London’s Magnificent Seven Cemeteries 0

London's Magnificent Seven Cemeteries

Not only can cemeteries be a place to reflect on life and death, they can form a historical record, revealing something of the times when they were first opened. The architectural choices, the kinds of people who were allowed to be buried there, and their placement within the grounds give a flavour of bygone times. London is home to several cemeteries, including the historic ‘Magnificent Seven.’ Most of these are no longer open for new burials, but each is beautiful in its own way and each has its own unique history. In a city as busy and built up as London it can be surprising to find areas that have seemingly been forgotten by the ages, ignored by the developers and often reclaimed by nature. Over the past 20-30 years, local trusts and charities have been founded to protect these astonishing places from disrepair, and to restore them to their former glories.

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London’s Magnificent Seven – Background

In the first few decades of the 19th Century, it became clear that London’s rapid expansion and growing population were responsible for a number of problems concerning burial practices. For centuries, the deceased had been buried in small parish churchyards, but this soon became unsanitary and dangerous, resulting in epidemics and health issues.

The government’s response was to legislate for the opening of a number of private cemeteries outside of the city centre and seven burial grounds were developed over a period of ten years. These became the Magnificent Seven cemeteries, the most important and grandiose burial grounds in the capital.

Unless otherwise stated, all imagery comes from Wikimedia Commons.


Founded in 1840, Brompton Cemetery is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and is famed for being one of Britain’s oldest and most beautiful garden cemeteries. With over 35,000 graves and a history of more than 205,000 burials, the cemetery memorialises dead from every corner of the world and is a diverse and intriguing glimpse into the history of the area and London as a whole. Many associate Brompton Cemetery with military burials, largely because the site was London’s Military Cemetery between 1845 and 1939, and there are many notable military figures interned within its grounds. You’ll find no less than 12 recipients of the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for military gallantry, buried within the grounds.

Brompton Cemetery

Kensal Green

Taking inspiration from the world famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, Kensal Green Cemetery is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and is well-known for its wide variety of graves, tombs, mausoleums and monuments. Based around a large central path that runs east to west and leads up to the cemetery chapel, the grounds were designed to separate dissenters (those belonging to non-Anglican denominations) from Anglicans and boasts a number of sections dedicated to different purposes and peoples. These include World War II graves, small graves for the very young, grand mausoleums for the rich and famous, and memorials to those men and women who attempted to reform society.

Kensal Green Cemetery


Highgate Cemetery is perhaps the most famous of the Magnificent Seven and is particularly well-known for the large number of influential figures buried within its boundaries. Many people visit the site to pay their respects to a long list of icons that includes, Karl Marx, Malcolm McClaren, Ralph Miliband, Lucien Freud and Christina Rossetti. The cemetery incorporates around 53,000 graves into a 37 acre space and is divided into East and West sections, both of which enjoy a de facto status as nature reserves. Highgate cemetery is still open for new burial, and we recently revealed it as the UK’s most expensive place to be buried.

Highgate Cemetery

Abney Park

Abney Park is located in Stoke Newington, in the heart of the London Borough of Hackney. Opened in 1840 as a non-denominational burial ground, the cemetery took its name from the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Abney, and pioneered a more inclusive and open type of burial site that attempted not to discriminate between those of different religious beliefs. Two of its most famous features include the Egyptian Revival entrance and the way in which it transformed the green space of an arboretum into a modern cemetery.


Though it’s arguably the least known of the Magnificent Seven, Nunhead Cemetery is actually the second largest. Consecrated in 1840, the cemetery went through a period of decline and decay in the 20th Century, during which nature and local woodland began to reclaim the site. Nature’s march was halted and then reversed in the 1980s and 1990s, when the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery began to renovate and protect the area, though it still retains a sense of unkempt wildness that makes it one of the most interesting cemeteries in the UK. A mere 10 minutes on foot away from the business and bustle of Peckham and Rye Lane, you’ll find yourself in an area that’s as wild as you’re likely to get in London.

