Several Victorian cemeteries and pre-Victorian burial grounds still exist within central London and most are free to access

The cemeteries provide a glimpse into Victorian London and the churchyards are pleasant places to stop and rest, especially on warm summer days. Here’s a little history about London cemeteries and burial grounds.

click to view map of cemeteries

Highgate Cemetery (St James’s, Highgate)

Famous for the Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Babylon, the old (western) part of Highgate cemetery (St James’s, Highgate) is wonderful to explore.

Access: Unfortunately, it is only accessible via chargeable guided tours, but these take place daily.
Map and Street Views
Nearest underground station: Archway

Kensal Green cemetery (General Cemetery of All Souls)

The first of the commercial cemeteries in London, General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green is still owned by the original company that established it.

Access: Open every day, chargeable guided tours also available
Map and Street Views
Nearest underground stations: Kensal Green, Ladbroke Grove

Norwood Cemetery (South Metropolitan)

The first burial in South Metropolitan Cemetery, Norwood was in 1837 and by 1966 the cemetery was full. People buried include Tate (of Tate Gallery fame).

Access: Open every day, guided tours available
Map and Street Views
Nearest railway station: West Norwood

Nunhead Cemetery (All Saints)

Nunhead cemetery (All Saints) contains a memorial to five Scottish martyrs. The cemetery was closed in 1969 but is now open again for burials.

Open: Open daily, and open days advertised on Friends website
Map and Street Views
Nearest railway station: Nunhead

Stoke Newington Cemetery (Abney Park)

Around a third of those buried in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington were non conformists – permission to have it consecrated was refused.

Access: as it is a public park, it is open daily
Nearest underground station: Angel (then bus)

Brompton Cemetery

The first cemetery under state control, Brompton cemetery is these days popular with filmmakers.

Access: as it is a public park, it is open daily
Map and Street Views
Nearest underground station: West Brompton

Crossbones Graveyard

crossbones graveyard

Cross Bones graveyard was the final resting place for many of Bankside’s medieval prostitutes, commonly known as “Winchester Geese”. The site itself has now become a shrine to the poor of London.

Stow, in his Survey of London in 1603, describes the burial site as being appointed to single women forbidden the rites of the church so long as they continued a sinful life. However, by Victorian times, when the area was stricken by poverty and disease, the site was used as a pauper’s burial ground.

Archaeological digs for the Jubilee Line extension uncovered evidence of a highly overcrowded graveyard with bodies piled on top of each other, and tests have shown that many of the bodies are of women and children with diseases ranging from smallpox and TB to vitamin D deficiency.

The graveyard was finally closed in 1853 on the grounds that it was ‘completely overcharged with dead’ and that further burials were ‘inconsistent with a due regard for the public health and public decency’.

Map and Street Views
Nearest underground station: London Bridge

Bunhill Fields

This burial ground was created for use in the Great Plague of 1665. However, it was not used for the burial of plague victims.

Instead it became the final resting place of non conformists – those who practised religions other than Church of England. John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe and William Blake are buried here.

It’s a pleasant place to stop and rest and there are many cafes in nearby streets.

Map and Street Views
Nearest underground station: Old Street

Bethlem Churchyard

The area of Broadgate in the City of London marks the general vicinity of Bethlem Churchyard (New Ground), London’s first cemetery.

Established in 1569 on land belonging to the Bethlem Hospital, it was available to parishes who needed extra burial space, not only for plague victims, and continued to be used until 1720.

The area was recently re-developed and parts of the cemetery were excavated by Museum of London archaeologists, with many skeletons being exhumed.

Nearest underground stations: Moorgate, Liverpool Street

Postman’s Park

Though the park opened in 1880, it was the seventeenth century burial ground for Christ Church, Newgate Street.

Since 1900 it has been a national memorial to heroic ordinary Londoners who died in acts of bravery.

Many Londoners continue to visit it, especially during their lunch breaks on sunny days.

Map and Street Views
Nearest underground station: Barbican

Charterhouse Square

The area between Charterhouse Street and Clerkenwell Road in Smithfield marks the site of one of London’s earliest plague pits, which was established in 1348 for victims of the Black Death.

The area now includes shops, cafes, bars and parts of the University of London.

Nearest underground station: Barbican

St Laurence Pountney

This church yard is an example of the practice following the Great Fire in 1666 of extending church yards to include the sites of churches which were destroyed in the fire, in order to have more burial space.

The north yard is the site of the church.

Nearest underground station: Cannon Street

St Dunstan’s in the East

This peaceful church yard in Lower Thames Street belonged to St Dunstans in the East church, which was built around 1100 and severely damaged in the Great Fire in 1666.

Its a pleasant place to rest, shielded from the noise of London’s busy nearby streets.

Map and Street Views
Nearest underground stations: Tower Hill, Monument