Portland stone monument, 1921.
Reason for Listing
The monument to Sir Ernest Joseph Cassel is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: commemorates one of the leading international financiers of the late C19 and early C20;
* Design interest: a very large monument whose bold Egyptian Revival design reflects Cassel’s involvement in the development of modern Egypt;
* Group value: very prominently located within the Grade I registered Kensal Green cemetery, forming a group with other listed monuments surrounding the Anglican chapel.
Ernest Joseph Cassel (1852-1921) was a leading figure in international finance and British high society in the late C19 and early C20. Born into a long-established (but not especially wealthy) Jewish banking family in Cologne, he emigrated to England in 1869 and rose rapidly through the ranks of the merchant bank Bischoffsheim & Goldschmidt, where he was appointed manager in 1874. His first wife, Annette, died of tuberculosis in 1881 after only three years of marriage, and by her wish Cassel was received into the Roman Catholic faith. Meanwhile, his business acumen and capacity for unremitting hard work gradually made him an immensely successful financier on his own account, whose vast network of contacts and investments allowed him to play a key role in the economic development of a number of countries – most notably Egypt, where he helped to finance the Aswan Dam, funded a major irrigation programme and established the National Bank. Other investments included railways in the Americas, mining in South Africa and, at home, the expansion of the London Underground and the shipbuilding and armaments firm Vickers. In his early years he mixed with artists including Alma-Tadema and Burne-Jones; in later life he gained entry to the highest social strata, counting among his friends Randolph and Winston Churchill, Herbert Asquith and Edward VII. He regularly advised the Government on financial matters, becoming a Privy Councillor in 1902 and receiving numerous honours from Britain and abroad. He was also a major philanthropist, giving away at least £2 million in charitable donations, mainly to medical and educational causes. Between 1908 and 1912, Cassel and the German ship-owner Alfred Ballin worked to engineer meetings between political leaders in an attempt to avert conflict between Britain and Germany, but when war arrived in 1914 Cassel was one of the largest contributors to the British war loan. On his death in 1921 he was buried according to the Roman Catholic rite, leaving an estate valued at over £7.3 million.
The Cemetery of All Souls at Kensal Green was the earliest of the large privately-run cemeteries established on the fringes of London to relieve pressure on overcrowded urban churchyards. Its founder George Frederick Carden intended it as an English counterpart to the great Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, which he had visited in 1821. In 1830, with the financial backing of the banker Sir John Dean Paul, Carden established the General Cemetery Company, and two years later an Act of Parliament was obtained to develop a 55-acre site at Kensal Green, then among open fields to the west of the metropolis. An architectural competition was held, but the winning entry – a Gothic scheme by HE Kendall – fell foul of Sir John's classicising tastes, and the surveyor John Griffith of Finsbury was eventually employed both to lay out the grounds and to design the Greek Revival chapels, entrance arch and catacombs, which were built between 1834 and 1837. A sequence of royal burials, beginning in 1843 with that of Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, ensured the cemetery’s popularity. It is still administered by the General Cemetery Company, assisted since 1989 by the Friends of Kensal Green.
Cassel’s monument occupies a very large plot marked out by a low stone wall, in the central part of the cemetery immediately SE of the Anglican Chapel and near the tombs of the Duke of Sussex and Princess Sophia. The monument itself is about 2 metres tall, its form recalling that of an ancient Egyptian pylon tower with a plain rectangular base, battered sides and a flared cornice emblazoned on both faces with a carved representation of the winged sun-disc; the choice of style presumably reflects Cassel’s close involvement in the finances of modern-day Egypt. The central recess is inscribed: ‘In / loving memory of / the Right Honourable / Sir Ernest Joseph Cassel / GCB, GCMG, GCVO / born March 3rd 1852 / died September 21st 1921 / svaviter in modo, fortiter in re ['gently in manner, firmly in action’] / And of / his sister Wilhelmina / born March 28th 1847 / died September 16th 1925 / Where’er she met a stranger / there she left a friend.’
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.