Nunhead Cemetery

West Norwood

The southern most cemetery of the Magnificent Seven, West Norwood Cemetery encompasses 40 acres of catacombs, cremation plots, a lawn cemetery and a variety of monuments and mausoleums, as well as demonstrating some of the finest examples of the Gothic Revival style found anywhere in Europe. Founded in 1837, cremations still take place today, though all available burial plots are in use and, consequently, new burials are no longer possible. The cemetery is composed of two chapels, a Greek Orthodox enclosure, a crematorium, a war memorial and a number of well-known burial plots, including those of composer Joseph Barnby, inventor Sir Hiram Maxim and engineer James Henry Greathead.

West Norwood Cemetery

Tower Hamlets

More commonly known as Bow Cemetery, the Tower Hamlets Cemetery is located in London’s East End and was opened in 1841. Although originally very popular with locals, the cemetery quickly slipped into a steady decline that saw it neglected, overgrown and damaged over a one hundred year stretch. In 1986, the local Borough Council took over ownership and, with the help of organisations like The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, began to protect the area and its legacy.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery

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9 Creative Ways to Remember Someone Who Has Died 0

Ways to remember someone who has died

When you lose someone, one of the scariest things about it is the idea that you might forget them. Or that the memory of losing them will overshadow the happier times you spent together. The good news is this: you won’t forget them, ever. We promise. And there are ways of remembering someone who has died that can help you celebrate all the great things about them. Here are some suggestions…


9 special things to do to remember someone who has died

Not sure how to remember someone who has died? We hope you’ll find some inspiration here.


  1. Start a tradition for their birthday

Find something that helps you feel close to them, and do it each year. For example, you could:

  • Do something your loved one liked to do
  • Take a trip to a place that meant something to you both
  • Have a big family dinner and raise a toast – and invite their close friends
  • Light a candle for them in the evening

Build on what you know about them. Take a class in something they knew well. Go on their favourite dog walk. Take the day off and make all their favourite foods.

“My sister and I go to a 40s event on Mum’s birthday each year,” explains Rachel, a funeral arranger at our Aylesbury branch. “She was a child of the 40s, and it helps us remember how life would have been for her growing up.”


  1. Talk to them

Japanese wind telephoneWe all have things we wish we could tell people who are no longer with us. Why not just give it a try? You could wait until you have a quiet moment alone to say what you want to say aloud. Or visit their grave or scattering place to speak to them.

While this might feel a little odd at first, a lot of people find comfort in these talks. After the 2011 tsunami in Japan, one bereaved relative set up a disconnected ‘wind telephone’ in his garden so that he could talk to the family he lost. Since then, people from all over the area have come to talk to their loved ones.


  1. Take a trip 

Go somewhere your loved one always wanted to go, do something they always wanted to do. A once-in-a-lifetime trip can be a fantastic way for a family to heal together after a rough year.


  1. Keep something of theirs close by

Ash Glass Design's cremation glass mourning ringThis could be something as simple as wearing their jewellery or watch every day. Or clothing: a favourite shirt could be worn, turned into a cushion, or framed to make art. Believe it or not, there is also a company that turns the clothing of people who have died into teddy bears. 

Another (slightly more unusual) way of remembering someone special who has died is to get their ashes made into jewellery. Specialist craftspeople can suspend the ashes in glass or resin beads and place them in pendants, earrings, bracelets or rings. 


  1. Go big with a firework displayfriends scattering ashes firework on a boat

A memorial fireworks display can be a lovely way to remember someone special. Team it with plenty of friends and family, some of your loved one’s favourite music, and some toasty hot drinks for a unique and cosy celebration of life.

The important thing here is safety. Always buy your fireworks from a registered seller or licenced shop and check that they are suitable for home use. Make sure bystanders are standing back as far as is recommended for that firework. You can find more safety advice here.

