Memorials are works of art as well as history, embodying the taste and priorities of their day. And London's many cemeteries combine memorials with pastoral retreat. All have a tale to tell and are worth a visit.
OUR FAVOURITE MEMORIALS
Albert Memorial. Westminster. Commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband Prince Albert, who died of typhoid in 1862 at the age of 42. More info.
Cleopatra's Needle. Westminster. Erected in Egypt in about 1450 BC, this 69 foot obelisk in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan. Lives were lost in its transport. More info.
Highgate Cemetery. Opened in 1839 the cemetery is set on a spectacular south-facing hillside site. Notable occupants include Ralph Richardson, and Karl Marx. More info.
Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. This moving memorial, near St. Paul's Cathedral, commemorates ordinary people who died saving the lives of others. More info.
Monument. The Monument to the Great Fire, designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke with viewing platform and gilded flames atop, was completed in 1677. More info.
Nelson's Column. Built in 1843 to commemorate Admiral Nelson who died during victory over the French and Spanish at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. More info.
Royal Artillery Memorial. The masterpiece of the sculptor Charles Sergeant Jagger, who had himself served as an infantryman in the First World War. More info.
Victoria Memorial. Designed by Thomas Brock to commemorate Queen Victoria and completed in 1924. Atop the memorial is a gilden bronze Winged Victory. More info.
LIST OF MEMORIALS
7 July Memorial. Westminster. Designed by architects Carmody Groarke, and set beside a new path in Hyde Park, the 7 July memorial provides a place for contemplation of the worst terrorist attack in London. 52 stainless steel cast vertical pillars, each weighting 850 kg, commemorate each victim. They are arranged in four interlinked clusters representing the four locations of the 2005 bombings, with the public encouraged to walk between them. More info. See on map.
Albert Memorial. Westminster. Commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband Prince Albert, who died of typhoid in 1862 at the age of 42. Designed by George Gilbert Scott, It is 176 feet tall, standing in Kensington Gardens opposite the Royal Albert Hall. A gilt bronze statue of Prince Albert sits under an elaborate gothic canopy. More info.
Animals in War Memorial. Westminster. Commemorates animals killed alongside allied forces in 20th century conflicts. In the First World War alone more than 8 million horses died. Opened in 2004 at Brook Gate, Park Lane, on the east side of Hyde Park. The £2m cost was raised by public appeal, with substantial contributions from Paul Mellon and the Duke of Westminster. Constructed in Portland stone and bronze, the memorial was designed by David Backhouse. More info. See on map.
Australian War Memorial. Westminster. One of a group of war memorials on the green space just to the south of Hyde Park Corner. Openied in 2003, it commemorates the 102,000 Australian dead of the First and Second World Wars. It comprises a semi-circular curved wall of grey-green granite slabs from Western Australia. The wall is inscribed with the names of the 23,844 towns in which those commemmorated were born. Designed by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer architects. More info. See on map.
Bomber Command Memorial. Westminster. Set at the western end of Green Park, this somewhat controversial memorial commemorates the 55,573 bomber aircrew who died in the Second World War, and the civilians who died in bombing raids. At the heart of the memorial, and open to the sky, is a bronze sculpture of a Bomber Command aircrew. The design of the roof incorporates sectons of aluminium recovered from a Handley Page III bomber shot down over Belgium in 1944. More info. See on map.
Canada Memorial. Westminster. Set in Green Park, this 1994 memorial to the Canadian dead in the First and Second World Wars was designed by Canadian sculptor Pierre Granche. Made from red granite, the memorial is in two halves, sympolising Cananda and the UK. Its inclined surfaces are inset with bronze maple leaves, with water flowing over. Fund raising was spearheaded by the now disgraced Canadian financier and newspaper proprietor Conrad Black. More info. See on map.
Cenotaph, Whitehall. Westminster. Designed by Edwin Lutyens, this was originally a temporary wood and plaster structure erected for a peace parade following the end of the First World War. It was replaced in 1920 by a permanent structure built of Portland stone which was designated as the UK's official national war memorial. It is inscribed with the dates of the First World War and the words 'The Glorious Dead'. The memorial, with no triumphant sculpture, is notable for its restraint. A remembrance service is held at the Cenotaph every year on the Sunday closest to November 11th (Armistice Day). More info. See on map.
