*This tale is also included in the ‘Five Boroughs’ project
And so we arrive at the story of Mrs Basil Holmes, saviour of London’s graveyards.
“Many would have considered Mrs Basil Holmes a little odd when she decided to spend her leisure time wandering around in graveyards and cemeteries. But one thing she wasn’t was blind. She noticed what everyone else had failed to see…”
Watch the video and enjoy the London song inspired by this tale, ‘Quietus Relieved’.
London Cemeteries – Mrs Basil Holmes
Many would have considered Mrs Basil Holmes to be a little strange when she decided to spend her spare time wandering around graveyards and cemeteries. Now in the 1880’s it was considered al little odd to choose to spend your time with dead bodies, but of course that was before the advent of reality TV and if you gave me the choice of between rubbing shoulders with corpses or watching a man in a tight T-shirt make fun of the mentally ill, I know which one I would choose.
But Mrs Basil Holmes had a mission; to take careful note of every gravestone, tombstone, and boundary of every graveyard in Hackney and beyond, including St John of Jerusalem in Lauriston Road. Now maybe she was a little off-kilter, maybe she was O.C.D. but one thing she wasn’t, was blind and she had noticed what others had failed to see. Greedy land developers were building on these plots illegally. With no regard for family history or consecrated ground.
Mrs. Holmes went on to publish a book listing 500 of these churchyards and in doing so, not only protected these plots but with them, a sizeable chunk of London’s history.