Saturday 13 December 2014

mausoleum of Harvey Lewis, (c.1854) Brompton cemetery, London

John Harvey Lewis (1814-1888) was born in Ireland and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was called to the bar in Ireland in 1838 but relinquished practice in 1850, becoming High Sheriff of Co. Kildare in 1857. He was the Liberal Member of Parliament for Marylebone from 1861 to 1874, under Prime Ministers Palmerston, Disraeli and Gladstone. His first wife Emily Owen Lewis, whom he married in 1840, died in 1850 at the age of 36. Her body was placed in a vault in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin and later re-buried in the mausoleum at Brompton Cemetery in November 1854.

Brompton Cemetery was one of the 'magnificent seven' privately-run burial grounds established in the 1830s and 1840s to relieve pressure on London's overcrowded churchyards. It was laid out in 1839-1844 to designs by the architect Benjamin B Baud, who devised a classical landscape of axial drives and vistas with rond-points at the intersections marked by mausolea or ornamental planting, the latter devised by Isaac Finnemore with advice from J C Loudon. The main Ceremonial Way culminates in a dramatic architectural ensemble recalling Bernini's piazza in front of St Peter's in Rome, with flanking colonnades curving outwards to form a Great Circle, closed at its southern end in a domed Anglican chapel (the planned Catholic and Nonconformist chapels were omitted for financial reasons). The cemetery, never a commercial success, was compulsorily purchased by the General Board of Health in the early 1850s, and has remained in state ownership ever since.