10 Of London's Most Interesting And Unusual Graves

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 11 months ago
10 Of London's Most Interesting And Unusual Graves

London's full of graves, from the Magnificent Seven cemeteries, to smaller, local burial grounds. But sometimes, you stumble across a grave that really stands out from the rest...

Joseph Grimaldi's grave

Perhaps the world's most famous clown, Joseph Grimaldi's grave is located in Grimaldi Park between Angel and King's Cross. What makes this grave so special is the public artwork, installed in 2010, which invites the public to dance on the grave.

What fewer people know — and we didn't realise ourselves until our visit to London's Clown Museum — is that the gravestone doesn't actually mark the spot where Grimaldi's body lies. The gravestone was moved when the park was redeveloped, but the body remains in its original resting place nearby.

The one that inspired a phone box

Photo: David Edgar

When Sir John Soane's wife died, he designed one heck of a family tomb for her — no surprise considering the man designed the Bank of England. The tomb, which can still be seen in Old St Pancras Churchyard, sat there for a century before it inspired Giles Gilbert Scott's phone box — specifically the K2 design.

The ones that inspired Beatrix Potter

We'll never know for sure, but it's been suggested that children's author Beatrix Potter found inspiration for some of her character names in Brompton Cemetery. Records discovered in 2001 showed that Nutkins, McGregor, Peter Rabbett and Jeremiah Fisher were among the burials in the cemetery. It wouldn't be surprising — despite her famous links to the Lake District, Potter lived in west London for 50 years.

William and Agnes Loudon

The Loudon memorial — also known as the floating coffin — at Pinner Parish Church was built in 1809 by John Loudon to contain the bodies of his parents, William and Agnes Loudon. It's a triangular shaped stone, protruding several feet from the ground, with a coffin sticking out each side halfway up.  It's thought that John Loudon did this to keep some money in the family — his parents had inherited some wealth on the condition that it would stay in their family as long as their bodies were above ground. With this burial plot, their bodies stayed above ground even after their deaths.

Frank Bostock the lion tamer

Photo: Some Bloke Taking Photos

Being one of the 'Magnificent Seven' cemeteries, it's no surprise that Abney Park Cemetery has a few impressive burial plots. The one pictured above belong to Frank Bostock and his family. Bostock was the Attenborough of his day, educating the public about African and Asian wildlife, and was a lion tamer from the age of 15 (hence the leonine gravestone).

He survived both a tiger and lion mauling and had his finger bitten off by an ape, eventually succumbing to the flu at the age of 46.

The Hardy Tree, St Pancras

Photo: Louis Berk

The Hardy Tree in St Pancras is named for author Thomas Hardy — not because he is buried there, but because it's his fault it looks like that.

In the 1860s, many of the graves in St Pancras Old Church graveyard had to be exhumed and resited to make way for the railway being built. The youngest employee of the architecture firm responsible was Thomas Hardy, who was made responsible for moving the old gravestones, and chose to put them in circles as shown above. Since then, the tree has continued to grow, absorbing many of the gravestones within it.

It's not the only odd thing about St Pancras Church — a walrus was found buried there during building works in 2003.

Douglas Adams' grave, Highgate Cemetery

Photo: Bonngasse20

For a man so good with the written word in life, Douglas Adams' headstone in Highgate Cemetery is disappointingly succinct, reading simply:

Douglas Adams

Writer

1952-2001

That doesn't stop fans finding it, and leaving pens, toys and other tributes.

Pet memorial at the V&A

Tucked away in the V&A Museum's courtyard are the above plaques. The one on the right is dedicated to Jim, the terrier belonging to the first director of the V&A, Henry Cole. The one of the left is in memory of Tycho, whose identity remained a mystery for a long time, until it was revealed that he was the dog of Henry Cole's son, Alan. Alright, they're just plaques rather than actual gravestones (as far as we know...) but they reminded us of...

Hyde Park's Pet Cemetery

Photo: Andrew Smith

Hyde Park is home to a pet cemetery. It all began with a terrier called Cherry, who belonged to friends of the lodge-keeper. When Cherry died in 1881, the lodge-keeper allowed her to be buried in the gardens of the lodge. Word got out, and over the next 22 years, over 300 pet graves appeared in the lodge's gardens.

It's no longer open to the public, although Royal Parks run occasional tours. It's next to the Victoria Gate Lodge on Bayswater Road, and it's possible to peek through the fences and hedge to get a glimpse of the mini graves.

The 'Nazi' dog grave, Waterloo Place

While we're on canine burials, let's talk about the 'Nazi' dog buried in London. Giro is buried on Waterloo Place, next to what used to be the German Embassy. He belonged to the German ambassador, Leopold von Hoesch, until the dog's untimely demise in 1934, caused by chewing through some electrical cables. The grave is often referred to as the 'Nazi dog grave' even though the dog's political alliances were never revealed, and von Hoesch himself was an outspoken opponent of the Nazi regime.

Last Updated 02 January 2018