Christopher J Osborne

London's Magnificent 7 Cemeteries

In the early 19th century London's inner city cemeteries were becoming over-crowded to the extent that they were causing concerns for public health, and in 1832 the UK passed an act of parliament encouraging the establishment of new private commercial cemeteries away from the city centre.

Over the next decade or so 7 were established in what were then outer suburban locations. They became known as garden cemeteries due to their lush and verdant landscaping. They quickly became fashionable places to be buried and they are full of famous names.

In 1981 the architectural historian Hugh Meller coined the term "The Magnificent Seven" (after the 1960 western film of the same name) to refer to the cemeteries and the name stuck.

In 2015 I decided to explore my hidden goth depths and embark on a personal project to document all these cemeteries. Over several years I visited 1 or 2 Magnificent 7 cemeteries everytime I visited London. It took me until 2019 to complete the project. Most of these photographs were taken using an Olympus M4/3s or a FujiFilm XE-1 camera and they were all shot using vintage Olympus Pen F half-frame lenses from the 1960s. The great majority were shot with the Olympus Pen F 40mm f/1.4 with a few shot on other lenses including the 20mm f/3.5 and 60mm f/1.5. All the images were shot with the lens wide open to give them a soft look with shallow depth-of-field.

These images also formed the basis for a set of Polaroid emulsion lift prints which went on to become my Royal Photograph Society Associateship portfolio.

Given that there are 7 of these cemeteries you might be wondering why there are 8 galleries! Well, the most famous Magnificent 7 cemetery is HIghGate which is divided into two: East and West, and I have treated them as separate cemeteries for the purpose of these galleries.