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FLOATING COFFIN: Exploring one of London’s most peculiar and interesting gravesites in Pinner

 Published on: 31st December 2023   |   By: Panayiota Demosthenous   |   Category: Uncategorized

Coffins tend to be found below the ground; however, the floating coffin of Pinner could not be any different.

But what is the history behind this fascinating monument?

The pyramid-shaped tomb towers over the courtyard of the 14th century St John the Baptist Church in Pinner, with a large coffin through the centre and poking out of both sides.

The tomb belongs to William and Agnes Loudon, who moved to Woodhall Farm in Pinner in 1806. Here, they experimented with ‘Scotch’ farming, a method of farming based on scientific principles.

William died in 1809, and his wife Agnes passed away in 1841.

The Loudon couple is buried beneath the monument, the peculiar design of which was crafted by their son, John Claudius Loudon, who would go on to become a noted landscape gardener and cemetery designer.

John Claudius’ major work was Arboretum et Fruticetum Britannicum, which was published in 1838 and took him eight years to complete. It depicts every species of shrub and tree growing in Britain, complete with their history, the conditions they favoured, and illustrations drawn from life.

John Claudius also designed Derby’ Arboretum, which inspired the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, and worked with private companies to build large cemeteries to replace the overcrowded city churchyards.

There are several ideas as to why John Claudius’ parents were commemorated in such an unusual way…

Superstitious stories suggest that the Loudons inherited a sum of money that would continue to be paid to them in instalments whilst they were alive, aka above ground. By keeping their coffin above the earth in this way, rumours suggest that either their son John Claudius or even the church would be able to inherit this fortune after their death.

A phrase etched into the ironwork of the tomb, which reads ‘I byde my time’, gives credence to this story. Some believe this could be a reference to the Loudons’ continuing inheritance payments through this cunning plan, or even a reference to the dead rising on the Day of Judgement. However, this is all hearsay.

Some people see the tomb as being more sentimental, arguing that John Claudius designed his parents’ tomb in this way to elevate them above the other graves or to signify that they were now closer to God.

The unique monument was Grade II listed in 1983.

Whether the monument was built to swindle a dead couple’s inheritance or to pay homage to loving parents, the unique and unusual tomb is definitely an unforgettable and unique part of Pinner.

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