Acton Cemetery

Acton Cemetery rest garden

Where is it?

The site is in North Acton directly adjacent to the A40, a main artery through west London into central London. North Acton station on the central line is approximately five minutes walk from the Chase Road entrance.

Getting there

Acton Cemetery accessibility is quite good, with a main pedestrian and vehicle entrance on Park Royal Road and a pedestrian entrance on Chase Road. The nearest tube station is North Acton station on the Central line. 

Bus: 487 bus stop outside the park entrance on Chase Road.
Tube: North Acton (Central line) is 0.2 miles away. Turn right onto Victoria Road and walk straight, bending slightly to the right to meet Chase Road. Turn right on Chase Road and the entrance is on your left.
Parking: There is no public parking on site but there is ample free parking on the surrounding roads.
Bike/on foot: Step free access at both entrances; Chase Road and Park Royal Road.
The site is open 365 days a year but opening and closing times apply.

Opening times: 8am on weekdays, 9am on weekends

Closing times: Vary throughout the year  

November-February 4.30pm
March 5.30pm
April 7pm
May-August 7.30pm
September 7pm
October 5.30pm

Facilities

  • Seating area
  • Chapel
  • War memorial

About the cemetery 

Acton Cemetery is used for burials in existing family plots. Although no new spaces are available, the cemetery has an inviting space for nature conservation, schools educational visits, and recreation. Occupying 6.5 acres amongst a very industrial area of Acton, the cemetery provides a tranquil retreat away from the busy goings on that surround the site.  

Acton Cemetery has its share of notable residents, whose memorials are often visited. As well as local dignitaries, other notable memorials are to:-

  • Sir Samuel Lewis: The first West African to be knighted in Great Britain, a founder of modern Sierra Leone
  • George Lee Temple: The first Englishman to fly upside down and the youngest at the time (1914) to fly from London to Paris
  • Albert Norris Perry: Died in the Lusitania disaster, and has a well-publicised memorial with a lifebelt around it 
  • Susan Mary Yeats: January 1900. Mother of Nobel prize winner for literature and poet, William Butler Yeats,   Died in France, buried in Drumcliff  

The site is divided by the Metropolitan Railway into a southern and northern section. The south side of the cemetery has an entrance at Park Royal Road and the north side an entrance on Chase Road.

Some recent investment has brought welcome improvements to the site. Since 2008, the old flower beds have been removed and replaced with smaller and more manageable areas of formal shrubs and trees, with the bedding areas moved to places of more impact. Although greatly reduced in size, they now provide the role that they were intended for. The money saved in the provision and maintenance of formal bedding has now been reallocated, so that other important areas of work at the entrance can be achieved. In addition to this, six new planters were commissioned to decorate either side of the road to the chapel, and a regime of ornamental grass cutting introduced. These have added enormously to the initial impression when entering the main gates. The chapel clock has been replaced with a modern face and will be electrically powered when the clockmaker has completed the renovation work.

Brief history of site

Historically, the site is of local importance, being built at the end of Victoria’s reign, and at the time when money was no object. The land was purchased in 1893 by the Acton Urban District Council, and was previously part of Lower Place Farm. Two chapels were built in 1895, when 6.5 acres were consecrated and opened as a Cemetery.

When the Great Western Railway was constructed, parcels of land were ‘exchanged’, making the site with boundaries as it is today. The Metropolitan District Railway was built alongside the main line in 1903, with the spoil being utilised on the cemetery site, dictating the current topography of the site.

The construction of the new Royal Agricultural Show site added more stations along the route, and made the cemetery more accessible. Opened by the Prince of Wales in 1903, it gave its name to the area now known as Park Royal.

In 1902 the UDC purchased some nearby land to construct an incinerator and electricity plant, but it wasn’t until 1909 that it was built, following complaints about the offensive smell of the rubbish that had been stockpiled on the cemetery land. The remains of this rubbish are to be found all over the northern end of the site, which has been photographed and recorded.

The two world wars left a lot of local dead, not only during conflicts, but because of bombing raids to the industrial areas of Acton. Hundreds of stones in the cemetery record this part of our history, including many Commonwealth war graves, all of which have now been recorded, and made available on-line in 2009. During the Second World War, part of the site was set aside for a canteen for local munitions workers, and also an area for teaching the shooting of small arms.

The cemetery used to have its own staff buildings on site, including mess and storage facilities, as well as a small nursery and stables block. These have long since gone, with the latter now being a landscaped peace garden for quiet contemplation. In its heyday, the cemetery boasted a cemetery manager, four grave diggers, a head gardener, and two under gardeners.

Adjacent to the site, a local monumental mason was established soon after its opening, but when the cemetery became full this fell into decline, leaving only a small company. The remains of the old mason’s yard are still in situ, not having been touched for at least thirty years. The present proprietors have kindly let us photograph and record the site, which still retains some of its old tools and machinery.

Wildlife value

A variety of habitats are available at the cemetery for wildlife to dwell. There are log piles situated at the north end of the cemetery which act as good wildlife habitats for Stag Beetles and other invertebrates.  

A diverse range of mature trees at the cemetery provide a haven for local wildlife in this particularly industrial area. Foxes and kestrels have been seen at the site along with a variety of birds which are recorded by the rangers and local naturalists who visit.

A natural ditch at the divide between the north and south end of the cemetery has been left to establish bramble and other native plants to encourage more wildlife.