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Nunhead Cemetery & Camberwell New Cemetery

Audio walk from Nunhead Cemetery to Camberwell New Cemetery

This audio guided walk is brought to you by Advantages of Age and is part of a series of walks exploring some of the most fascinating London cemeteries and their surrounding areas. This walk links Nunhead Cemetery and Camberwell New Cemetery in South London.

Download the audio guide here

Our walk starts at Nunhead Overground Station.

We leave via Gibbon Road, walk up Oakdale Road to the mini roundabout and turn right into Linden Grove.
Nunhead is possibly the most overlooked of London’s ‘magnificent seven’ cemeteries despite being the second largest, covering 52 acres. It was built in response to the lack of space for burials in parish churchyards that had become overcrowded as the population of London grew. By the early 19th Century this had become a pressing concern. 

The first large public cemetery in London was built at Kensal Green in 1830 and proved a big success. This led to an act of parliament allowing for the establishment of further cemeteries ‘Northward, Southward and Eastward of the Metropolis.’ The London Cemetery Company built a northward cemetery at Highgate in 1839, and the southward cemetery here at Nunhead in 1840. Both cemeteries were built on hillsides directly on a north – south axis with St Paul’s Cathedral between them, which can still be seen from Nunhead Hill on a clear day.

The audio guide describes a route through Nunhead and Camberwell New Cemeteries but they are best experienced by allowing yourself to wander. The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery have a book stall to the right of the main gates with some further information about the cemetery and the wider area and run regular guided tours.

Nunhead can be found mentioned in a deed of 1583 that refers to land “lying at Nunn-head.” The origin of the name Nunhead is not certain but is believed to be derived from a local inn named variously The Nun’s Head or The Nunhead Tavern. A local legend says that the name comes from the story of the beheading of a nun during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The legend states that the head of the Mother Superior of a nunnery, which was located where the The Old Nun’s Head now stands, was placed on a spike after her beheading.
The 17th Century Nun’s Head Tavern became a resort with its tea gardens and dances and fine views across London – some of which we’ll see from both of the cemeteries on our walk today.

View the map here

We exit Nunhead Cemetery onto Limesford Road and turn left into Inverton Road and head straight for Camberwell New Cemetery

Camberwell New Cemetery contrasts with the gothic splendour of Nunhead. The cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of Woolwich and the first burial was in 1927. Among the notable burials here are East End gangster George Cornell, popular WW2 singer Anne Shelton, and world light heavyweight champion boxer Freddie Mills. Camberwell offers some magnificent views, southwards over the valley of the River Ravensbourne, and northwards towards the towers of the Isle of Dogs and beyond.

This is where the audio guide ends. The nearest station is Honor Oak Park. But you can continue your walk to the summit of One Tree Hill (info in the audio guide) and to Camberwell Old Cemetery.

This project was supported by Transport for London

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Tower Hamlets Cemetery

An audio guided walk through Tower Hamlets Cemetery

This audio guided walk is brought to you by Advantages of Age and is part of a series of walks exploring some of the most fascinating London cemeteries and their surrounding areas. This short walk takes us from Mile End Tube Station through Tower Hamlets Cemetery and back to the station.

Download the audio guide here

Our walk starts at Mile End Station on the Central and District Lines.

Exit the Station and turn right along Mile End Road, then take the second right into Southern Grove. After a short distance you’ll find the entrance to the cemetery on your left. 

The name Mile End originates from the position of the medieval hamlet one mile from Aldgate on the Eastern edge of the City of London. The name first appears in the 13th Century and remained a largely rural agricultural area beside the London to Colchester Road into the 17th Century when developers started building in the area.

It’s position as an Eastern approach into the City made it a key location in the Peasants Revolt of 1381. Following an uprising against Tax Collectors in Brentwood, Essex a large gathering of over 100,000 protestors led by Wat Tyler camped at Mile End before entering the City. King Richard II rode out to meet them at Mile End and agreed to their demand to end serfdom throughout the country.  Wat Tyler was murdered by the Kings men at Smithfield a couple of days later and the Peasants Revolt came to an end.

