Gravesites may not be at the top of everyone’s attraction list but for some, visiting the tombs of the once famous is one way to connect with them. It’s not just actors and musicians that have followers wanting to visit their gravesides either, for a long time now people have also wanted to see where their favourite authors have been laid to rest.
London itself has been home to some of the greatest ever writers in history. It is a city that has been used as a backdrop for many a storyline – from Victorian England up to the present day – and its landmarks are frequently described in both fictional works and poetry.
Imagine living or visiting a street or building that has forever been immortalised through the pages of one of your most loved books. To walk in the footsteps of a great writer, reliving what they themselves would have once seen.
If you are therefore a true lover of literature chances are you will not only want to revisit importance places preserved in words but also the burial sites of your most cherished wordsmith.
London’s Top Literary Gravesites
#1 Westminster Abbey
Possibly the number one pilgrimage site in London for all literature lovers, Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey has been remembering poets and authors since the 1400’s.
The first bard ever to be buried within the grounds of this now very famous site was Geoffrey Chaucer. However, he was placed in Poet’s Corner not because of The Canterbury Tales but because he was the Clerk of the King’s Works. It was only after nearly 200 years, when Edmund Spenser, author of The Faerie Queene, requested to be buried near to Chaucer that the tradition of burying the greatest novelists and lyricists together started.
Today, when visiting Poet’s Corner you can visit the graves of Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Dr Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling and Alfred Tennyson. There are also memorials to W.H. Auden, Jane Austen, William Blake, The Bronte Sisters, Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, Coleridge, T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Ted Hughes, John Keats, Philip Larkin, D.H. Lawrence, C.S. Lewis, Wordsworth, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare and John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, who was buried alongside his father at St. Giles Churchyard in Cripplegate.
Simply wandering around Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey will give you the opportunity to remember and show your respect to many of the greatest writers ever to have lived.
#2 Highgate Cemetery
This cemetery in North London has more than 170,000 buried there so it is unsurprising that some of these graves belong to famous writers. A visit here means that you can wander through the graves of George Eliot (also known as Mary Ann Evans), Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Christina Rossetti and Anthony Shaffer.
Highgate is also the final resting place of Karl Marx, the political philosopher and famous revolutionary socialist.
#3 Kensal Green Cemetery
Over 700 notable individuals are buried in this West London cemetery was inspired by Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where you will find Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust and Honore De Balzac buried.
Back at Kensal Green you will find the graves of Sax Rohmer (also known as Arthur Henry Ward), known for his criminal series featuring criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu, Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray.
You will also find Lord Byron’s wife, Lady Byron (Anne Isabella Noel Byron) and Mary Scott Hogarth, the sister-in-law of Charles Dickens buried here.
#4 Brompton Cemetery
This consecrated land in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was opened in 1840 and is where many artists, activists, actors, industrialists, scientists, sportspeople and socialites have been laid to rest.
Alongside Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragist, you will find G.A. Henty the children’s author who wrote over 120 books, George Henry Borrow, renowned for his travel books about the Romani people and Sydney Owenson (also known as Lady Morgan) author of The Wild Irish Girl in 1806.
You will also find Jean Ingelow, Geraldine Jewsbury, Albert Richard Smith, Robert Story and Mary Louisa Molesworth all buried here at Brompton cemetery
#5 Bunhill Fields Cemetery
This cemetery in Islington, North London, also known as the hill of bones, is the place to head if you are in search of some of the most radical people in history. Within the four acres of the cemetery you will find nonconformists, dissenters and radical reformers including the writer John Bunyan, a preacher who amongst his 60 works includes The Pilgrims Progress, arguably one of the most famous Christian allegories ever written. In this now full burial ground you will also find Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe and William Blake, poet and artist as well as the grandfather of J. R. R. Tolkien .
#6 Golders Green Crematorium
Possibly the most famous of all vampire storytellers, Bram Stoker, was cremated at Golders Green and his ashes are still interred there today. His gothic novel, Dracula, is one of the world’s best loved horror stories of all time but surprisingly that is not the only novel Stoker wrote. In fact, Dracula, is one of thirteen fictional works written by the great novelist alongside several short stories and non-fictional works.
It seems that for anyone with a passion for literature, when you are planning your next trip to the Capital, these gravesites should also be included. Not because those who visit are morbid but because authors, even when they are no longer with us, deserve a moment of our time so that we can thank them for what they have contributed to the world, just like we spend time visiting our own loved ones once in a while.
Do you know of any other literary gravesites in London we should be visiting?
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