Cemetery of the Week #112: Golders Green Crematorium

Exterior of the crematorium. Photo ©  Carole Tyrrell.

Exterior of the crematorium. Photo © Carole Tyrrell.

Golders Green Crematorium
aka Golders Green Memorial Gardens
Hoop Lane, off the Finchley Road
London, England NW11 7NL
Telephone: +44 20 8455 2374
Founded: 1902
Size: 12 acres
Number of cremations performed: 323,500+
Open: Winter hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Summer hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

One of the oldest crematories in England and the oldest in London, Golders Green may also be the best-known crematorium in the world. Over the years, many famous people have chosen to be cremated there. Some remain there in urns in the columbarium or beneath rosebushes in the garden.

Golders Green is the name of the once largely Jewish neighborhood. The Crematorium stands across from a Jewish cemetery, but accepts all denominations. An estimated 2000 people are cremated there each year.

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Inside the cloisters. Photo © Carole Tyrrell.

Cremation was legalized in Britain in 1884. For the first 17 years, Londoners had to travel by rail to be cremated in Surrey. After Queen Victoria died in 1901, her surgeon Sir Henry Thompson – also president of the Cremation Society – opened Golders Green the following year.

The redbrick crematorium was built in an Italianate style with a large tower that hides its chimney. It was built in stages as money became available. The current crematorium was completed in 1939. Its three columbaria contain the ashes of thousands of Londoners.

The 12-acre garden contains several large tombs, two ponds with a bridge, and a large crocus lawn. Apparently, that’s quite spectacular in early springtime.

In addition to the columbaria, there are two cremation chapels and a chapel of remembrance. On almost every wall, says London Cemeteries, there are commemorative tablets. The earliest ones hang on the cloister walls.

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My hero. Photo © Carole Tyrrell.

A different book called London’s Cemeteries says Golders Green is “the place to go for after-life star-spotting.” Among the people cremated here whose ashes were either scattered here or placed in the columbaria: Kingsley Amis, children’s author Enid Blyton, Marc Bolan, Sigmund Freud with his wife and daughter, Rocky Horror’s narrator Charles Gray, Who drummer Keith Moon, playwright Joe Orton (whose ashes were combined with those of his murderous lover Kenneth Halliwell), ballerina Anna Pavlova, actor Peter Sellers, Bram Stoker.

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Sigmund Freud’s urn and pillar. Photo © Carole Tyrrell.

Many more have been cremated here, but their ashes were either scattered or enshrined elsewhere. Among these are England’s Prime minister Neville Chamberlain (Westminster Abbey), poets Rudyard Kipling (also Westminster) and TS Eliot (Church of St. Michael, Somerset), and the writers Henry James (Cambridge Cemetery) and HG Wells (scattered off the coast of Dorset).

Maps are available from the office and reports are that the staff is very helpful in finding a specific location. The columbaria are now locked, although they can still be visited with a guide. It seems there is also a tearoom, but I haven’t been able to turn up any information about its hours. There’s a photo of it on foursquare.

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Anna Pavlova’s marble urn. Photo © Carole Tyrrell.

For Darren Beach, author of London’s Cemeteries, “the Golders Green Memorial Gardens are among the most spiritually satisfying places in London…It could be the tranquility inspired by the sheer geometry of the place – the chapels surrounded by arched brickwork form a kind of eerie coastline to the oceans of gardens beyond.”

Extra special thanks to Carole, for lending me her beautiful photographs!

Useful links:
London Cemeteries page on Golders Green

The English Heritage listing for Golders Green

European Union Crematoria page on Golders Green

A list of the people remembered there

Information on the War Memorial at Golders Green

Video of one of the Marc Bolan remembrances

Website of the nearby Jewish cemetery

More about cremation on Cemetery Travel:

Roman Cremation in Pompeii

A Brief History of Cremation in the US

A tour of a crematorium

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About Loren Rhoads

I am the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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2 Responses to Cemetery of the Week #112: Golders Green Crematorium

  1. coastalcrone says:

    I want to visit this one if I ever get back to London.

  2. Nicole says:

    Wow! This would be great to see in person – hopefully I get to London soon!

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