I love the Culbertson and Randall “Permanent” series books because they don’t strive to be comprehensive. Other cemetery guides become tedious lists of all the famous people jammed into a cemetery, but these books go for depth instead, collecting up biographies of a few choice permanent residents. It’s arguable you take more away from this series than the others, where either you recognize the famous names or you don’t.
While Permanent Londoners spends a fair amount of time on the Magnificent Seven cemeteries (Brompton, Highgate, Kensal Green, etc.), it really shines for poking around inside landmarks that make up in history what they lack in acreage. Four chapters explore Westminster Abbey; one covers the Poets’ Corner alone. Other chapters look into the Tower of London and St. Paul’s crypt. That’s worth the price of the book right there, as far as I’m concerned.
I also like that the book wanders as far as Windsor Castle, discussing the monarchs who chose to be buried at home, rather than in town.
My copy was published in 1996, but I see a more recent version came out in 2000. I hope someone allows them to update it for the current decade.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
London, EC4M 8AD United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 20 7236 8350 Founded: 604 AD Number of memorials: More than 200 Open for sightseeing: Monday to Saturday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Last tickets are sold at 4 p.m. On Sunday, the cathedral is only open for worship. Admission: The price includes entry to the cathedral floor, crypt, and the three galleries in the dome. Admission also includes multimedia guides and guided tours for individuals and family visitors. Adults: £16.00 Students & Seniors: £14.00 Children 6-17: £7.00 Family ticket (2 adults + 2 children under 17): £39.00 Book your tickets online here.
Telephone: For questions about sightseeing at St Paul’s Cathedral, contact the Admissions Department at +44 020 7246 8357.
Inspired by the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, I’ve decided this week’s featured cemetery should be St. Paul’s Cathedral. (Thatcher will be privately cremated and buried by her family elsewhere, but her funeral was celebrated at St. Paul’s.)
Glorious St. Paul’s is the Cathedral of the Diocese of London, which consists of five areas: Willesden, Edmonton, Stepney, London, and Kensington. A cathedral is the seat of the bishop; in this case, the bishop of London. Westminster Abbey, on the other hand, is lead by a Dean.
The original church dedicated to St. Paul the Evangelist was founded on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London, in 604. Several churches were built on the same site after catastrophic fires, to be replaced by the medieval cathedral that boasted the tallest spire in the world and some amazing stained glass. That building was under renovation in the 17th century when yet another fire destroyed it.
The current St. Paul’s was built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Full of light and air and crowned with luminous gold mosaics of angels, St. Paul’s is magnificent in a way that most churches – even St. Peter’s in Rome – are not. It’s well worth a visit, even if you don’t go underground to visit the dead people.
The crypt beneath the sanctuary is the cathedral’s foremost burial place. At its heart stands Nelson’s Tomb. Admiral Horatio Nelson died in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar and was buried in St. Paul’s crypt after a state funeral. He was laid in a coffin made from the timber of a French ship called L’Orient, which he’d defeated in the Battle of the Nile. The black marble sarcophagus that adorns his tomb was originally made for Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor during the reign of Henry VIII in the early 16th century. Wolsey fell from favor after he couldn’t secure papal permission for Henry to marry Anne Boleyn, so his sarcophagus remained unused at Windsor until a suitable occupant could be found. Atop the monument sits Nelson’s viscount coronet.
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. He rests in a casket made of Cornish granite. The banners around Wellington’s tomb were made for his funeral procession. There had been one for Prussia, but it was removed during World War I and never reinstated.
Vintage postcard of the crypt at St. Paul’s, showing Wren’s tomb on the left.
The architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren, is buried at the east end of the crypt. His tomb is marked by a simple stone and is surrounded by memorials to his family, to Robert Hooke (Wren’s associate), and to the masons and other colleagues who worked on the building. The Latin epitaph above his tomb, written by his son says, “Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you.”
The crypt contains many other tombs and memorials for artists, scientists, and musicians. They include the Pre-Raphaelite painters William Holman Hunt and Sir John Everett Millais; scientist Sir Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin; composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan); and the sculptor Henry Moore.
The royalty buried at St. Paul’s stretches back to the earliest days of Anglo-Saxon England. Sebbi, King of the East Saxons before he became a saint in the 7th century, was buried at Old Paul’s. His black stone sarcophagus was destroyed by the London Fire in 1666. Also buried at Old St. Paul’s was Ethelred the Unready, who died on April 23, 1016. During his reign, the Vikings attacked England repeatedly. Ethelred tried to buy safety by paying tribute. When the agreement was broken, he ordered the slaughter of all Danes in England. His tomb was also destroyed during the fire.
Like Westminster Abbey, the crypt of the cathedral contains cenotaphs to the memories of those buried elsewhere. Among them are author William Blake, who died in obscurity and was buried in Bunhill Fields Burying Ground, where his grave is now lost; Florence Nightingale, who chose to be buried with her parents in St. Margaret’s Churchyard at East Wellow in Hampshire; and T. E. Lawrence, better known to us as Lawrence of Arabia. He’s buried in the Anglo-Saxon church of St Martin, Wareham in Dorset.
Tonight is my mom’s last night in San Francisco, so I’m going to hold off on writing this week’s Cemetery of the Week until tomorrow. I have a plan, but it requires research to do it justice.
Instead, I offer this photo, taken last January, while I roamed around Oakland, California with my friend Dorian. The picture serves as my desktop background. I love it because it combines the complicated blue of the sky with many shades of green and the various colors of stone.
