London in the Sun

chelsea

beautiful building

One of my favourite parts of London is Kensington and Chelsea, mainly thanks to its architecture; the streets of lavishly beautiful Victorian homes are a true sight for sore eyes. I have been meaning to explore the area in more depth and take a trip to Brompton Cemetery, West London’s version of Highgate Cemetery, for some time, but the weather has been so unpleasant of late that there hasn’t been much opportunity. So, when I woke two Saturdays ago to Mediterranean levels of sunshine, I knew that it was going to be a perfect day for a cemetery visit  – obviously. Thankfully my friend Emma agreed, and so off we set, via King’s Road, to Brompton, which is about a twenty minute brisk walk down the Fulham Road from South Kensington tube station. On the way, we passed ridiculously lovely streets of houses, of the type you normally see in romantic comedies that like to pretend that everyone in London lives in gorgeous squares of redbrick townhouses with their own private gated gardens in the middle. Just like all films set in New York have their main characters working as waitresses who somehow manage to live alone in a four room Brooklyn brownstone apartment that costs $2000 a month to rent. These waitresses have got to be getting some good tips. Anyway, I digress!

thanks

brompton cemetery

Once you reach the slightly more down-at-heel end of the Fulham Road, you know you’re nearly at the cemetery, and a very grand entrance off the street is the gateway to an enchanted land that feels entirely out of place in its surroundings. As it is owned and managed by the Royal Parks, it is far more well kept than Highgate, and its lack of much interesting topography lends it a rather more manicured and conventional air. Nonetheless, it is still sufficiently overgrown in places to feel mysterious and slightly eerie, and there is a very pretty colonnaded area in the middle, alongside a Grecian chapel, that make it a cut above the ordinary cemetery. What I found most interesting about Brompton is the number of architecturally unusual gravestones. There are some particularly beautiful art nouveau monuments, including the cemetery’s only listed monument, a beautiful floral copper casket made for the prominent shipping magnate and patron of the Pre-Raphaelites, Frederick Richards Leyland, which is the only funerary monument ever made by Edward Burne-Jones. There is also a good crop of art deco memorials, including a fascinating one that tells the story of a soldier who defeated a zeppelin raid in 1915, and much to my delight, Emmeline Pankhurst’s gravestone, which is notable for its fresh flowers; I’m glad to see that she is still so highly appreciated.

fancy grave

emmelinepankhurst

After a good long stroll through the cemetery, we caught the bus back to South Kensington and dropped in at the V&A to soak up the sun in its beautiful gardens. We then fancied a change of scene, and so headed off to Southbank, where we browsed the book market, sat and watched the world go by, took in a wonderful exhibition of actor photographs in the free gallery at the National Theatre, and saw the sun go down over the river. The city was bustling with people out enjoying the sun, and there was a real holiday atmosphere in the air. I almost felt that I was back in New York, and it was a welcome reminder that summer is finally on its way.

vam

 

hayward gallery

23 comments

  1. What a lovely day! Who could go wrong with classic architecture, history in a cemetery, a book market, gardens and photography. It’s exactly the sort of day that I could repeat in all seasons.

  2. I’m not into cemeteries but I do love walking the streets of London when I visit. It’s much more rewarding for me than the headline attractions and has the added benefit of being free

  3. What a lovely trip–thanks for bringing us along! This reminded me of a quote from a favorite (American) writer…’The way to be happy in London in the spring is to spend one’s days in the British Museum, reading the manuscript of the Journals of Gilbert White’. (apparently when she visited it was cold; however, sunny or not, I have many wishlist items to do if I ever get to London!)

    1. You are welcome – it’s a pleasure to share London’s beauties when the sun does eventually come out! That writer had a good idea…though she wouldn’t be able to read there any more as the British Museum no longer has its reading room…for reading purposes, anyway!😦

  4. Very interesting trip and quite appropriate the connection between Brompton Cemetery and V&A Museum since Henry Cole is interred there and was the first director of the then called South Kensington Museum

  5. I would love to visit London. I have never been to England but I feel so connected to it. It must be in the genes as many of my ancestors were from England. You’ve just enabled me to walk with you to see some sights. Thanks!

  6. Lovely pictures, as usual. Seeing them I realize I am not the only one with a thing for old cemeteries and it makes me feel a little bit better.

  7. My sister and I will be spending a few days in London in June, and your post has added to my excitement! We’ll be touring, and we also want to see The Kelpies in Scotland. And weather??? We had two inches of snow here yesterday!

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