27 notable people buried in the Cotswolds
PUBLISHED: 09:55 08 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:55 08 October 2020
A grave matter. Stephen Roberts has found the graves of 27 famous and historical characters buried in the Cotswolds
Having previously written about some of the Cotswolds’ notable births (Summer Issue) I thought I’d head for the other end of life and reflect on some interesting burials spanning over 800 years.
Let’s start in Gloucester. Robert II, Duke of Normandy (b. c1051), was the Conqueror’s eldest son. It was a sign of familial priorities that when William I died in 1087, Robert succeeded him as Duke of Normandy, whilst younger brother William became king of England (William II or ‘Rufus’). Robert’s rule in Normandy was marked by disputes firstly with Rufus and then with the youngest brother (Henry I) who succeeded him as the English king. Robert would eventually be defeated by Henry at the Battle of Tinchebrai (1106), suffering 28 years of imprisonment thereafter. He’s buried in the cathedral where his effigy dates to about a century after his death. He was known derisively as ‘Curthose’ (short stockings).
Remaining in Gloucester, we now have the first English heir-apparent to be dubbed ‘Prince of Wales’. Edward II (b.1284), however, is most famous for the manner of his passing, allegedly ‘an hot spit’ ‘put into his fundament’ (as it were). Edward’s record was not impressive. He lost the Battle of Bannockburn to the Scots (1314), had his ‘favourites’ (Piers Gaveston and then the Despensers) and was despised by his wife, Isabella, the so-called ‘She-Wolf of France’, who in conjunction with her lover, Roger Mortimer, overthrew her own husband. Forced to abdicate, he was cruelly murdered in Berkeley Castle, then buried in Gloucester Abbey (today’s cathedral), presumably because of its closeness to the scene of his unhappy demise.
Sudeley Castle, Glos
Having already had imprisonment and murder, you could be forgiven for wondering what’s next. Our third tale of royal folk ended more happily. Catherine (sometimes Katherine) Parr (b.1512) was the sixth and last wife of Henry VIII, so could have been forgiven for not fancying her long-term prospects given the fate of some of her predecessors. She was savvy and learned though. Henry was her third husband, so she’d seen a bit of the world and was able to persuade him to restore his daughters (Mary and Elizabeth) to the succession. Nursing the king in his last years, Catherine outlived him, then quickly married for a fourth time, to a former lover, Lord Thomas Seymour, which is how she happened to come and live, and die, at Sudeley.
Warren Hastings (b.1732) was a statesman, who became the first Governor-General of India in 1774, in the process laying the foundations of British India. He survived a duel with Sir Philip Francis in 1780, in which Francis sustained a serious wound, but effected his revenge by playing a prominent part in impeachment proceedings against Hastings (1788) who had been accused of corruption. The trial lasted for seven years and ultimately saw Hastings acquitted, which must have galled Francis no end. In the same year that his House of Lords trial began, Hastings invested in an estate at Daylesford, also being responsible for a rebuilding of the Norman church where he’d be laid to rest after an eventful life.
West Malvern, Worcs
Now, as a bit of a wordsmith, I like my Thesaurus. I hate clumsily re-using the same word all the time and my trusty ‘Roget’ gives me alternatives galore. Peter Roget (b.1779) was a surgeon, theologian and lexicographer, compiling his Thesaurus along the way. A fellow of the Royal Society (1815) and its secretary for over 20 years, Roget wrote on Animal and Vegetable Physiology, however, it was his Thesaurus that was his mega seller, reaching a 28th edition in his lifetime alone. His connection with West Malvern is somewhat prosaic. He was there on holiday when he passed away. I can think of worse places to expire. He was 90 and was buried in the cemetery of St James’ Church.
Gt. Malvern, Worcs
Staying in Malvern, Jenny Lind (b.1820) was an opera singer/soprano, the so-called ‘Swedish Nightingale’, having been born in Stockholm. Having entered a singing school aged just nine, Jenny went on to quickly attain mass popularity, her considerable earnings being largely used to endow musical scholarships and charities in both Sweden and England. Between 1883 and 86 she was Professor of Singing at the Royal College of Music. Settled in England from 1855, Jenny spent her last years on the Malvern Hills, making her last public appearance in Malvern (1883) and passing away at her home of Wynd’s Point, before being laid to rest at Great Malvern Cemetery. Sadly, no recordings of her lovely voice exist.
