Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Day in London: Brompton Cemetery to Museums

Let's face it: London is expensive. However, it is possible to spend a whole day going to interesting and free places (well excluding Tube and food). This trip includes roughly a 2 mile walk thru Chelsea/Kensington from a Victorian Cemetery to the famous 3 museums in South Kensington. See the route we took below:

View Brompton Cemetery to Kensington in a larger map

Brompton Cemetery is easily accessible from Earls Court , West Brompton, or Fulham Broadway tube stops. Originally created to help cope with the sudden increase in population (and therefore deaths) in London, it was opened in 1840 and houses over 35,000 monuments. Remember that Brompton was considered on the outskirts of London back in those days, so placing a cemetery there seemed a great idea to help with the dirge of disease and hazards of overcrowded cemeteries in Central London.

We started at Earl's Court (and were greeted by a TARDIS... a good sign!) and made our way to the North Gate of the cemetery. The day was cloudy and there was a chill in the air-- perfect for cemetery walking. There are rows upon rows of gravestones and tombs, many overgrown with years of neglect. However, it added to the solemness and ambiance of the place, and there were some freshly laid flowers on some to assure us that the dead have not all been forgotten.

From Wikipedia
Brompton does have its A-list of celebrities. I was excited to see that John Snow was buried here. John Snow was an anesthetist (he actually administered anesthesia to Queen Victoria when she was in labor) and epidemiologist, and his major claim to fame was linking cholera to the water supplies in the city. Thanks to his work, London began to build better sewage systems (thus giving us the Albert and Victoria Embankments), and making cholera a disease of the past. In doing so he also revolutionised mapping techniques (ie mapping poverty areas to areas of disease) . I highly recommend reading The Ghost Map if any of that sounds vaguely interesting. :)

Beatrix Potter lived close to the cemetery and actually used some of the names from the gravestones in her stories. So although not famous in life- Mr. Nutkins, Mr. McGregor, and even Peter Rabbett- became famous in death. 

Walking thru the cemetery itself is impressive, and even more so when you get to the crypts. These were recently made famous by the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movie, as it was where Lord Blackwood was laid to rest (or was he?? dun dun duuun).

Emerging from the South Gate, one has all sorts of options. Football (soccer) fans can head right and see Stamford Bridge, home of the Chelsea Football Club. We headed left on Fulham Road towards the museums. Along Fulham Road are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants in case you have built up an appetite. I recommend Goat In Boots, a pub with a decent list of ales and interesting food selection.

Our walk took us past St. Augustine's Church, which was built in 1876 (keeping with the Victorian theme here) and is a lovely building both inside and out. I highly recommend stopping to snap a few photos!

A few minutes later we made to 'Museum Lane'. This road houses three great (and free!) museums. The Natural History, Science, and Victoria & Albert Art Museums can keep anyone busy for hours, making it a great way to spend the rest of a gloomy day. Be careful though you may have to queue as others may have the same idea!

If the queues are too long (or its too nice a day to be indoors), you are a few blocks south from Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.  Best way to see them both? Rent a Boris Bike!

The South Kensington Tube stop is close by, allowing you to get to wherever you need to go after a long day of some amazing, free, London sights.

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