Things to do

London's Greatest Graves

Karl Marx's monument? Yawn. Christopher Wren's tomb? Bit obvious. Here are the headstones you can't afford to miss on your next ghoulish jaunt

London's greatest graves


London's greatest graves 1

Who? Morale-booster and endurance champion.

Posthumous gimmick: Has a piano for a gravestone.

Thornton was a pianist, impressionist and music-hall performer who held the record for continuous piano playing: 21 hours, 17 minutes and 56 seconds. He spent the First World War entertaining the troops to keep morale up – which would absolutely not work now, because the piano is boring – before succumbing to the flu in 1918, aged 35.


London's greatest graves 2

Who? He was involved in the Zeebrugge Raid.

Posthumous gimmick: Has a gravestone shaped like a totally rad anchor.

The Zeebrugge Raid took place in 1918, and involved taking obsolete British ships to what is now Bruges and sinking them in the port, making it impossible for German forces to use. Despite it being hailed as a great victory by the authorities, it was something of a massive shambles, with more than 500 British casualties including poor Bult. What's more British than a massive, heroic shambles?


London's greatest graves 3

Who? Helped invent techno.

Posthumous gimmick: Has a record on his gravestone.

You don’t end up with the awesome epitaph “musician and inventor” without living an interesting life. Loveday came up with the mobile phone years before there was an infrastructure for them (it worked within two miles of his flat), produced the first British house single, Cuban Jackin', in 1987 and recorded loads of sessions for John Peel.


London's greatest graves 4

Who? Animal-taming circus owner.

Posthumous gimmick: Has a gravestone in the shape of a colossal lion.

Bostock was known as “The Animal King”, and traveled the world with his circus/menagerie. Part of his act involved sitting in the ring reading a newspaper while 25 lions paced round him. He sometimes got attacked, obviously, but still found the time for things like introducing the world to the idea of the boxing kangaroo.


London's greatest graves 5

Who? Tugboat-building girder-man.

Posthumous gimmick: Big cool pointy memorial thing.

Westwood was an engineer and co-founder of Victorian shipbuilding company Westwood, Bailie & Co, an organisation that traveled to all the corners of the Earth – they built the biggest girder bridge in the world in Pakistan, "ironclad" warships, enormous cranes in Durban and, er, some bits of Romford Station. Nobody's output is 100 per cent glamorous.

Words and photos by Mike "Morbid" Rampton.