Kensal Green Cemetery and Willesden Jewish Cemetery lie within 2 miles of each other, and both are amazing heritage assets of nationwide importance, included in the Historic England's Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The two cemeteries have a lot in common, and just as much individuality that distinguishes them.
Kensal Green Cemetery saw its first funeral in 1833. As the first large commercial cemetery on the outskirts of London, it answered the need to find a solution for the overcrowding of city burials. Its path to become Britain’s most prestigious cemetery was set with the burials of the members of the royal family, and soon it became the final resting place of the Victorian elite, as well as many famous figures from literature, science, engineering, finance, politics, entertainment and much more. Kensal Green has a huge assortment of beautiful memorials, from imposing mausoleums to peculiar little gems. Still a working cemetery run by the company that set it up by, Kensal Green retains its spirit as a garden cemetery and is an amazing and special place to visit. The Friends of Kensal Green run regular tours and events, as well as being involved in conservation and special projects.
Willesden Jewish Cemetery came into being much later – it was opened in 1873 by the United Synagogue, which continues to run it as a working cemetery. It also answered the need to solve the problem of burials for the members of the Jewish community, by selected rural site in the green fields of Willesden. Much smaller than Kensal Green, it nevertheless has a few unique monuments reflecting the culture of Anglo Jewry as being a mixture of Jewish customs and the traditions of the English society. With the arrival of the most prominent families of the Victorian Jewish society, the cemetery became the ‘Rolls Royce” of Britain’s Jewish cemeteries. In 2015 National Lottery Heritage fund grants enabled United Synagogue to transform the cemetery into a unique heritage attraction, including a visitor centre, signage and volunteer programmes. Regular tours by volunteer guides bring the stories of its ‘residence’ to life.
And it is the stories of the people in the cemeteries that make it a most amazing experience. Often their lives intertwined, or parallels and contrasts can be found in both, which will be of great interest to people interested and involved with either cemetery.
Members of both groups are invited on both tours. We hope to be able to offer refreshments at the end of the tours, which will be an opportunity for the members of both groups to meet and socialise