Scents and Sounds of Brompton Cemetery

I lived around the corner from West London’s Brompton Cemetery about two or three years ago.


it didn’t seem quite as wild or untamed as it does now.


I like it this way, less groomed, equally inviting.


It feels more natural, more like a nature reserve that just happens to be a cemetery.


Now, there are more tousled vines engulfing crooked gravestones.


There are delicate pink wildflowers poking up in between hard surfaces.


Wild berries hang, juicy and ripening in the Summer sun.


Tangled plants sweep over the untidy edges of trails that deviate through the grass off of the main walkways.


The main strip is still pretty orderly, but there are large patches that have been left to grow as nature intended.


Weather-worn gravestones are marked with brown patches of moss and bird droppings faded in the sun.


The names are becoming more difficult to decipher on some of the older inscriptions.


Despite being a cemetery – one of the Magnificent Seven in London – it’s full of life.


I used to run here, as do many others.


People come to settle on benches and spend their lunch breaks or early mornings with a newspaper.


Others walk, slowly and contemplatively, without the sense of rush that goes on beyond the cemetery walls.


I settle in on the steps across from the domed chapel in the middle.


It’s easy to think back to three years ago and how much life has changed since.


I have a completely different set of friends now.


Many have moved away – to Toronto, to Sydney, to Mongolia, to the US, to the countryside.


I’m in a different relationship, happier.


I went off to Colombia for six months and New York for three and then came back and have been back for almost two years again now.


I’m happier at work with a different and more interesting, creative and fulfilling job.


I thought not so much about the death all around me but about the different cycles that life takes us through, the many changes that come year after year, especially living in a huge global city like London.


A slight breeze stirs the ferns and a train faintly clacks over the tracks beyond the wall.


There’s a background hum of soaring planes above, but it’s muffled here.


What stands out most is the buzz of crickets and other insects.


You can actually hear the breeze slip through the leaves.


Squirrels sniff at the ground.


Pigeons grovel.


No dogs in sight though.


There are what seems to be a million stoic black crows stand still, glaring our from their headstone perches.


It smells of earth.


It sounds like peacefulness of death.


But it feels quite alive.



If you’re a cemetery fan, check out some previous posts from Nunhead, Plumstead and Woolwich!

11 comments on “Scents and Sounds of Brompton Cemetery

    • Thanks Lauren. It is nowhere near as weird as you’d think. It’s like visiting a park in a way. People are there, cycling or chatting or hanging out so it’s not at all creepy. It’s a great place for a bit of reflection. Next time I’ll take a notebook. I just interviewed Siobhan Wall for my other blog ( which will be up tomorrow. She’s the author of Quiet London and is full of other recommendations on where to find little pockets of calm!

  1. Great post. Very evocative in both words and pictures. Brompton Cemetry seems like a lovely place to get away from it all.

  2. I went there a few years ago and found it full of gayboys ‘cruising!’
    I decided not to hang around.
    It was not overgrown then but is very photogenic now.
    You again have some super shots of the place.
    I suppose you know Kensal Rise? I often wandered among the rich folks there.
    A strange tourist sight but worth visiting.

    • Yes, it does have that reputation, though I’d never seen anyone in action! It’s really a safe and chilled out place. I do know Kensal Rise very well. I lived in Kensal Green for about 2 years from 2007 when I first moved to London. One of the reasons I went with that area was the cemetery. I didn’t know London well but I liked the idea of being there.

  3. I too enjoy the peace and serenity of cemeteries although, as you know people in the U.S. do not frequent them except to pay homage to the departed. I liked strolling through Highgate cemetery when I lived in London.
    Synchronicity in the air – I was at Jones Beach today, walking ahead of a group of women, in their early 20’s and one was talking about all the jobs she thought she wanted when she was a child. Her first aspiration had been to work in a cemetery

    • What an interesting aspiration to work in a cemetery! I think my first career dreams were somewhere along the lines of teacher and flight attendant. You’re right about cemeteries in the US being approached much differently. They are more somber places than they are here.

  4. Pingback: A Stroll Through Copenhagen's Beautiful Assistens Cemetery | Little ObservationistLittle Observationist

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