Golders Green Crematorium
aka Golders Green Memorial Gardens
Hoop Lane, off the Finchley Road
London, England NW11 7NL
Telephone: +44 20 8455 2374
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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