George Pickow, Hulton Archive // Getty Images
George Pickow, Hulton Archive // Getty Images

Who's Buried in Westminster Abbey?

George Pickow, Hulton Archive // Getty Images
George Pickow, Hulton Archive // Getty Images

London's Westminster Abbey is not only a grand and glorious place of worship, but also the final resting place of monarchs and their consorts, nobility, greats from literary history, composers, and scientists who contributed to the history and culture of England.

1. Charles Darwin

The English naturalist Charles Darwin was buried at the Abbey shortly after his death in 1882. He is best known for his work on human evolution, but first came to fame for his journal that was published after a voyage on a survey ship.

2. Aphra Behn

Poet and playwright Aphra Behn was once employed by King Charles II as an agent during the Dutch War, but nobody believed her when she told them, in advance, of a raid that did eventually happen. She was buried in the Abbey in 1689.

3. Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond

Margaret was the grandmother of King Henry VIII who established two colleges of Cambridge — Christ's College and St. John's College. Her tomb in the Abbey features an effigy, which was likely molded on a death mask.

4. Elizabeth Claypole

When Charles II ordered the bodies of Elizabeth Claypole's father, Oliver Cromwell, and his followers to be disinterred upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, her final resting place remained undisturbed in the Abbey. Cromwell's body did not get the same treatment of course, as his corpse was then hanged and decapitated. Finally, his head was displayed on a pole outside the Parliament building, and then his body was chucked into a pit underneath the gallows.

5. Sir Isaac Newton

The famed astronomer, mathematician and scientist is best known for his work on motion and laws of gravitation. He died in 1727 at age 84 and is buried close to an impressive marble monument in the Abbey.

6. Mary Eleanor Bowes

Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess Dowager of Strathmore, is an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II and is said to have been buried in Westminster Abbey wearing an elaborate bridal gown. She began divorce proceedings during her second marriage, but was abducted by her husband. She was later rescued, and her husband was thrown in jail.

7. Charles Dickens

The grave of Charles Dickens is in what is known as Poets' Corner, and his stone is marked with a simple inscription, which was etched out at his own request — instead of an elaborate engraving, he preferred that his works speak for him.

8. David Livingstone

The Scottish explorer David Livingstone died in the middle of Africa in 1873. His heart was buried under a mpundu tree but his body was embalmed and shipped back to London, where it arrived the following year, for burial at the Abbey.

9. William Murray, Lord Mansfield

William Murray was a lawyer and a judge who helped end slavery in England with his decision on Somerset v. Stewart, which found that slavery was unsupported in common law.

10. Laurence Olivier

The ashes of Laurence Olivier, who died in 1989, lie in front of Shakespeare's memorial in Poets' Corner. During his funeral services, attendees heard a recording of the actor himself reading from Henry V.

A Vertical Cemetery for Cities Running Out of Room for Their Dead

Finding a place to die can be as expensive as finding a place to live. As the world’s population grows, the available graveyard space is shrinking. Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury U.S. service members, while Manhattan only has one active cemetery—and as of last summer, the only available pair of burial plots on sale there were priced at $350,000 each.

Just like cities grow taller to accommodate more people, cemeteries may need to get vertical, too. A new design concept by Fredrik Thornström and Karolina Pajnowska, master’s students at the Lund University School of Architecture in Sweden, shows what that might look like: a vertical columbarium (a place to store urns) built into a cluster of silos.

The design includes an in-house crematorium as well as places to display all the urns. Within empty silos that include waterfalls, the urns would be placed on individual shelves that spiral up the walls. Each individual urn shelf would be accessible through the back side of the display via a walkway that leads up the silo.

Thornström and Pajnowska are not the first designers to come up with an idea for a skyscraper cemetery, but their concept would be relatively easy to implement using out-of-use silo infrastructure.

[h/t Dezeen]

All images by Fredrik Thornström and Karolina Pajnowska.

Why a Maryland Cemetery Initially Rejected F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Corpse
Getty Images // Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

F. Scott Fitzgerald was only 44 years old when he suffered a fatal heart attack, following years of heavy drinking and various alcohol-related health problems. When he died on December 21, 1940, Fitzgerald had been living in Hollywood, California with his mistress, the gossip columnist Sheilah Graham. After audiences had lost interest in his earlier Jazz Age novels like 1925's The Great Gatsby, he moved to Hollywood to try to make a living by writing screenplays. When Fitzgerald died, his estranged wife, Zelda, was living in a mental hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. She helped arrange for his body to be shipped from California to Rockville, Maryland, so he could be buried with his father, Edward, at the Fitzgerald’s family plot at St. Mary's Catholic Church.

St. Mary's, however, refused to accept Fitzgerald’s corpse. The parish priest there told Zelda and Fitzgerald’s lawyer that St. Mary's only buried good Catholics, and Fitzgerald was not considered a good Catholic: He didn’t regularly attend confession, he didn’t take communion, and he was not worthy of being laid to rest on the holy ground at St. Mary’s cemetery.

So, Zelda sent her husband’s body to Rockville Cemetery, a less-strict cemetery about a mile away from St. Mary’s. Two dozen people attended Fitzgerald’s rainy funeral service, including Fitzgerald’s only child (his daughter Scottie), and his editor, Max Perkins. Zelda did not attend. Instead of having a Catholic ceremony, Fitzgerald received an impersonal service led by an Episcopal priest who reportedly had no idea who the writer was.

After Zelda’s death in 1948, she was also buried at Rockville Cemetery. Because she had bought only one spot in the cemetery instead of a family plot, her casket was buried in tandem, smack on top of Fitzgerald’s casket.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald grave by JayHenry. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

In 1975, 35 years after Fitzgerald died, the Rockville Women’s Club and Rockville Civic Improvement Advisory Commission wanted to beautify the Fitzgeralds' run-down grave and put up a plaque to signify their final resting place. They contacted Scottie, who told them how St. Mary’s Catholic Church had rejected her father’s body back in 1940.

Scottie, along with members of the Rockville Women’s Club, asked the local Catholic Archbishop to reconsider accepting her parents for burial at St. Mary’s. By then, Fitzgerald’s writing had become far more popular and respected than it was when he died. St. Mary’s happily agreed to let F. Scott's and Zelda’s caskets be moved to St. Mary's for burial in the Fitzgerald family plot. Eleven years later, in 1986, Scottie was buried with her parents at St. Mary’s, and their family’s tombstone is inscribed with the last line of The Great Gatsby.


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