Churchill Statue. Westminster. Unveiled in 1973 and designed by Ivor Roberts-Jones, the statue is 12 feet high, standing on a 8 foot plinth. Wearing a military greatcoat, Churchill rests his hand on his walking stick. A proposal to deter pigeons by inserting pins standing out of the statue's head was turned down in the 1970s. Instead an electric current is believed to be passed through the statue. The commissioning commitee were concerned that an early version resembled Mussolini, and the sculptor accordingly agreed to reduce the dome of the head. More info. See on map.
Cleopatra's Needle. Westminster. Erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis in about 1450 BC, this 69 foot obelisk was given to the UK in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan. Lives were lost in its transport. More info.
Commonwealth Memorial Gates. Westminster. Located at the Hyde Park Corner end of Constitution Hill, this memorial was inaugurated in 2002. It commemorates the five million Commonwealth volunteeers from the Indian sub-continent, Africa, and the Caribbean who found with Britain in the two world wars. It carries an inscription 'Our Future is Greater than Our Past' by Nigerian poet Ben Okri. 62 recipients of the Victoria Cross are remembered. More info. See on map.
Hartley Obelisk. Wandsworth. David Hartley repeatedly set fire to his experimental fireproof house (patented in 1773) on this spot. Celebrity guests, including George III and his wife Caroline, were suitably impressed. More info.
Kindertransport Statue. City of London. In the forecourt of Liverpool Street Station, this commemorates the 10,000 Jewish children, fleeing from persecution, who arrived at the station in 1938 and 1939. Unveiled in 2006, the statue depicts a group of five children with their few possessions, and with identity tags around their necks. The sculptor was Frank Meisler, who was himself brought to London from Germany as a child through the Kindertransport scheme. More info. See on map.
Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. City of London. Situated in the tiny Postman's Park, close to St. Paul's Cathedral, this moving memorial commemorates ordinary people who died saving the lives of others. Unveiled in 1900, it was the brainchild of the painter George Frederic Watts. More info.
Monument. City of London. The Monument to the Great Fire of London, designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, was completed in 1677. It is a Doric column 202 feet tall crowned with a gilded urn of fire, 202 feet from the spot in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started in 1666. The viewing platform is reached by a spiral staircase of 311 steps. More info.
Nelson's Column. Westminster. Built in 1843 to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson who died victorious at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Designed by William Railton, it is a Corinthian column, 169 feet tall from the base of the plinth to the top of Nelson's hat. The four enormous bronze lions at its base were designed by Edwin Landseer and added in 1867. More info.
Royal Artillery Memorial. Westminster. Regarded as second only to the Cenotaph as a war memorial which is a supreme work of art. The masterpiece of the sculptor Charles Sergeant Jagger, who had himself served as an infantryman in the First World War, and architect Lionel Pearson. A life size howitzer gun is carved in stone, with five bronze artillerymen below. More info.
Victoria Memorial. Westminster. Designed by Thomas Brock to commemorate Queen Victoria and completed in 1924. It features a massive enthroned statue of Queen Victoria. Atop the memorial is a gilden bronze Winged Victory. Other statues depict Constancy, Courage, Motherhood, Justice, Truth, Peace, Progress, Agriculture, and Manufacture. More info.
Women of World War II Memorial. Westminster. Erected in 2005. The initiative of retired Major David McNally Robertson, funds were raised with the support of Baroness Boothroyd, Vera Lynn and the Princess Royal. The bronze monument, sculpted by John Mills, stands 22 feet tall with sculptures of 17 sets of clothing around the sides - representing the hundreds of different jobs women undertook during the Second World War. The unveiling included a flypast of five military helicopters flown by all female crews. More info. See on map.
