Philip Nowell (1780-1853)
The man who built most of the cemetery’s handsome buildings.
Philip Nowell was a well-known London builder, based in Pimlico. His firm was responsible for the main buildings at the cemetery, as well as some of the beautiful squares and luxury residences at nearby Belgravia.
Philip, who was born in Somerset, began his career as a stonemason. He worked extensively under the renowned architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville, at Longleat House in Wiltshire and later on the restoration of Windsor Castle. In 1838, Wyatville was the chair of the ‘Committee of Taste’ set up to select the preferred design for the new cemetery at Brompton. It’s likely he had Philip in mind for the building work, and his company did a good job.
However, Philip’s work at the cemetery wasn’t entirely without incident. When it was discovered that the western catacombs were structurally unsound, the cemetery architect, Benjamin Baud, blamed Philip. He in turn blamed Baud for the inferior work. Unfortunately for Baud, Philip had lent the struggling cemetery company huge amounts of money to keep the project going. The directors naturally sided with the builder, and Baud was dismissed.
The Nowell family’s elegant tomb is beside the east wall of the cemetery. Philip, his first wife Anne, and three of their children are buried there. It was built after the death of their son George in 1842, and Anne was laid to rest there the following year. Philip remarried in 1850, aged 70, to 39-year-old Harriett Street. He died three years later.