The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2002
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.westminster.gov.uk
Site on English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, for Register Entry see http://list.english-heritage.org.uk
The cemetery was built on 25 acres of sloping land to the north of what is now Hampstead Garden Suburb (q.v.), which was purchased by the Burial Board of the Parish of St Marylebone; until mid C19th the site was rural, part of it belonging to Newmarket Farm. In January 1854 the Board held a competition for the design of a new cemetery, which was won by Barnett and Birch Ltd, architects, who produced two ragstone chapels, lodge and entrance building, to a budget of £15,000. On 13 March 1855 St Marylebone Cemetery was consecrated by the Bishop of London, the first interment taking place the following day. Near the entrance two cedars were planted in 1856 with other trees and shrubs planted within the semi-circular area of the entrance drive, flanking the avenues, and throughout the cemetery and include numerous evergreens, conifers and oaks. The C19th layout is largely intact today; there were three main avenues, a straight one flanked by two curving ones to form an oval circuit at the north of which the Decorated Gothic Church of England Chapel was built; at the south of the oval, the 3 avenues continued as parallel linear drives, West, Central and East Avenues, connected by Southern Avenue running west/east. South of the oval circuit and on the western side of the original cemetery the smaller and less elaborate Non-Conformist chapel was built; the unconsecrated land that surrounds it was originally divided from the rest of the cemetery by an ornamental post and chain fence, which was removed in the C20th.
In 1893 the cemetery land was extended to the west by 6 ha. but this was only laid out in the 1930s and had a square grid plan with formal arrangements of graves within garden areas. In 1937, the new St Marylebone Crematorium was built in the south west corner of the extension with an Italianate red brick chapel and two octagonal gate-houses at its separate entrance in the north-west corner, designed by Sir Edwin Cooper for the Borough of St Marylebone; Sir Edwin was later buried in the cemetery in 1942. The Crematorium was opened by Councillor G B Ramsay. To the south of crematorium an area of lawn graves and Willow Tree Gardens, an informal memorial garden, were created in the later C20th. The drive leading north along the east side of the crematorium ends at a war memorial near the northern boundary of the cemetery.
In 1965 the Borough of St Marylebone, then managing the cemetery, was incorporated into the City of Westminster and the cemetery was renamed East Finchley Cemetery and administered by Westminster City Council. In 1987 WCC controversially sold this and its two other cemeteries, Mill Hill and Westminster (q.q.v) to private developers for 15p, in order to pass on the £400,000 maintenance costs. All three cemeteries were immediately sold on and became much neglected. In 1988, following public outcry particularly by relatives of the deceased, the Ombudsman ruled that WCC had to buy back the cemeteries, but the price then asked was c. £10million. However, it was later ruled that WCC had had no powers to sell in the first place so the original sale was void. In 1992 WCC bought back all three cemeteries. WCC continues to own the cemetery although St Marylebone Crematorium is privately owned.
The cemetery, catering largely for the affluent middle-classes, has numerous important monuments. These include the Glenesk Mausoleum at the southern end of the original oval circuit, designed in 1899 by Sir Arthur Blomfield for Lord Glenesk (d.1908), editor and proprietor of The Morning Post, Conservative MP and a friend of Napoleon III. Generally positioned at main junctions of the avenues there are a number of fine Edwardian monuments dating from the early C20th, a number of which incorporate bronze sculptures such as the bronze draped figure of a mourner on a granite plinth by Sir William Reid-Dick, c.1914, commemorating Harry Ripley; opposite this is a bronze draped Roman figure on a sarcophagus to Thomas Tate by F Lynn Jenkins, c.1909. Near the Church of England chapel is the Australian engineer Sir Peter Nicol Russell's monument by Sir Edgar MacKennal featuring an angel ane a life-size figure of a young engineer; Russell founded and endowed the School of Engineering in Sydney. Other important monuments include that of the operatic composer, Sir Henry Bishop (d.1855), a pink granite monument with a bronze portrait medallion; and Edwin Lutyens's stone screen monument to the Harmsworth Family, which commemorates Sir Robert Harmsworth, newspaper publisher (d.1937) and Cecil, 1st Lord Harmsworth (d.1948), both Liberal MPs. Others buried here include Lord Northcliffe, founder of The Daily Mail; Sir Joseph Chamberlain, brother of Neville Chamberlain; Sir George Hayter, Queen Victoria's painter; Heath Robinson, artist cartoonist who lived in Pinner; Amazonian explorer Henry Bates (d.1892); the writer Sir Edmund Gosse (d.1928); Dame Fanny Houston (d.1936), supporter of women's suffrage, one of the first five Dame Commanders of the British Empire, and founder of the Rest Home for Tired Nurses during World War I; Matile Verne (d.1936) pianist and music teacher to HM the Queen Mother; the ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky (d.1950) whose body was later re-interred in Montmartre in Paris; and Jimmy Nervo (d.1975), music hall artist and member of the Crazy Gang.
EH Register update 1998; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); Arthur Mee 'The King's England: London North of the Thames except the City and Westminster' (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1972); WCC East Finchley Cemetery leaflet; Hugh Meller & Brian Parsons, 'London Cemeteries, An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer', 4th edition (The History Press, 2008), p298-304