Into the 20th century and Sir Benjamin Baker (b.1840) was an engineer who worked on the famous Forth Bridge. In collaboration with John Fowler, Baker helped build the Metropolitan Railway in London, along with Victoria station and various bridges. Their greatest monument, however, would be that Forth Rail Bridge, a cantilever construction, which opened in 1890, when Baker was knighted. He was also consulting engineer on Egypt’s Aswan Dam and its subsequent heightening, as well as designing the vessel which carried Cleopatra’s Needle to London. Baker lived in Cheltenham (there’s a blue plaque) but spent his later years in Pangbourne. When he died, aged 67, he was buried at Idbury in the Cotswold Hills.
Mary Mackay, a.k.a. ‘Marie Corelli’ (b.1855) was a popular authoress, who had actually trained for a musical career. She wrote over two dozen novels between A Romance of Two Worlds (1886) and Open Confession to a Man from a Woman (posthumously, 1925). She also wrote short-stories and some non-fiction, whilst a number of her stories were adapted for film and theatre. Born in London, Corelli would spend her later years in Stratford, where she campaigned for the preservation of its architectural heritage. She was quite eccentric though, even having her own gondola and gondolier to convey her about the Avon. She died in Stratford aged 68 and was buried in the town’s Evesham Road Cemetery.
Scottish author Kenneth Grahame (b.1859) was, of course, the author of The Wind in the Willows (1908), which, with its riverbank characters of Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad, became a children’s classic. His little boy Alastair was the inspiration behind the character of Mr Toad. Grahame started in banking and became Secretary of the Bank of England (1898) but had to retire for health reasons10 years later. He’d already had some early works published but now set his mind to his ‘magnum opus’. Grahame is one of several notable people to be buried in Oxford. He spent his retirement at Cookham, where he’d spent his childhood in the care of a grandmother, died at Pangbourne aged 73 and was laid to rest in Oxford’s Holywell Cemetery.
Finally, Nancy Mitford (b.1904), was a novelist and the eldest of the Mitford sisters, sibling to Diana, who married Oswald Mosley, and Unity who was also notorious for her Nazi leanings. A daughter of the 2nd Baron Redesdale, Nancy forged a reputation with witty novels like Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949). She also wrote biographies, which were also popular, including ones on Madame de Pompadour, Voltaire and Louis XIV. Regarded as one of the ‘Bright Young People’ of London’s inter-war social scene, Nancy would die at her home in France, where she was cremated, her ashes brought back to England and buried at Swinbrook, where her grave can be found next to those of her Mitford Sisters.
Other notable burials
1823 – Edward Jenner (b.1749), physician of smallpox vaccine (Berkeley).
c.649/50 – St. Birinus (b. c.600), Anglo-Saxon bishop (Dorchester on Thames).
1613 – Sir Thomas Bodley (b.1545), founder of Oxford’s Bodleian Library (Oxford).
1645 – William Laud (b.1573), executed Archbishop of Canterbury (Oxford).
1722 – John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (b.1650), general (Blenheim Palace).
1792 – Lord North (b.1732), PM during the American War of Independence (Wroxton).
1927 – Jerome K. Jerome (b.1859), author of ‘Three Men in a Boat’ (Ewelme).
1928 – Herbert Asquith (b.1852), Liberal PM, including during WW1 (Sutton Courtenay).
1940 – John Buchan (b.1875), author of ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’ (Elsfield).
1950 – George Orwell (b.1903), author of ‘1984’ & ‘Animal Farm’ (Sutton Courtenay).
1959 – Sir Henry Tizard (b.1885), chemist & inventor, helped develop WW2 radar (Oxford).
1963 – William Morris (b.1877), motor manufacturer & founder of Morris Motors (Nuffield)
1965 – Sir Winston Churchill (b.1874), wartime PM & other family members (Bladon).
1616 – William Shakespeare (b.1564), English language’s greatest writer (Stratford-on-Avon).
1216 – King John (b.1166), king who had to seal Magna Carta in 1215 (Worcester).
1934 – Edward Elgar (b.1857), composer of the ‘Enigma Variations’ (Little Malvern).
1947 – Stanley Baldwin (b.1867), PM during General Strike & abdication crisis (Worcester).