Stone funerary monument in the form of a chair, c.1900.
Reason for Listing
The monument to Henry Russell is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: commemorates the life and work of a leading popular singer and songwriter of the mid C19.
* Design interest: a highly unusual monument whose form reflects the subject of Russell's best-known song;
* Group value: with other listed monuments in the Grade I registered Kensal Green Cemetery.
Henry Russell (c.1812-1900) was a leading popular singer, songwriter and entertainer. Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Sheerness, Kent, he received a classical training at the Bologna conservatory (where he met Rossini, Donizetti and others) and afterwards worked as chorus master at the King’s Theatre in London before crossing the Atlantic to seek his fortune as an entertainer. His songs, which he performed to his own accompaniment at the piano, were a success with audiences across the United States, and played an important role in the development of the American popular song tradition. He returned to London in 1842, and continued to compose and perform until his retirement in 1857. He claimed to have written between 600 and 800 songs, of which the best known include ‘Woodman, Spare that Tree!’ (1837), ‘A Life on the Ocean Wave’ (1838) and – the inspiration for his monument – ‘The Old Arm Chair’ (1840).
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, 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 a stone arm-chair with leaded inscriptions. The inscription on the back-rest reads: ‘In sorrowing and affectionate memory of my dearly beloved husband Henry Russell whom God called to rest Dec 7 1900 aged 87. His songs like his acts encouraged the poor and inspired the rich. Beloved by all who knew him, he died as he lived in perfect peace. May we meet in heaven.’ Below is inscribed: ‘Also of his beloved wife Hannah who passed away March 15 1922 aged 77. Re-united.’ On the front panel are the closing words from Russell’s famous song: ‘I love it, I love it, and who shall dare / To chide me for loving this old arm chair.’
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.