Life and Death in Hampstead Sound Trail 

As part of a major conservation project for Camden's Hampstead Parish Churchyard which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, a special education resource was also created - an audio exploration of the stories of some of the people who are buried at Saint-John-at-Hampstead.

The Life and Death in Hampstead Sound Trail has collected extracts from over forty recorded interviews with direct descendants and family members, as well as academics and experts, offering a unique biography of some of the well-known (such as painter John Constable, inventor John Harrison and actress Kay Kendall), and the almost forgotten (from poets to servants to chimney sweeps), who have been buried at Saint John's since around 1745, when the medieval church building was pulled down and replaced by the present church.

The Sound Trail is designed to add a new dimension to the written histories of this remarkable and picturesque place, whose original churchyard is the oldest surviving unspoiled churchyard in the centre of greater London. This was officially closed in 1878, but in 1812, an additional burial ground was created on the other side of Church Row, using a grid pattern with the majority of the headstones facing east (so that at the general resurrection at the end of time, they could rise and face Christ returning in the east at Jerusalem). This too is now closed for burials, but it continues to be used for post-cremation memorials at the Columbarium, a cloistered site with an adjacent ashes plot, which is situated in the north-east corner.

You can listen to the audio by choosing an entry in the list of names on the left hand side of the Sound Trail map, and then clicking the 'Listen to interview' prompt in the pop-up box. Accompanying the recordings are full transcripts of the interview extracts, and a further collection of texts about many other fascinating people buried in the two churchyards. A full collection of all the Life and Death in Hampstead interviews are held by the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre at Holborn Library.


The Life and Death in Hampstead Sound Trail was researched and compiled for Camden Council by Alan Dein and Robert Wilkinson.

A special thank-you to:

Honia Devlin, former Project Officer, Culture and Environment, London Borough of Camden, for all her vital input into the development of the project.

Peter Spurgeon, Corporate GIS Manager, London Borough of Camden, for designing and building the webpage.

Pascal Johnson, GIS Assistant Designer, London Borough of Camden, for his 3D photographs of the tombs and gravestones.

Judy East, Saint-John-at-Hampstead

Christopher Wade, whose book 'Buried in Hampstead' published by the Camden History Society, is the definitive guide to the monuments at Saint-John-at-Hampstead

Roger Bowdler, Designation Director, English Heritage

Dr Christine Pullen, for writing the biographies of several of the individuals buried at Saint John's

Jon Calver, audio production

John Weller, Website editor, London Borough of Camden

Alasdair Mangham, Head of Information Systems, London Borough of Camden

Kate Mitchell, Nature Conservation Officer, London Borough of Camden

Tudor Allen, Senior Officer, Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre

Ben Genovese, former Nature Conservation Education & Events Officer, Camden

The Junior Choir, Saint-John-at-Hampstead, for singing Morning Has Broken

...and especially to everyone who kindly shared their time to be interviewed by us for the project.