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Who's Buried Where in London – book review

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Researched and written by Peter Matthews, a former London Tourist Board employee and Blue Badge Guide, Who's Buried Where in London is a fascinating guide to who's who in the capital’s many cemeteries, churches and graveyards. Not merely for family history fans who, as we all know, love wandering around cemeteries, it is jam-packed with information on more than 1,000 people laid to rest in London over the centuries, with juicy biographical gems of the kind you may catch yourself relaying to others, and a literal step-by-step guide to where to find their gravestones, memorials or final resting places.

 

Remarkable folk from all walks of life are featured: we discover politicians, princesses and military heroes, writers, artists, engineers, social campaigners, entertainers, cartographers and much more, up to the present day. Some are well-known while others have slipped beyond memory, but many were important in their profession and may have left a lasting mark on London, the nation and even the world.

 

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Sir Richard Hoare (1648-1719), for example, was founder of Hoare’s Bank – the oldest private bank in England and still owned by the same family – and his baroque wall memorial can be seen within St Dunstan-in-the-West in Fleet Street. Also within the City of London, in St Andrew’s Holborn, the tomb of Foundling Hospital founder Thomas Coram (1668-1751) lays beneath the church organ; while the grave of John Smith (1580-1631), he who established Jamestown, was first governor of Virginia and whose life was saved by Native American Pocahontas, can be found in St Sepulchre without Newgate on Holborn Viaduct, where you will also find a memorial window to him. 

 

Beyond the City, London boroughs and all the major cemeteries and churches in Greater London are featured as well, including Brompton, Highgate, Kensal Green, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral. Here one of the most important monuments is the shroud memorial to the poet John Donne (1572-1631), also the dean of St Paul’s, which still shows scorch marks from the Great Fire of 1666. Many more fascinating facts abound – for instance, that the gravestone of Salvation Army founders William (1829-1912) and Catherine Booth (1829-1890) in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, is in the shape of a Salvation Army shield.

 

From impressive memorials to simple headstones, and even sometimes no monument at all, the rich variety of life, and death, is portrayed in Who’s Buried Where in London as Matthews takes us on a tour of the best-known and forgotten corners of London and its surrounds, shedding light on a multitude of burial places and past people, whose achievements sometimes even helped to shape the world we live in today.

 

• ISBN: 9780747812968. RRP £12.99, paperback. Bloomsbury Shire. Find more details and extracts from the book here.

 

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