed upstairs the­atre, opened in 1980.

The author Beatrix Potter often walked in Brompton Cemetery and seems to have found the names for many of her characters on the gravestones here.

Dylan Thomas’s first London home was 5 Redcliffe Street, where he was surrounded by “poems, butter, eggs and mashed potato.”

Postal district: SW10
Population: 9,245 (Redcliffe ward, 2011 census)
Station: District line and London Overground (zone 2)
Website: Brompton Cemetery

 

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