If you’re bored one Sunday afternoon, why not visit the dead? We’ve compiled a list of the biggest and most beautiful cemeteries for you to stroll around. These have been handpicked because of their history, architecture and the notable artists buried within.
If you want a moment’s respite from London’s rattle and hum, Highgate’s the perfect place to come. Sprawling, wild and spectacularly gothic, some of its more famous guests include Karl Marx and Pre-Raphaelite, William Michael Rossetti. One of the more ironic tombs lies on the grave of pop art painter and print maker, Patrick Caulfield; a definite must see along with Karl Marx’s gigantic head. Some of the cemetery’s listed buildings include the elaborate Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon. Highgate is also famous for being the site of the ‘Highgate Vampire’ which reportedly haunted the cemetery in the early 1970s, so you might want to fill your pockets with garlic cloves before entering the gates...
Patrick Caulfield’s gravestone at Highgate Cemetery, complete with dying flowers
With typical Victorian extravagance, Brookwood Cemetery consists of more than 500 acres of carefully landscaped Surrey countryside and is the largest gravesite in the UK. Unlike the crowded graveyard avenues of London and other city central cemeteries, Brookwood is more reminiscent of a country garden- with its large mausoleums, palms and carefully planted beds. Lots of notable names lie here, including Alfred Bestall, author of Paddington bear and the American painter, John Singer Sargent.
Angels at Brookwood Cemetery
St Mary's, Whitby
One of England's most picturesque graveyards, St Mary's has a striking harbour setting beside the abbey made famous in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Don’t miss the graves of "Humpty Dumpty" - a tombstone shaped like an egg - and "Tom Thumb" - the grave of a child who drowned after falling off the harbour wall. Buried alongside these fairytale tombs lies George Weatherill (1810-1890), a well known artist during his lifetime, known as the Turner of the North.
St Mary’s Church and graveyard, Whitby
Kelmscott Church, London
Unlike many of our other cemeteries built during the Victorian period or later, Kelmscott Church and burial ground has existed since the 13th century, with one notable grave in particular; the writer, artist and socialist William Morris (1834-1896). Definitely don’t miss out on a visit to the beautiful Kelmscott Manor, formerly owned by Morris and Pre-Raphelite Rossetti. The house contains many artworks and prints by both artists, including intimate portraits by Rossetti of Morris’ wife and children.
Bunhill Fields is a former Dissenters' burial ground bounded by City Road and Bunhill Row. The site is a quiet haven from the city’s hustle and bustle, with its manicured lawns, benches and flowering beds. It has a long history as a burial ground, but is most significant for its Nonconformist connections dating from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Many prominent people lie here, including William Blake, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan.
Beautiful stone masonry at Bunhill