The plan for London's first garden cemetery was initiated by the barrister George Frederick Carden, who was inspired by a visit to Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in 1821. Alert both to the need for new burial grounds, and the commercial potential of the venture, Carden founded the General Cemetery Company in 1830, with influential supporters including Andrew Spottiswoode MP and the banker John Dean Paul of Rodburgh, Bart.
The cemetery was established by Act of Parliament which had its final reading in July 1832, during a cholera epidemic -- a coincidence that implicitly made the case for reform.
The Bishop of London consecrated the first 48 acres in January 1833, and the first funeral was conducted a week later. Boardroom dramas saw Carden excluded from the company he founded, but Kensal Green went on to weather financial crises, changing fashions, even wartime bombing, to become a national necropolis of the great and the good, a valued local institution, and a heritage site of international importance.
Kensal Green boasts some 140 Grade I, II* and II Listed buildings and monuments, including the magnificent Anglican Chapel, Dissenters' Chapel and Main Gate.
Despite an architectural competition won by the Gothic designs of Henry Edward Kendall, the Company eventually awarded the contract to the Neo-Classical designs of John Griffith of Finsbury, an active member of the Company who eventually became its Director.
Kensal Green's funerary monuments represent every shade of taste, fashion and materials from the solid classicism of the Birkbeck and Paul family mausolea to the Gothic extravagance of Capt. Charles Spencer Ricketts and the 7th Viscount Strangford, by way of the Mughal tradition of Daboda Dewajee, the miniature art gallery of William Mulready RA, the 'Old Armchair' of composer Henry Russell, the broken-down circus horse of equestrian Alfred Cooke, and the utter originality of the Ducrow, Casement and Molyneux family monuments, as well as several handsome modern memorials by various artists.
From the funeral of HRH The Duke of Sussex in 1843 to that of his nephew HRH The Duke of Cambridge in 1904, Kensal Green was the most fashionable cemetery in England. Its notable personalities include some 650 titled individuals titled nobility and over 550 people who figure in the Dictionary of National Biography.
Kensal Green is the resting place of the engineers Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the mathematician Charles Babbage, and the novelists Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray; Lord Byron's wife, Oscar Wilde's mother, Charles Dickens' in-laws and Winston Churchill's daughter; a cross-dressing Army doctor and the surgeon who attended Nelson at Trafalgar; the creator of Pears' Soap, and the original WH Smith; the funambulist Blondin and the Savoyard George Grossmith; the first man to cross Australia from south to north, and the last man to fight a duel in England; the duke's nephew who ruined the richest heiress of the day, and the English adventuress who became a French baronne disgraced by the accusation of murder.
President: Dr Jennifer Freeman OBE
Vice Presidents: Prof. James Stevens Curl, Dr Julian Litten
Chair: Dr Geoff Brandwood
Secretary & Treasurer: Ian Johnson
Dr Brent Elliott
Dr Jennifer Freeman OBE