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Tomb of Joseph Bonomi, Brompton Cemetery, Kensington and Chelsea

Description: Tomb of Joseph Bonomi, Brompton Cemetery

Grade: II
Date Listed: 21 December 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1403330

OS Grid Reference: TQ2565877902
OS Grid Coordinates: 525658, 177902
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4861, -0.1916

Locality: Kensington and Chelsea
County: Greater London
Country: England
Postcode: SW10 9AF

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Listing Text


Headstone to Joseph Bonomi and family, c.1852.

Reason for Listing

* Historic interest: commemorating the renowned Egyptologist Joseph Bonomi and refers specifically to his career, including his appointment as Curator of the Sir John Soane Museum in 1861;
* Design interest: the headstone is inscribed with hieroglyphic characters, a rare iconographical feature of Victorian tombs;
* Group value: with other listed tombs nearby, in the Grade I-registered Brompton Cemetery.


Joseph Bonomi (1796-1878) was born of Italian parentage in London, his father was an architect. Bonomi was taught by John Flaxman at the Royal Academy Schools from 1816 before travelling to Rome in 1822. From here he joined an expedition to Egypt as a salaried artist producing drawings and casts, the largest of which are now in the British Museum. Adopting Eastern dress and manners, and having learned Arabic, Bonomi travelled to Palestine and Syria and was one of the first Europeans to visit the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, of which he produced detailed drawings. Back in England from 1834 he prepared the Egyptian exhibitions at the British Museum and designed an Egyptian fa├žade for Temple Mills at Leeds in 1842. From 1842-4 he was in Egypt again, preparing drawings as part of an expedition led by the Prussian government. In 1853 Bonomi assisted Owen Jones in the arrangement of the Egyptian Court in the Crystal Palace. Throughout this period, Bonomi was rarely in regular employment and this financial uncertainty might explain the modest character of his family grave. His situation improved in 1861 when, amid some controversy about his right to call himself an architect (a prerequisite of the appointment), Bonomi became Curator of Sir John Soane's Museum, a post which gave him a regular salary and which he held until his death. His achievements as Curator included publishing very detailed drawings of the Museum's Belzoni Sarcophagus in 1864 and designing the first hieroglyphic font to be produced in England in 1867. Bonomi married Jessie Martin, daughter of the artist John Martin, in 1845. Their first four children, commemorated on this headstone, died of whooping cough in 1852. Four more children followed before Jessie's death in 1859.

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.


MATERIALS: Sandstone

A grave marker with a curved top, incised with a cross flanked by alpha and omega symbols. Beneath is the inscription, in capital letters: 'In memory of four children who were called out of this life into a better in the Easter week of 1852 ...' The names and ages of the children are then given, ranging from 5 years to 8 months. The dedication concludes 'The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.' Their grandmother and mother, who died in 1858 and 1859 respectively, are listed next, and then 'Their father / Joseph Bonomi / sculptor, traveller and archaeologist / born 9th October 1796 / appointed Curator of Sir John Soane's Museum 1861 / Died 3rd March 1878'. Below is a hieroglyphic symbol, showing the jackal-headed god Anubis (associated with mummification and the afterlife in Egyptian mythology) guarding a tomb with battered sides and a central door. Beneath this is the final dedication, to Colonel J I Bonomi who died in 1930.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.