Of all the elements in a graveyard, I’d say the colors are my favorite. There is something so restful about the combination of sky and foliage, whether it’s the deep verdant lawns in Michigan or the golden meadows of the California coast beneath the spectrum of white that makes up clouds or the unbroken cerulean of sky that stretches from horizon to horizon. Sky blue is my favorite color, but emerald green is a very close second.
Of course, I love this photo because it captures the steepness of St. Mary’s Cemetery and the crazy lean of the old stones. It’s not often that I can sum a cemetery up in one photograph, but this one does a good job of capturing St. Mary’s, which lies beside the wealthier and better known Mountain View Cemetery at the end of Piedmont Avenue.
Some cemeteries don’t need their own Cemetery of the Week to be enjoyable. This one is lovely and worth a visit, if only to absorb the colors of sun and sky and stone.
Boot Hill Cemetery
500 W Wyatt Earp Boulevard
Dodge City, Kansas 67801
Telephone:(620) 227-8188 In use: 1872-1879 Number of interments: none any longer Boot Hill Museum Winter Hours: Labor Day – Memorial Day, Monday – Saturday
9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Summer Hours: Memorial Day – Labor Day 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
In 1865, soon after the Civil War finished, Fort Dodge was founded in the young state of Kansas near the Arkansas River. Its mission was to protect westward-moving settlers from Indian attacks. In 1871, H. J. Sitler built a sod house nearby and opened the area’s first bar inside a tent. Other settlers also recognized that the steady stream of pioneers passing by on the Sante Fe Trail would make for good business, so a town grew up. It became Dodge City.
In its early days, Dodge was a rough, lawless town. Its graveyard was the original Boot Hill, so-called because the men buried there “died with their boots on,” either in a gunfight or from being hanged, as opposed to expiring quietly in their beds of illness or old age.
That’s the legend. However, the tourist sign in my vintage 1960s postcard quotes Josephine McIntire’s poem “Boot Hill,” which says, “To any Traveler who may pass this way, and climb this lonely hill and say/A prayer for us who early found our rest upon the prairie’s wind-swept ageless breast. Weep not for us who early made our beds, wrapped in our blankets, saddles for our heads. For we are happy here, secure and still, locked in this rock-strewn, silent, sun-baked hill.”
The message on the back of the card reads, “Just came from Boot Hill and am tired enough to lay down but they won’t let me.” It’s postmarked 8/3/66.
The Hanging Tree postcard – undated – reports that “This coffinless graveyard was started during the golden gun age of the West. The unfortunate victims had their boots removed and placed under their heads as pillows. This custom gave this historic tract its name. The 43 persons buried here have since been removed.”
The modern sign in the cemetery says that “about 34 persons had been interred” on the site, but their graves were unmarked and were often dug up by wolves. In 1879, the city council ordered that the bodies be removed. It goes on to call the people in the cemetery “drifters, troublemakers, and unknowns,” although several sources say that an actress named Dora Hand was buried there after she was shot by someone who had a grudge against the judge in whose bed she was sleeping at the time of her injury. Newspaper accounts speak of her as a legitimate actress and point out that the judge was not sleeping at home at the time of the attack on account of an illness.
Boot Hill Cemetery is now located in the heart of present-day Dodge City, Kansas. It is part of the Boot Hill Museum, which displays more than 60,000 objects, photographs, and documents from the last half of the 19th century. As part of the museum, Front Street’s businesses have been recreated, including the Long Branch Saloon and the Tonsorial Parlor. The undertaker’s establishment, complete with horse-drawn hearse, made a big impression on me as a child.
Dodge City’s old town offers attractions such as gunfights in the street and cancan girls in the saloon. Like Tombstone’s Boot Hill, there is a gift shop. If you can look beyond the kid-friendly facade, the grave markers reveal details about life and death in the Old West.
Like the wooden markers in Tombstone, Arizona’s Boot Hill, the markers in Dodge City are fairly modern. These, however, are carved, rather than painted like those in Tombstone. Little historical plaques fill in the details that the grave markers omit.
A wooden tablet carved with the name Jack Reynolds, who deceased September 1872, remembers Dodge City’s first recorded killing. Jack was shot six times by a railroad worker.
Nearby, another marker is incised with a buffalo skull. Its historic sign says, “A buffalo hunter named McGill amused himself by shooting into every house he passed. He won’t pass this way again.” The Marion County (Kansas) Record reported on March 29th, 1873: “On Tuesday night, an unmitigated scoundrel and desperado named McGill was shot and killed at Dodge City. This is the same scoundrel who shot and killed a sixteen year-old boy on New Years Day last, without the slightest provocation.”
Another graver marker remembers “George Hoyt, shot July 26, 1878. One night he took a pot shot at Wyatt Earp. Buried on Boot Hill August 21, 1878. Let his faults, if he had any, be hidden in the grave.” George Hoyt was said to be among the drunken cowboys who fired their guns in the Comique Theater. In response, Assistant Marshal Wyatt Earp and Marshall James “Bat” Masterson, along with several other citizens, returned fire. Hoyt received a gunshot to the arm and fled. He died from gangrene in the wound. Some historians doubt that Earp actually shot Hoyt, but he took the credit.
Wikipedia lists 38 towns, stretching from Iowa west to California and north to Alaska, which called their pioneer graveyards Boot Hill at some point in their histories. Some of these “Boot Hills” have already been profiled on Cemetery Travel.
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