Portland stone headstone, 1851.
Reason for Listing
The monument to Peter Thomson is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Design interest: a large and very unusual monument featuring complex Masonic symbolism;
* Historic interest: commemorates a prominent and influential freemason of the early C19;
* Group value: with other listed monuments within the Grade I registered Kensal Green Cemetery.
Peter Thomson (d.1851) was a senior Freemason who played an important role in the union of England’s two rival Grand Lodges. The Premier (or ‘Modern’) Grand Lodge of England and its rival the Antient Grand Lodge had existed separately since the latter’s establishment in 1751. When the two were finally brought together in 1813 as the United Grand Lodge, their customs and rituals were found to be widely divergent, and a Lodge of Reconciliation was set up to formulate a definitive set of procedures. Thomson assisted in the work of this Lodge and was the founding Preceptor of its successor body, the Stability Lodge of Instruction, established in 1817 to teach and promulgate the reformed code. Thomson was greatly respected within the fraternity as one who had dedicated his life to the Masonic cause; following his death, subscriptions were obtained for an appropriate monument at a cost of 10 guineas.
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.
The monument takes the form of an exceptionally broad and thick headstone set on a coped plinth. The upper section is stepped and ornamented with leafy scrolls; the uppermost part bears the image of an open book with the Masonic square and compasses in front, crowned by a stack of Masonic implements. The western face of the stone displays a roundel containing the Dove of Peace in relief, below which is a lengthy inscription to Peter Thomson. The eastern face has a Star of David roundel and a wreath containing the letters PT interlinked.
The main inscription reads: ‘Sacred to the memory of / Mr Peter Thomson / who died on the 27th of Feby 1851 aged 72 years. / He was for a very long period an active member / of the ancient fraternity of freemasons. / And for 38 years / a member of the Grand Lodge of England / in which he served the office of Grand Deacon / by honesty of purpose, undeviating integrity and / kindness of disposition while living he secured / the esteem, the confidence and the good will / of all his brethren who in a testimony of respect / to departed worth have erected this monument.’
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.