Unbuilt Britain, Radio 4, Monday-Friday
Evita's Odyssey, Radio 4, Monday
Dead odd – Primrose Hill and the afterlife of Eva Peron
In the 1820s, London was filling up with dead people. Graveyards were full. Corpses were breaking through the topsoil, literally. Something had to be done – and life would have been very different for the Beautiful People of Primrose Hill had Thomas Willson's vision been realised. They'd have had to find another chi-chi corner of the capital to colonise.
As the architecture writer Jonathan Glancey discovered in Tuesday's instalment of the fascinating Unbuilt Britain, a five-part look at construction schemes that never got off the ground, Willson's grand design was a pyramid-shaped mausoleum occupying 18 acres of Primrose Hill, 94 storeys high and final resting place of five million. As Catherine Arnold, who's written about it, told Glancey: "I don't think he'd studied structural engineering to any great depth."
It keyed into the Egyptomania that was trending at the time, but public response killed it off. Instead we got garden cemeteries like Highgate and Nunhead, for which we weekend city walkers are truly thankful.
In Evita's Odyssey, BBC reporter Linda Pressly focused on one cadaver in particular. After a state funeral, Eva Peron's embalmed body was spirited away by the military and hidden for a few years, fetching up in a Milan cemetery before being laid to rest back home in the 1970s. Even in death Eva had an iconic power (for once "iconic" isn't being misused), revered by Peronists and feared by the military rulers. Before Italy, her body was stashed in various locations round Buenos Aires, including behind a cinema screen – and according to legend, wherever she was moved to, however secret, flowers and candles would mysteriously appear.
The stories were fantastical: one Colonel Morricone reportedly kept her in his office to show to visitors, but became erotically obsessed and went bonkers. And when Juan Peron received her body from Italy, his third wife Isabel supposedly slept next to it to absorb the energy. It seemed to work: when Juan, restored to power, died, Isabel – a former nightclub dancer – became president of Argentina. Perhaps David Cameron should spend a few nights in the graveyard of St Martin's Church in Bladon. It's where Winston Churchill's buried.
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