Friday, July 08, 2005

Brompton Cemetery - Not Just for Joggers or Bloggers

As I ran through west London this morning, following yesterday’s terrorist explosions which killed at least 37 and wounded hundreds more, I saw people going about their business in a purposeful way, in that way that is so familiar to me now, of a population that takes the business of “getting on with it” very seriously. I don’t know why exactly, but I decided to visit the Brompton Cemetery on my morning jog today. Probably it had something to do with the terrible bombings. It starts you thinking.

Once inside the Brompton Cemetery, my scene changed from scores of resolute commuters to dog walkers, fellow joggers, bicyclists, an alcoholic well into his daily quota and according to the sign at the front, roughly 210,000 permanent residents. Part wildlife preserve, part Hollywood set, here is the perfect line-up of romance, theatre and history. As birds sang and squirrels scampered, I stopped and read story after story of beloved wives and mothers, Generals, scientists and musicians and so many lost babies. After the chaos and destruction of the day before, the Brompton Cemetery was a strangely serene and peaceful place.

All cemeteries tell stories and that is what I like about them, stories about families, fashion, disease, love, war, immigration and death. The great London Victorian public cemeteries, such as Brompton and Highgate, established to handle the explosion of London’s population following the Napoleonic Wars tell remarkably vivid stories about the city, its inhabitants and their pre-occupations. And needless to say, cemeteries are not crowded or touristy.

You can visit the Brompton Cemetery daily from 8:00 AM to dusk. The closest tube is West Brompton on the District Line. The cemetery is managed by the Royal Parks and more information can be found at

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