Monday, 15 July 2013

London' s Brompton Cemetery records now online at DeceasedOnline

On 20th June, I was fortunate enough to be invited, by DeceasedOnline, to the launch of the Brompton Cemetery's burial records online. 

The Chapel and some monuments at the Brompton Cemetery
The event was very well attended, with the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea making the welcome address. The Friends of Brompton Cemetery, the media including the BBC, and numerous genealogists and historians, were all present, including genealogist Nick Barratt, who gave a talk about the importance of death records for family history research. There was also a special guest, Janet Ellis, a keen family historian, who had found her ancestors' burial records at the Brompton Cemetery within minutes of them going online at Deceased Online. You can read her story, which was picked up by the BBC, here.

The Brompton Cemetery was originally set up in 1837, with the first burial taking place in 1840. Originally set up as a private enterprise, it was nationalised 10 years later and is the only cemetery in England to be run by central government. This might explain why the original burial records, along with other records relating to the Brompton Cemetery, are at the National Archives at Kew, and not, as is more often the case with burial records, at a local authority archive.  Originally coming under the auspices of the Board of Works, the Brompton Cemetery is now managed by the Royal Parks

The grave of Emmeline Pankhurst at the Brompton Cemetery
The 39 acre (16 hectares) site lies on the western border of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, between Fulham Road and the Old Brompton Road, next door to Chelsea Football club.  There are 206,000 people buried there, with around 50,000 monuments, and it is still a working cemetery, with 70 - 80 burials a year.  The cemetery was popular with the Military and for those with an international connection.  It is still popular with the Russians and Poles.  Some of the famous people buried here include Emmeline Pankhurst (see photo left), the famous suffragette, Sir Samuel Cunard, and Bernard Levin. In fact, the Find A Grave website lists 92 famous people buried here.

The founder of the Brompton Cemetery was the architect, Stephen Geary, who also founded both the Highgate Cemetery and the Nunhead Cemetery.  These cemeteries, along with Abney Park, Kensal Green, Tower Hamlets and West Norwood, are known as "The Magnificent Seven" cemeteries of London.  They form a ring of suburban garden cemeteries around London, opened between 1833 and 1841 as London was growing in size and traditional parish church burial grounds were overflowing.  

A selection of the monuments at the Brompton Cemetery, London
Deceased Online is in discussion with all of the local authorities responsible for the London Magnificent Seven cemeteries; several were in attendance at the Brompton Cemetery launch party on 21st June, and seemed very keen to look at the Deceased Online website. Let's hope, for the sake of genealogists everywhere, that the talks come to fruition.

The Friends of Brompton Cemetery are very active and their annual Open Day is on Sunday 21st July, where there will be Guided Tours taking place all day. They also offer Guided Tours every Sunday during the summer months and on two Sundays a month during the winter. I strongly recommend a visit if you're in London and have never been.

Personally I was intrigued to find out more about the Brompton Cemetery, as my own gg grandfather, Edward Clifford, the Mathematician who sadly died following a carriage accident on Christmas Eve (which I wrote about here), was actually living in the "hamlet" of Brompton Vale, Kensington, on the night of the 1841 census.  So I thought that he might have also been buried there, even though he actually died in Charing Cross Hospital, Strand.

In the event, I didn't find Edward Clifford in the Brompton Cemetery records, but I did later find that both of his "in-laws", the parents of his "wife" (they never actually married), my gg grandmother, Emma Frances Ray, were buried there:  Stuart and Elizabeth Ray died in 1855 and 1866 respectively.  I already had their death certificates, but it is nice to know where they are buried. Unfortunately I only discovered this after my visit, so I need to go back and look for the graves.    

Deceased Online doesn't just cover London. Their coverage is throughout the UK, including many parts of Scotland.  The London coverage currently include cemeteries in the London Boroughs of Brent, Camden, Harrow, Havering, Islington, Merton and Newham, and the Royal Borough of Greenwich as well as the privately owned Manor Park Cemetery, and now of course, the Brompton Cemetery.  

To use Deceased Online, you need to register as a new user here, all searches are free of charge, and there is a nominal charge to download an actual record.  There are currently no subscription options available.  To search for London records, I suggest using the Advanced Search and selecting "London" in the Region box. Happy Hunting!

Rosemary Morgan
London Roots Research