And so we arrive at our third Olympic Borough, Hackney, and 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
Surely everyone in life has a part to play. A role, a special task no matter how odd or strange the individual. Think of the Hunchback of Notre Dame or the ugly guy out of the Goonies or even out own ex-Prime Minister Mr Gordon Brown, who despite having all the personality, charisma and colouring of an old school sock that’s been left out overnight in the rain, was still very good at verbally abusing old ladies in Rochdale.
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.