Audio guides for tourist attractions

 London Walks Kensal Green A Matter of Life and Death

English

It's a matter of life and death - an unusual and privileged walk through Kensal Green cemetery.

It may seem strange to us today that Victorian families enjoyed nothing more than a Sunday afternoon stroll through one of London's great cemeteries. Take this walk with me and you will find out why.

I am accompanied by one of my nephews, Andrew Lewis. Together we have the benefit of a knowledgeable guide and expert Henry Vivian Neale. Henry is chief guide for the Friends of Kensal Green. For more information about the Friends, check out their web site which is kept up to date, and gives details of the history, opening times, and events at the Cemetery.

Kensal Green is an awesome and sometimes spooky place. There are huge mausoleums, fantastic statuary, amazing decorations, and space below for dozens of bodies. Some of the stories Henry tells are legendary. How about the cross-dressing surgeon, who throughout her life posed as a man in order to be accepted in a profession denied to woman of her time? or maybe you'd like to hear about a man who made a considerable fortune from being able to act a scene whilst simultaneously riding sic horses bareback? or possibly you'd like to see the memorial to someone who pushed a wheelbarrow across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope?

Mix with the remains of the aristocracy and royalty, cheek by jowl with upstarts and crooks who thought highly enough of themselves to have fantastically decorative and expensive mausoleums constructed for them during their lifetimes.

During our visit, we see inside the Grade 1 listed Anglican Chapel, and descend to the extensive catacombs below.

This walk is a real treat. Part stroll, part documentary, part history lesson, part comedy - this episode is a one-off.

The nearest London Underground station is Kensal Green on the Bakerloo Line (Zone 2). The cemetery is also served by buses 18, 23, 52, 70, 295 and 316; please use the Journey Planner to plan your journey with Transport for London. There is limited parking in front of the Main Gate on Harrow Road.

We start at Top Gate - from the Underground turn left then right onto Harrow Road. Top Gate is a few paces on your left hand side. Check the Opening Hours before your visit, and the Friends web site if you want to visit the Anglican Chapel and catacombs as we did.

Opening hours

Summer (1 April to 30 September)
Monday to Saturday: 9.00 to 18.00 (Top Gate*)
Sunday: 10.00 to 18.00 (Top Gate*)
Bank Holidays (UK National Holidays): 10.00 to 13.00 (Top Gate*)

Winter (1 October to 31 March)
Monday to Saturday: 9.00 to 17.00 (Top Gate*)
Sunday: 10.00 to 17.00 (Top Gate*)
Bank Holidays (UK National Holidays): 10.00 to 13.00 (Top Gate*)

My grateful thanks to Henry Vivian Neale for taking the time to show us round. It may be the first and last occasions when he has given several thousand people the benefit of his great knowledge in one 90 minute period.

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