Mile End is home to Britain’s first Jewish Cemetery, established in 1657 in a former orchard with the permission of Oliver Cromwell. A further Sephardic Jewish Cemetery was added nearby in 1733 and can be seen in the centre of the Queen Mary University Campus just off the Mile End Road.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery
Tower Hamlets Cemetery

The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery opened in 1841. And like the other Magnificent Seven Cemeteries of that time was built as a garden cemetery. It was designed and landscaped by architects Thomas Wyatt and David Brandon. There were originally a number of buildings within the cemetery grounds including a Chapel for Religious Dissenters, an Anglican Chapel, and a Mortuary which have sadly all be demolished. The original wall still surrounds the cemetery and is Grade II listed.

The majority of the cemetery is woodland and the site now covers 31 acres, which has been carefully looked after and nurtured to create a precious wildlife habit here in the East End. Among the trees are Ash, Sycamore, London Plane, Lime. A couple of the trees here, an oak and a plane tree, are as old as the cemetery itself. It’s said to be one of the largest areas of urban woodland in east London.

Unlike the other Magnificent Seven Cemeteries we have visited many of those buried here are mainly local working class people. Naturally you can see from the many grand ornate headstones that wealthy people were buried in Tower Hamlets Cemetery, that is not the over-riding story of this peaceful location. 

Images of Tower Hamlets Cemetery in Austerlitz by W.G Sebald
St Clements Hospital from Tower Hamlets Cemetery
St Clements Hospital 1849

The cemetery features in the final novel, Austerlitz, by the acclaimed German writer W.G Sebald. It is referenced in relation to St Clements Psychiatric Hospital, that borders the northern side of the cemetery and has views of the park. Originally built as a workhouse in  1849 it became an infirmary and then a psychiatric hospital. It has now been converted into modern apartments.

Kensal Rise and Kensal Green Cemetery

Audio Guided walk through Kensal Rise to Kensal Green Cemetery

This audio guided walk is brought to you by Advantages of Age and is part of a series of walks exploring some of the most fascinating London cemeteries and their surrounding areas. This circular walk takes us from Kensal Rise Station through Kensal Green Cemetery and back to the station.

Download the audio guide here

Our walk starts at Kensal Rise Station on the London Overground

Leaving the Station we walk straight ahead along Station Terrace (if departing onto Chamberlayne Road turn right and take the steps on the right down to Station Terrace)

The area around Kensal Rise Station was developed in the late 19th Century after the coming of the railways. It is in many ways a classic London railway suburb.

Much of Kensal Rise retained a rural character right into the early 20th Century with the upper slopes towards the Brondesbury Ridge covered with fields of grazing cattle and allotments. Chamberlayne Road was once just a country lane.

In a 1920s guide to the Borough of Willesden the entry for Kensal Rise states, ‘The district is one of the most salubrious in the vicinity of the metropolis. The air is remarkably fine, and its open aspect, much of it still retaining its countrified aspect, commends it as ideal for residential purposes.’ (The Story of the London Boroughs – Willesden)

The population of the area boomed after the coming of the railways. In 1875 the population of Willesden Urban District was just 18,559 within 20 years it’d risen to 79,260 and a little over ten years later it was 144,785

In 2006 the Evening Standard declared that ‘Kensal Rise is the new Notting Hill’

At the end of Station Terrace continue straight ahead along Chamberlayne Road

Continue along Chamberlayne Road as it becomes Kilburn Lane, to the junction with Harrow Road. Cross at the lights and the entrance to Kensal Green Cemetery is on your right.

Kensal Green was the first of what became known as the Magnificent Seven London cemeteries, built by the General Cemetery Company as a private cemetery to address the shortage of burial space in parish churchyards. It opened as All Souls Cemetery in 1833. The name references All Souls College Oxford who’d possessed large amounts of land in the area since the late Middle Ages, and many of the street names around Kensal Green and Kensal Rise are related to the College, most notably All Souls Avenue.

After exploring all corners of the cemetery following our senses we head for the West Gate leading out onto Harrow Road. Passing the Mason’s Arms Pub we cross at the lights and head along College Road.

On the corner of College Road and Bathurst Gardens we have the wonderful Kensal Rise Library. The original reading room was opened by the celebrated American author Mark Twain in 1900. The popularity of the reading room led to the expansion into a library funded by Andrew Carnegie. The library was saved from closure by a community campaign and is now run as a community library. 

We turn right here into Clifford Gardens. Make sure to look up at the friezes in the gables of the houses depicting rural and agricultural scenes.

At the end of Clifford Gardens turn right into Chamberlayne Road and Kensal Rise Station is straight ahead.