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Famous Names in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Following on from last week's introduction to the vast St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, in today's post I explore some of the well-known people who have been buried here since its opening as Britain's first public cemetery in 1854.

Mathilde Blind (1841-1896) was born Mathilde Cohen in Germany but sought refuge in London after her stepfather, Karl Blind was involved in the Baden insurrection of 1848. In England she grew up around European refugees and revolutionaries, including Giuseppe Mazinni. Her brother, Ferdinand, committed suicide after failing to assassinate Otto von Bismark. Her political upbringing manifested itself in her poems, and she frequently tackled the subject of social injustice, including her attack on the Highland Clearances, 'The Heather on Fire'(1886). This monument to Blind (see below) was erected by the industrialist Ludwig Mond and features her likeness along with Greco-Romanesque images now partially obscured by ivy.


A close friend of Blind was Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893), a painter associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood through his tutorship of the young Dante Gabriel Rosetti. He is perhaps most celebrated for the murals of Manchester history that he painted in the city's Town Hall. Brown's grandson and namesake was the novelist Ford Madox Ford.


One of the most striking monuments in the cemetery is that of 50 year old William French who drowned 13 July 1896 while rescuing a dog in Highgate Ponds on Hampstead Heath. Little is known of French but The Morning Post of Wednesday, July 15, 1896 (p. 8) described him as a 'stableman'. The inscription on the stone reveals that the monument, known as the 'Highgate Dog', was paid for with money raised from fellow animal lovers: 'all classes of lovers of dumb animals'. French was originally buried in a pauper's grave, but moved to a 'first class' plot at the request of the Victorian writer and bon vivant George R. Sims (Berrow's Worcester Journal, Saturday, July 25, 1896). As is clear by the good condition of the ribbon and flower in this photograph, French's grave continues to receive regular visits.


Not far from William French's grave is that of another hero - Irish cavalryman, John Hickey. Alfred Tennyson's poem, Charge of the Light Brigade, vividly recalls the fated attack by more than 600 British light cavalry on Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava in October 1854. Like many other survivors of the Crimean War, Hickey was poorly treated by the British government and quickly fell to poverty. He ended his days in the squalor and degredation of St Pancras Union Workhouse. His stone reads:

In remembrance of John Hickey. 
One of the 4th Light Dragoon Guards.
Died May 30th 1896, aged 65 years.
This stone was erected by a few admirers to mark the last resting place of a brave man.

One of this group of admirers was the novelist Jerome K Jerome.
Sadly there is no headstone of the grave of another military hero, Victoria Cross awardee, Valentine Bambrick (1837-1864). Bambrick received the VC after being attacked at Bareilly in 1858 during the Indian Mutiny. Three years later, in London, Bambrick was convicted of assault and theft of a comrade's medals. He was thus stripped of his own medal and sent to Pentonville Prison, Whilst there, the stricken Bambrick killed himself. He was then buried in a pauper's grave. Perhaps one of the only momentoes of his death is this record found on the Deceased Online database of 25 year old Bambrick's burial in the cemetery at Finchley on 8 April 1864. A memorial plaque was belatedly erected to him in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery in 2002.


Among the many celebrated entertainers buried in the cemetery are:
  •  the composer of 'La Varsoviana' (Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay), Henri d'Alcorn (born George Henry Stannard Allcorn; 1827-1905)
  • the Lyceum Clown, Harry Gardner (1871-1917)
  • dance band leader who was killed during the Blitz in the Cafe de Paris, Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson (1914-1941)
 Other well-known burials in the cemetery include:
  • Cora 'Belle Elmore' Crippen (d. 1910), murdered wife of the notorious Dr. Harvey Crippen
  • Kingsley Amis (1922-1995), novelist and critic
  • Dame Anna Maria Crump (1850-1921), first Mayoress of Islington
  • Sir William Crump (1850-1923), first Mayor of Islington
  • Andrew Fisher (1862-1928), Prime Minister of Australia
  • George Cuvier 'The Boy' Spencer (d. 1916), introduced the velocipede to England
  • John Baptista De Manio (1874-1913), aviation pioneer and father of broadcaster Jack De Manio
Are you aware of any other celebrated people in the St Pancras and Islington Cemetery? Or do any of your ancestors lie buried near any of the above graves? Please let us know via the Comments Box below or on our Twitter and Facebook pages!

Comments

  1. Is anyone aware of the history of the headstone with the writing Duchess of Lichenstein and daughter of Kennedy, New York ?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Do you know where the Duchess died?

    ReplyDelete

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