In the first 50 years of the 19th century London’s population more than doubled from 1 million to 2.3 million. With the increased population came the added problem of what to do with the dead. The parish churches graveyards had become dangerously overcrowded and there were incidents of decaying matter from overcrowded graveyards getting into the drinking water supply and causing epidemics.
The answer was to create more private cemeteries outside central London. In 1832 Parliament passed an act encouraging such cemeteries. Over the following decade seven new cemeteries were established. These were Kensal Green (1833), West Norwood (1837), Highgate 1839-1860), Abney Park (1840), Brompton (1840), Nunhead (1840) and Tower Hamlets (1841).
Looking for a location for a walk with the London Film Photography group on Meetup I thought a cemetery might be good for some atmospheric images. It might seem a bit morbid to some but our old cemeteries are a great location for statues and textures on the graves. They can even be quite good for some nature shots.
So, this month we set off firstly to Brompton Cemetery. Designed by Benjamin Baud, it was designed to be an open air cathedral with an impressive central colonnade leading to a domed Chapel. Not the oldest but the 39 acres is full of monumental statuary and is the resting place for the suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst and public health pioneer John Snow to name a few. They also have a nice little cafe at the North Lodge entrance.
The weather held out for us with just a few spots of rain but it did mean we had some interesting cloud in the sky.
The equipment that I used was my Olympus OM2n and the Zuiko 135mm f2.8 lens and the Zuiko 35-105 f3.5 lens. I started off with the film that was already in the camera, a Fomapan 200, which proved to be a bit slow for the overcast weather. I also had with me a roll of Ilford HP5+ and a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 Pro. I was keen to try out the Delta 3200 and shoot it at 1600 iso as I thought the graininess of this fast film would suit the subject matter. It would also mean that I could use a filter on the lens to improve the sky rendition and the contrast. As I was using a telephoto lens I also wanted a fairly fast shutter speed. Al the imags in this article are shot on the Ilford Delta 3200, shot at 1600 and developed in Rodinal for 28 minutes at 20 deg c.
We spent an hour and a half at Brompton which proved to be not long enough to explore the 39 acres so it looks like we will have to go back again.
After lunch at the North Lodge cafe we set off further north for Kensal Green cemetery.
Built in 1833, Kensal Green is the oldest of the public cemeteries now known as the Magnificient Seven and includes in its now the resting place of HRH Duke of Sussex and his sister Princess Sophia. At it’s heart is the Greek Revival Anglican Chapel and the landscape includes 161 designated monuments and other structures.
We spent another hour and a half at Kensal Green but again this proved to be not long enough to explore a lot of it’s 77 acres of grounds. We ended our tour by going to a local pub before wending our various ways home after a very nice day.