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Burials - St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, London

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Burials - St. Martin's-in-the-Fields

London, Middlesex

St Martin's in the Fields was a large rural parish until the seventeenth century. It was subdivided into a number of smaller parishes over the years, the first being St Anne Soho in 1687.

St. Martin’s Churchyard.

Area around church now paved and used as an outdoor market selling mainly tourist tat. Originally the churchyard extended much further to the south. The extensive burial ground, containing an estimated 60-70,000 burials, was emptied and replaced by Duncannon Street and buildings to the South in 1827/30. At the same time burial vaults around and under the church were greatly extended. These were cleared in 1937.

The old burying ground adjoining the church was broken up to make improvements in the city of Westminster; the dead were disinterred, and their remains removed to catacombs. This is commemorated by the following inscription, on the north side of St. Martin's church :-

“ These catacombs were constructed at the expense of the Commissioners of his Majesty's Woods and Forests, in exchange for part of the burial ground of this parish, on the south side of the church, given up for the public improvements, and were consecrated by the Lord Bishop of London on the 7th day of June, 1831. The Rev. Geo. Richards, D.D. Vicar; John Smith, James Aldridge, Churchwardens."

The description of the new vaults is taken from the Sunday Times of June 12th, 1831 :-

“The new vaults under St. Martin's burying ground are the most capacious structure of the sort in London. They were opened on Tuesday, at the consecration of the new burial ground. They consist of a series of vaults, running out of one another in various directions; they are lofty, and when lighted up, as on Tuesday, really presented something of a comfortable appearance. Some of the vaults having been quite filled with the coffins taken out of the old burying grounds, have been blocked up at both ends, - in fact, hermetically sealed, a plan which is to be adopted with the other vaults in succession, when the cold tenants shall be sufficiently numerous. They are of tolerable height; about; ten feet to the turn of the arch, twenty in width, and nearly forty in length; capable of holding, we should suppose, one thousand coffins each. They are white-washed around, and at top, and the flagging at the bottom keeps them dry beneath the foot. All the leaden coffins, removed from the burial ground, are placed in one vault. On the end of one conspicuously placed beneath a grating, through which the light descends, was inscribed the name of Lady Hannah Gordon. There are arcades or corridors leading to the vaults, which branch off right and left, along which are ranges of head-stones, recording the names of individuals whose bones, removed from their old resting place, repose beneath. These have a handsome appearance, lying as they do, at either side, close to the wall, and looking somewhat like an artificial balustrade, flanking the wall in the centre. Crowds of ladies perambulated the vaults for some time, and the whole had more the appearance of a fashionable promenade than a grim repository of decomposing mortality ." (Walker 1839)

There was additional burial ground for the church purchased in 1805 in Pratt Street St Pancras.

'In use until 1856, at first for St Martin's parishioners (mainly the poor) then later for other parishes. Today it is an open space with gravestones around the edge. To the south these have been arranged in a rather odd herring-bone pattern. Over 18,000 burials recorded at the site'

Westminster Archives holds some work done on monumental inscriptions at St Martins in the Fields mainly in the church and crypt but also some from what survived at the Drury Lane and Pratt Street (known as the boneyard) burial grounds by the 1990s.

http://www.westminster.gov.uk/workspace/assets/publications/Info-Sheet-08-Monumental-Inscript-1278423843.pdf

St Martin in the Fields burial registers are held at Westminster Archives. There was a separate register for the Pratt Street burial ground. There are some Bishops Transcripts (copies made of the register and sent to the Bishop each year) available to be searched. There is no indication in the BTs where each burial took place and whether these are all the burials. In 1832 a large number of the 636 burials listed in the BTs were from the workhouse.

http://www.westminster.gov.uk/workspace/assets/publications/Info-Sheet-01-Anglican-Regs-1271422893.pdf


A 1940 survey of monuments and wall tablets in the crypt is available online.

St Martin in the Fields Churchyard database at Find A Grave.

Famous burials include the Physicist Robert Boyle (d 1691), Nell Gwynne, (d 1687) Newgate prison escapee Jack Sheppard (hanged 1724) and furniture maker Thomas Chippendale (d 1779).

People Buried at St. Martin's in the Fields

Register - St. Martin's in the Fields

A register of baptisms, marriages, and burials in the parish of St. Martin in the Fields, in the county of Middlesex Starts page 103

Also https://archive.org/stream/registerofbaptis00stma#page/224/mode/2up

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  • John Sheppard, "Jack" (1702-1724) Robber


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References and Further Reading

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this project is in HistoryLink 

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