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Tomb of Peter Borthwick and Family, Brompton Cemetery, Kensington and Chelsea

Description: Tomb of Peter Borthwick and Family, Brompton Cemetery

Grade: II
Date Listed: 21 December 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1403343

OS Grid Reference: TQ2567778001
OS Grid Coordinates: 525677, 178001
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4870, -0.1913

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

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Listing Text


Sarcophagus of Peter Borthwick and family, c.1867, designed by Arthur Ashpitel Senior, architect.

Reason for Listing

* Design interest: An unusual design in the form of a Roman sarcophagus with early Christian symbolism by an architect who was also a noted antiquarian;
* Historic interest; The tomb commemorates Peter Borthwick, a notable C19 MP and newspaper editor and his son, George Colville, a general in the Ottoman army;
* Group value: it is located within the Grade I-registered Brompton Cemetery and has group value with other listed tombs and structures nearby.


Peter Borthwick, Member of Parliament and newspaper editor, was born in Scotland in 1804 and first made a name for himself in a series of speeches opposing the abolition of slavery in 1832. He eventually became Conservative MP for Evesham but by 1849, after a series of electoral defeats, he entered journalism, becoming editor of the Morning Post in 1850. He was succeeded in the post by his eldest son, Algernon (1830-1908), on his death in 1852. His younger son, George Colville, rose to the rank of Major General in the Imperial Ottoman army. The inclusion of Christopher Borthwick, who died in 1865 in New Zealand, is something of a mystery since the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says Peter and Margaret Borthwick had only the two sons and a daughter, Harriet.

The designer, Arthur Ashpitel Senior, was part of a C19 family of architects; his father and son were also members of the profession. He was a noted antiquary and visited Rome in 1853, eventually leaving his library and a large collection of vases to the Society of Antiquaries on his death in 1869. The sarcophagus was described and illustrated in The Builder, which noted that the design was based upon those found in the catacombs at Rome, and expressing surprise that this early Christian form of funerary monument had not found wider favour as it is a style 'that clearly cannot be called Pagan'. The article states that the statues of the four Evangelists were of bronze, modelled by Signor Brucciani; they were presumably replaced by the current stone versions.

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: Portland stone with frieze and plinth of green Forest of Dean stone and pilasters of Peterhead granite.

A neo-classical Roman sarcophagus with a lid carved to resemble Roman tiles supporting a horizontal Latin cross. Each side of the sarcophagus has two niches, framed by pilasters, containing stone figures of the four Evangelists, now decapitated. Between the niches are panels with strigilated decoration and symbols in relief of the conjoined Alpha and Omega ("I am the alpha and the omega", an appellation of Christ in the Book of Revelation, verses 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13), and Chi-Rho (the first two letters of Christ's name in Greek - X and P), both characteristic symbols of the early Christian church. On the front of the tomb are the Borthwick coat of arms and dedications to Peter Borthwick (1804-1852), his wife Margaret (1805-1864) and their sons, Christopher (1834-1865) and George Colville Borthwick (1840-1896). There is a further dedication to their daughter, Harriet (d. 1907) on one side of the tomb.

Source: English Heritage

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