What about balloon, lantern, butterfly and dove launches? Here, it’s important to do your research to minimise the impact on local wildlife and pets. Always use biodegradable materials.


  1. Get something dedicated to them

Not sure if the traditional park bench is the best way of remembering someone who has died? There are all kinds of alternatives…

  • For lovers of the performing arts, you can dedicate theatre, opera, or concert hall seats
  • Football ground seats are a great way to remember fans of the beautiful game
  • For music lovers, you can call in to your local radio station and dedicate their favourite song to them on their birthday
  • You can get a rose named in memory of someone special, and give cuttings to family and friends
  • Or dedicate a tree (or an acre of woodland) to them with the Woodland Trust


  1. Write to them

Writing a letter to remember someone who has diedWhen you’re struggling with something – anything – writing can be very therapeutic.  So, writing a letter to a loved one who has died can be a lovely way to feel connected to them and work through your grief. Letters can be kept or ‘posted’ by burying them at the grave or scattering site. Other ideas are placing them in a fire or even sending them down a river in boat form. 

Not much of a letter writer? You’re not alone. When writer Rax King tweeted about the emails she sent her dad after he died, thousands of other people came forward to say that they did the same. Or sent texts, or g-chat messages. While it’s best not to actually press ‘send’ on these (numbers can be reallocated to other people, email accounts closed) just the act of writing can bring comfort. 


  1. Support a cause that mattered to them

Is there a cause your loved one cared deeply about that you could support? Or would you like to raise money for a charity that fights their final illness, or supports families like yours?

One of the best ways to remember someone who has died is to build something positive with their legacy. You could…

  • Set up an online crowdfunding obituary that asks friends and family to donate
  • Organise a fundraiser or do a charity run to raise money
  • Sign up to donate a small amount each month in their memory
  • Set up a scholarship or endowment at their old school, college or uni
  • Launch a charitable trust or foundation of your own to lobby for a cause
  • Sponsor a child (or even an animal) through a charity


  1. Visit their grave or scattering place

Forget-me-not flowersYour loved one’s grave, or the place where their ashes were scattered, can feel very meaningful. There’s comfort to be had in just giving yourself some time to sit with them there. 

If you like, you can also bring a wreath, bouquet or (land owner permitting) something to plant. In Victorian times, people would often use flowers to send messages: each one had a special meaning. This old mourning custom is still a lovely way to express how you feel. E.g. rosemary for remembrance, white periwinkle for happy memories, an oak-leaved geranium for true friendship or marigolds for grief. 

Then again, a bouquet of your loved one’s favourites is an equally thoughtful gesture. At natural burial grounds, where planting rules are strict, a scattering of native wildflowers can also be a beautiful way to remember someone who has died.


Share your favourite ways to remember someone who has died

How do you remember the special people you’ve lost? Share your suggestions with other bereaved families in the comment section below. We’d love to hear your stories.

10 Funny Funeral Poems for an Uplifting Service 0

Michael Ashby's A Long Cup of Tea, a funny funeral poem

‘Funny funeral poems’ might sound like a bit of a contradiction. But humour isn’t always out of place at a farewell. When we celebrate someone’s life, we celebrate all of it, all of the best things about them — and that can mean laughter as well as sadness.

Here, we’ve gathered together 10 popular funny funeral poems to inspire you. We hope you’ll find something your loved one would have giggled at.


Amy Roper's Pardon Me For Not Getting Up, one of our top 10 funny funeral poemsPardon Me For Not Getting Up by Kelly Roper

There’s puns galore in this poem by Kelly Roper, writer and hospice volunteer. It’s a popular light-hearted reading, especially in funerals for people who were always taking care of others.

Told from the perspective of someone who has died, Pardon Me For Not Getting Up asks funeral guests to excuse them from hosting this time — and asks them to go ahead and celebrate their life nevertheless.