Abney Park, Stoke Newington. Hackney. Created in 1840 as a model non-denominational garden cemetery on former parkland laid out in the 18th century by Lady Mary Abney (whose husband was Lord Mayor of London) and Dr. Isaac Watts. Notable occupants include William and Catherine Booth, the founders of the Salvation Army. The cemetery is a popular place to visit, with a range of educational, training and cultural events including an annual summer open day. It is a designated Local Nature Reserve. More info. See on map.
Brompton Cemetery. Kensington & Chelsea. One of London's Magnificent Seven garden cemeteries, built in a ring around the capital in the 1830s to ease the city's overcrowded graveyards and provide public green space. In Fulham Road, it is managed by the Royal Parks. Among trees and wildlife it houses 35,000 gravestones, stone arcades, catacombs and a chapel. Notable occupants include the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, gentleman boxer John Jackson, and cricketer John Wisden. More info. See on map.
Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries. Lewisham. Established in 1858, the 37 acres of cemetery are a haven for wildlife, plants, and wild flowers. They are managed by the London Borough of Lewisham. Connections with nearby Deptford's seafaring past are evident in many of the tombstones. Notable occupants include: George Grove, the first Director of the Royal College of Music, and the war poet and artist David Jones. More info. See on map.
Bunhill Fields Burial Ground. Islington. A former burial ground, now owned and managed as a park by the City of London Corporation. In use for burials from 1665 to 1854 by which date 123,000 burials had taken place. Over 2,000 monuments remain. It was non-denominational, and popular with nonconformists. Notable occupants include the authors John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, and William Blake. Nearby is a separate Quaker burial ground, whose occupants include George Fox, one of the founders of the Quaker movement. More info. See on map.
Highgate Cemetery. Haringey. Opened in 1839 the cemetery is set on a spectacular south-facing hillside site. Notable occupants include Sidney Nolan, Ralph Richardson, and Karl Marx. The grounds, which were much neglected, are full of trees, shrubbery and wild flowers, and have become a haven for wildlife. Admission at the modest cost of £4 we deem to be virtually free. More info.
Hyde Park Pet Cemetery. Westminster. On their frequest visits to Hyde Park, Mr and Mrs Lewis Barned befriended gatekeeper Mr Winbridge. When their beloved terrier Cherry died of old age in 1881, Winbridge agreed to bury Cherry in the garden of his gatekeeper's lodge. Next to be buried there was Prince, a terrier owned by the Duke of Cambridge. By the time cemetery closed in 1903, 300 pets had been buried there. The tiny tombstones can be glimpsed through railings. More info. See on map.
Kensal Green Cemetery. Kensington & Chelsea. Founded in 1833 by barrister George Carden, the cemetery covers 72 acres including two conservation areas (home to at least 33 species of wildlife) and the banks of a canal. Carden modelled it on the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Notable occupants include Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the conductor Sir John Barbirolli, author Wilkie Collins, and playwright Terence Rattigan. More info. See on map.
Nunhead Cemetery. Southwark. Consecrated in 1840, by the middle of the 20th century the cemetery was nearly full and was abandoned by the United Cemetery Company. The neglected cemetery changed gradually from lawn to meadow and eventually to woodland. It is now a Local Nature Reserve with a population of woodpeckers and tawny owls. The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery was formed in the 1980s to renovate and protect the cemetery. A major restoration was undertaken in 2001 with Heritage Lottery funding. More info. See on map.
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery Company created the 27 acre cemetery in 1841. Its prosperous directors included a corn merchant, a ship owner, a timber merchant, and the Lord Mayor of London. The cemetery, now a woodland nature reserve, comprised a consecreated part for Anglican burials and an unconsecrated part for all other denominations. It contains the Blitz Memorial, commemorating those who died in the bombing of London during the Second World War; this is made out of bricks from properties damaged in the Blitz. More info. See on map.
West Norwood Cemetery. Lambeth. Established in 1837, this is reckoned to contain the finest collection of sepulchral monuments in London, including 69 listed buildings and structures graded Grade I or II. It contains a crematorium, a memorial garden, and a chapel on top of a gently rolling hill with views across south London. Railings and walls were kept high to dispel fears of body snatchers. Among the occupants are many inventors, engineers, architects and builders, including Sir Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the automatic machine gun. More info. See on map.