If you follow a flight of steps down from Edinburgh’s busy Princes Street you’ll find a church, largely hidden by trees and surrounded by an extensive burial ground. This is St Cuthbert’s Kirk, a site with a history going back many centuries. The kirkyard at St Cuthbert’s is home to some exceptional examples of funerary architecture, imposing memorials and beautifully-carved headstones that give the visitor an insight both into the way Edinburgh’s residents of the past viewed and commemorated death, and the exceptional skill of the people who designed and crafted the memorials.
Continue reading “Memento Mori: symbols of death in St Cuthbert’s Kirkyard, Edinburgh” →
Although the 19th Century is the most notorious period for desperate overcrowding in the churchyards and burial grounds of London, the problem of finding enough space to bury the city’s dead was not a new one. As London grew both in population and size during the 18th Century, little room was set aside for cemeteries and the garden we are visiting today is the first example of Anglican churches being forced to locate their burial grounds in far away from the churches themselves. Today, St George’s Gardens in Bloomsbury is very much a part of central London, but when the two burial grounds that were later landscaped into this pleasant park were first opened, they were surrounded by fields.
Continue reading “St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury: two 18th Century burial grounds” →
I’ve lost count of the number of times I walked past this church and its burial ground before finally stopping to explore it. All Saints, Fulham, is situated close to the River Thames, and is the twin to the more famous church on the other side of Putney Bridge – St Mary the Virgin, Putney. St Mary’s was the home of the Putney Debates, a series of discussions amongst members of the Parliamentarian New Model Army, in 1647. But All Saints also has an interesting history, and has a churchyard full of fascinating graves – including the tombs of many of the Bishops of London.
Continue reading “The final resting place of the Bishops of London” →
Situated just to the south of trendy Exmouth Market, Spa Fields in Clerkenwell is today a park that is enjoyed by locals and office workers alike, a rare green space in an area filled with offices, tower blocks and retail units. Only a couple of plaques installed by Islington Council give any indication of the area’s raucous and sometimes dark history.
Continue reading “Among the rioters and resurrectionists: the turbulent history of Spa Fields” →
Pye Corner, the site where the Great Fire of London famously came to an end in 1666, has a long and grisly history of which the Great Fire is only one chapter. Accounts of the Great Fire tell us that the Fire began at a bakery in Pudding Lane and ended three days later (having consumed 13,000 houses and 87 churches) at Pye Corner. Christopher Wren’s towering Monument to the Great Fire of London is close to Pudding Lane, but where is Pye Corner?
Continue reading “Pye Corner: Flames, poltergeists and bodysnatchers” →
In the shadows of the international terminal at St Pancras Station, close enough for platform announcements to be heard, is a tiny old church which has a history that supposedly stretches back almost as far as St Pancras himself. St Pancras was a Roman martyr who was beheaded in about 304AD for his Christian beliefs, and the church claims that the site has been a place of Christian worship since the 4th Century. Until the 19th Century, Old St Pancras was a rural church, close to the River Fleet, but today it is nestled in amongst the railway infrastructure of St Pancras and the houses and flats of Somers Town. When approaching the church, the first thing that struck me was how high the ground level of the churchyard is compared to its surroundings.
Continue reading “Exploring the ancient church and burial ground of Old St Pancras” →