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The Tombs Of Old London

September 19, 2022
by the gentle author

We are taking bookings for my Spitalfields tour through the autumn.

Click here to book your ticket for THE GENTLE AUTHOR’S TOUR OF SPITALFIELDS


Monument to Lady Elizabeth Nightingale, Westminster Abbey, c.1910

On the day that our dearly beloved old queen is laid to rest, what could be more appropriate than a virtual tour of the Tombs of Old London, courtesy of these glass slides once used by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society for magic lantern shows at the Bishopsgate Institute?

We can admire the aesthetic wonders of statuary and architecture in these magnificent designs, and receive an education in the history and achievements of our illustrious forbears as a bonus.

In my childhood, no festival or national occasion was complete without a visit to some ancient abbey or cathedral. Yet while ostensibly we went to pay our respects, my interest was always drawn by the stone tombs and ancient monuments.

It is a human impulse to challenge the ephemeral nature of existence by striving to create monuments, even if the paradox is that these attempts to render tenderness in granite will always be poignant failures, reminding us of death rather than life. Yet there is soulful beauty in these overwrought confections and a certain liberating consolation to be drawn, setting our personal grief against the wider perspective of history.

Tomb of Sir Francis Vere, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Monument to William Wilberforce, Westminster Abbey, c.1910

Memorial to Admiral Sir Peter Warren,  Westminster Abbey, c.1910

Monument to William Wordsworth in Baptistery, Westminster Abbey, c.1910

St Benedict’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey,  c.1910

Chapel of St Edmund, Westminster Abbey, c.1910

Tombstone of Laurence Sterne, St George’s Hanover Sq, c.1910 – Buried, grave-robbed and reburied in 1768, subsequently removed to Coxwold in 1969 due to redevelopment of the churchyard.

Hogarth’s tomb, St Nicholas’ Churchyard, Chiswick, c.1910

Sir Hans Sloane and Miller Monuments in Old Chelsea Churchyard, c. 1910

Stanley’s Monument in Chelsea Church, c. 1910

Sanctuary at All Saint’s Church, Chelsea, c. 1910

Shakespeare’s memorial, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Colville Monument in All Saint’s Church, Chelsea, c. 1910

Tomb of Daniel Defoe at Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, c. 1910

At the gates of Bunhill Fields, c. 1910

Tomb of John Bunyan, Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, c. 1910

North Transept of Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

North Ambulatory, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Ambulatory, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Monument to John Milton, St Giles, Cripplegate, c. 1910

Offley Monument, St Andrew Undershaft, c. 1910

Pickering Monument, St Helen’s Bishopsgate, c. 1920

Plaque, Christ Church, Newgate, 1921

Tombs in Temple churchyard, c. 1910

King Sebert’s Tomb, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Monument to Historian John Stow in St.Andrew Undershaft, c. 1910

Tomb of Edward III, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Queen Elizabeth I’s Tomb, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Tomb of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Monument to Charles James Fox, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Poets’ Corner with David Garrick’s Memorial, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Memorial to George Frederick Handel, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Monument to Francis Holles, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Tombstone of the Kidney family, c. 1910

Cradle monument to Sophia, Daughter of James I, Henry VII’s Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Tomb of Sir Francis Vere, Chapel of St John the Evangelist, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Tomb of John Dryden, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910

Wellington’s Funeral Carriage, St Paul’s Cathedral,c. 1910

Robert Preston’s grave stone, St Magnus, c. 1910

Tomb of Henry VII, Westminster Abbey, c. 1910


Glass slides courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

The Nights of Old London

The Ghosts of Old London

The Dogs of Old London

The Signs of Old London

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Bill permalink
    September 19, 2022

    Thank you, so lovely. Tombs. Sigh.

    Decades ago, a classmate hung over my shoulder as I wielded my pencil in art class.

    “What are you doing, Bill?”

    Holding said pencil in mid-air, I explained:

    “I am designing my tomb.”

    Quiz: What Italian artist executed the tomb of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and what was the very horrible thing he did that made him skedaddle out of Florence so very fast?

    And how did he die?

    And where is he buried?

  2. September 19, 2022

    Connecting the personal grief to the bigger perspective of history — that’s what EVERYTHING says. And who better to put it into words than the Gentle Author.

    + + +  QUEEN  ELIZABETH  II  (1926 – 2022)   R.I.P.  + + +

    + + +  LONG  LIVE  KING  CHARLES  III  + + +

    Love & Peace

  3. Lewis Jones permalink
    September 19, 2022

    Thank you for presenting these remarkable images. Is the name of the photographer (c. 1910) for the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society known?

  4. CHERYL SIZOV permalink
    September 19, 2022

    Beautiful. And absolutely perfect for today. Thank you.

  5. Cherub permalink
    September 19, 2022

    Perfect images for this most momentous of days.
    I watched the Queen’s funeral from Lugano in Switzerland with sadness for her death (I was in Scotland when she died), but also with joy as we have Charles III and a coronation to look forward to. A new era is ushered in and life goes on.

  6. Marcia Howard permalink
    September 30, 2022

    Absolutely fascinating! It is many years since I last visited Westminster Abbey, so a pilgrimage there is long overdue, as well as to other interesting burial grounds in the area. So many tombs that I wasn’t aware of while growing up in Chelsea. I especially would like to see that of Sir John Sloane, (I was christened at Holy Trinity Sloane Square, and attended both infant and junior schools of Holy Trinity just off Sloane Square). I sing with a Choral Society and always love when we perform anything by Handel. I stayed many times in Hogarth House near the Chiswick roundabout as a childhood friend’s grandparents were the caretakers there back in the 1950s. So many memories too through studying Shakespeare and other noteworthies. And I also have a soft spot for Laurence Sterne too, who’s fabulous home Shandy Hall and garden I’ve visited many times in Coxwold since my move to North Yorkshire 22 yrs ago. Big sigh, so many memories…

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