 A Long Cup of Tea by Michael Ashby

Michael Ashby's A Long Cup of Tea, a funny funeral poem

Is this the most British funeral poem of all time? Perhaps. Full of sly jokes (‘Please pick the biggest mug you can find / Size really does matter at this time’) Michael Ashby’s funeral poem is perfect for someone who loved to kick back with a cuppa. And who doesn’t?

The Busman’s Prayer by Anon

The Busman's Prayer, one of our top 10 funny funeral poems
This parody of the Lord’s Prayer is one of the more original non-religious funny funeral poems. The version here is ideal for born-and-bred Londoners, but there are also versions for retired policemen and women (‘The Law’s Prayer’) and people in Derbyshire around.

You can, of course, also write your own. Simply swap out the London locations for local landmarks with a similar sound.

Death by Joe Brainard, one of our top 10 funny funeral poemsDeath by Joe Brainard

This wry, matter-of-fact poem by Joe Brainard has a lot of simple truth in it. And some very black humour. Noting that visualising death might help us not to be afraid, he adds:

“Try to visualize, for example, someone sneaking up behind
your back and hitting you over the head with a giant hammer.”

If your friend or relative was a straightforward sort of person with an appreciation for the darker variety of jokes, this could be the one.

Warning by Jenny Joseph

Jenny Joseph's Warning, one of the best funny funeral poems for mums.
This playful and funny funeral poem is all about how old age can be liberating — and how we’d act if we could just please ourselves all the time. It’s a wonderful funeral poem for anyone who spent their later years living life to the full.

It’s also an excellent message for us all: don’t let respectability get in the way of doing all the (silly) things that make you happy.

On a Tired Housewife, one of our top 10 funny funeral poems

On a Tired Housewife by Anon

This anonymous poem has something of a dark backstory. But it’s now one of the nation’s favourite comic poems.

In it, the reader explains that after a lifetime of hard work, she’s actually looking forward to a restful eternal sleep. This makes it one of the more fitting funny funeral poems for a friend or parent who was always busy looking after their family.

Untitled jisei by Moriya Sen’an

A jisei (death poem) by Moriya Sen'an
For some time, it was traditional in Japan for some people (the elite, samurai and monks in particular) to write short poems shortly before their death. Many of these jisei are beautiful and contemplative. Others, like this one, are comically frank and can have a place in funny funeral speeches.

Death by Sean Hughes, one of the best funny funeral poemsDeath by Sean Hughes

This poem, which describes Sean Hughes’ idea of a good funeral, is ideal for any ‘celebration of life’ style funeral service.

With free drinks and new friendships being forged, it actually does sound like a great way to send someone off. The poem was in fact read at Hughes’ own funeral.

I Didn’t Go To Church Today by Ogden Nash

I Didn't Go to Church Today, one of our top 10 funny funeral poems by Ogden Nash
In this quietly comic poem, the narrator explains why he skipped church that morning: the day was too beautiful not to spend at the beach. It’s a sweet piece about appreciating a perfect moment.

Although light-hearted, the poem does have comfort for those at a funeral. As Nash shares, God will likely understand. After all, ‘He knows when I am said and done / We’ll have plenty of time together’.

Last Will and Testament by Will Scratchmann

Last Will and Testament by Will Scratchmann, one of the best funny funeral poems
This short-but-sweet piece by Will Scratchmann could be a funny funeral poem for a dad. But behind the humour is a positive message about what we want for our loved ones after we’re gone. Not a lifetime of sadness, but a lot of joy (and parties!) in time.


One last note on funny funeral poems…

Giving a ‘funny’ reading at a funeral can be a bit nerve-wracking. What if it goes down badly? The best thing to ask yourself is what the person who has died would have thought. Does the poem sound like them? Is it something they might have found funny? After all, the day is all about them. And if you need advice on public speaking, take a look at our top tips from funeral celebrants.

Didn’t find the right funeral poem today? Not to worry. We have a round up of 33 beautiful non-religious funeral poems here to help you in your search.