London's Oddest Graves: Dame Mary Page

By M@ Last edited 25 months ago
London's Oddest Graves: Dame Mary Page

Here lyes Dame Mary Page, relict of Sir Gregory Page Bart. She departed this life March 4 1728 in the 56th year of her age.

Dame Mary Page lies in Bunhill Fields, the dissenters' graveyard just north of the Square Mile. The burial ground is famed as the final resting place of Blake, Bunyan and Defoe, but Page's grave is far more eye-catching.

The imposing chest tomb was recently restored, to the point where it looks like an artificial film prop among the muted colours of the rest of the burial ground. It is a bona fide grave, however, and one of the weirdest in the capital.

To find out why, you need to walk around to the other side and read the fate of Dame Mary.

In 67 months she was tap'd 66 times. Had taken away 240 gallons of water without ever repining at her case or ever fearing the operation.

Her ladyship suffered from a form of dropsy (some have suggested Meigs' syndrome) that caused excess fluid to build in the space around her lungs. The poor lady must have endured enormous difficulties. 240 gallons is equivalent to 1,920 pints — or about 29 pints on each of the 66 times she was 'tapd'. Surely an exaggeration?

Dame Mary Page was, by all accounts, a well-liked philanthropist and church-goer who gave copiously to charity. She was the wife of Sir Gregory Page MP (1669-1720), a wealthy merchant and politician.

The peculiar inscription was requested by the lady herself, in her will — an early example of the British 'stiff upper lip' that we should carry our burdens without complaint.

The monument is Grade II* listed.

Addendum: Sir Gregory Page's estate eventually passed to his distant relative Sir Gregory Turner. The latter knight then changed his surname to Page-Turner (though two centuries before that term took on another meaning).

Last Updated 02 November 2016