In the early 1870’s when it became apparent that the parish burial ground at St. John’s, Hampstead would prove insufficient to meet the needs of a growing population, the local authority decided a new cemetery was needed. The Hampstead Burial Board met in April 1873 and after considering several sites, settled on a 20 acre plot adjoining Fortune Green which they bought for £7,000 in February 1874. After the landscaping and the main buildings were completed the Bishop of London formally consecrated the cemetery in November 1876. The site was extended in 1901 by the purchase of a further five acres of land along its northern boundary.
The laying out and planting of the grounds cost £2,500 and was carried out by Joseph Fyfe Meston, probably the most important landscape gardener working in London at the time. A number of greenhouses were built to provide plants for the cemetery but these were demolished in the 1970’s and their site used for the Fortune Green Playspace.
The Gothic-style chapels and the entry lodge were designed by Charles Bell (who is buried in the cemetery.) Made of Kentish Rag and Bath stone, the twin chapels cost £4,843 and they are now listed buildings. Key features include an open beam roof and stone corbels while the design of the exterior stone finials was echoed in the original supports for the front gates and railings. The southern chapel was used for those to be buried in consecrated ground south of the main avenue; the other chapel was for burials in the unconsecrated ground to the north. The stained glass windows, designed by local artist John Dudley Forsyth, were added in 1903. The railings along the front wall on Fortune Green Road were removed during World War Two, to recycle the metal for use in shells and other armaments. They were replaced as part of a Lottery Award to improve the whole site.
Today there are over 60,000 people buried at Hampstead Cemetery and there is no space for new burials. The cemetery is very attractive with a wide variety of trees, including a large cedar and weeping willow and there is plenty of wildlife. There are many interesting graves and statues, such as those for Frankau, Wilson, Bianchi and Barritt, which English Heritage has recognised and included in a list of 18 monuments.
While there are no new grave spaces available, there is an area for cremated remains to behind the Bianchi Memorial.
The cemetery is managed by Islington and Camden Cemetery Service