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Monument to Vicountess Keith (Hester Maria Elphinstone), Kensal Green Cemetery

A Grade II Listed Building in Queens Park, London

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5279 / 51°31'40"N

Longitude: -0.2238 / 0°13'25"W

OS Eastings: 523309

OS Northings: 182489

OS Grid: TQ233824

Mapcode National: GBR BD.G7Y

Mapcode Global: VHGQR.2VJM

Entry Name: Monument to Vicountess Keith (Hester Maria Elphinstone), Kensal Green Cemetery

Listing Date: 3 April 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1405477

Location: Kensington and Chelsea, London, W10

County: London

District: Kensington and Chelsea

Electoral Ward/Division: Queens Park

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Brent

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Michaell and All Angels Ladbroke Grove

Church of England Diocese: London

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Summary

Stone cross with ledger, dated 1857.

Description

The monument comprises a small stone cross and ledger slab. The cross bears cable mouldings and floral relief decoration in an angular, highly stylised Gothic manner. The ledger has more floral decoration and, along the edge, a text from Revelations 14:13: 'And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.' (The inscription is partly indecipherable on the northern edge.)

History

Hester Maria Elphinstone, née Thrale (1764-1857), was the daughter of Henry Thrale, a wealthy brewer and a friend of Samuel Johnson. Hester Maria was a favourite of Dr Johnson, who nicknamed her 'Queeney', played with her in her early childhood and afterwards directed her education. Fanny Burney described her as 'cold and reserved, though full of knowledge and intelligence’, and she became a considerable scholar in Hebrew and mathematics. Henry Thrale died in 1781, but his widow's remarriage three years later deprived Hester Maria of her inheritance, and she became determined to marry into the aristocracy. In 1808, at the age of 43, she became the wife of Admiral George Keith Elphinstone, Baron (later Viscount) Keith, and afterwards rose to prominence in London and Edinburgh society; towards the end of her life, however, she retired from company and devoted herself to charitable work.

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.

Reasons for Listing

The monument to Vicountess Keith (1764-1857) is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Artistic interest: both cross and ledger bear idiosyncratic relief carving in a striking, proto-Arts and Crafts Gothic style;
* Historic interest: the monument commemorates a protégé of Samuel Johnson who became a leading figure in London and Edinburgh society during the early C19;
* Group value: with other listed monuments within the Grade I registered Kensal Green Cemetery.

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