The Map: Find the plot

From Boadicea to Beatrix Potter: a guided tour to some of Britain's more unusual and intriguing final resting places
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Most elusive

Beatrix Potter (1866-1943)

Once upon a time there was a prolific children's author and illustrator who left very strict instructions about her hereafter. On her death, her ashes were scattered on one of her fields at Near Sawrey, Cumbria, by her shepherd Tom Storey, who, as per instructions, promised not to reveal the spot. He died in 1988 aged 90, having passed the secret on to his son. But then the son suddenly dropped dead in 1989, and now no one now knows where Potter is, so her secret is safe for ever.

Most popular

Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997)

Even in death, Diana manages to achieve both tragedy and tawdriness. She lies buried in consecrated ground on a beautiful little island in a lake on the Althorp estate of her brother Earl Spencer, all alone, while her beloved Dodi, who is said to have bought an engagement ring on the day of their deaths, is interred 100 miles away on the country estate of his father, Mohammed Al Fayed, in Oxted in Surrey. Except Diana is not entirely alone: she is now joined by hundreds of thousands of visitors each summer who trail along a gravel path before, and no doubt after, doing the rounds of the Diana museum and shop.

Most appropriate

Thomas Gray (1716-1771)

Talk about writing your own epitaph. Gray, the painstaking and very English pastoral poet, is buried in St Giles's Churchyard, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, said to be the inspiration for his most famous work, Elegy in a Country Churchyard (1750). The poem, which took a mere nine years to dash off, led to him being offered the Poet Laureateship in 1757, which he refused.

Most disappointing Boris Karloff (1887-1969)

The star of the first version of the horror movie staple The Mummy (1932) but best known for his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster in James Whale's 1931 classic, old Boris - real name William Henry Pratt - is quietly whiling away eternity in the very respectable and not-at-all-undead Mount Cemetery Garden of Remembrance in Guildford, Surrey. Horrifying.

Most secretive

Guy Francis de Moncy Burgess (1910-1963)

In a suitably cloak-and-dagger postscript to his life, the ashes of traitor-spy Guy Burgess were spirited out of the Soviet Union and sprinkled on the grave of his mother, in the graveyard of St John the Evangelist Church in West Meon, Hampshire in a secret night-time ceremony. His fellow conspirator, Donald Maclean (1913-1983) now rests in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Penn, Buckinghamshire. His ashes are in an urn decorated unapologetically with a hammer and sickle.

Most sickening

Sir William Wallace, (c1274-1305)

Otherwise known as Mel Gibson, sorry, Braveheart, Wallace took on Scotland's English overlords, initially victorious at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, but subsequently beaten by the forces of Edward I and finally arrested near Glasgow. He was tried in Westminster Hall and condemned to death. His fate was to be hanged, drawn, beheaded and quartered and the pieces of his body dispatched to Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and Perth as a warning to others considering insurrection.

Most picaresque

Robin Hood (c12th-13th centuries)

Whether the friend to the poor with the penchant for green tights ever actually existed remains open to question, but according to the most famous story of his death, he is buried in Kirklees Abbey, in Mirfield, West Yorkshire. The story goes that our fading hero called for his bow as he lay dying, shot an arrow through the abbey window, and asked to be buried at the spot where it landed.

Most unlikely Boadicea (died c60-61AD)

King Prasutagus's widow allegedly took to the battlefields after her daughters were raped by the Romans. She won several notable victories before meeting the army of Caius Suetonius Paulin, where her forces were routed and she and her daughters took poison. Legend has it they are interred where they fell, below platform 10 of King's Cross station, London.

Most bizarre

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)

The great law reformer and philosopher left his considerable fortune to the newly established University College, London, then intended for those excluded from university education such as non-conformists and Jews. But Bentham also stipulated that his body should be dissected, embalmed, dressed and placed in a chair on display in the college. And there it still sits, in a glass-fronted cabinet, in a corridor of the main building.

Most symbolic

The Unknown Warrior

This was the simple, brilliant idea of an army chaplain: that the body of one of the unknown victims of World War One should be brought from its burial site in France - where it was marked with only with a simple, wooden cross - to England to be re-interred with full honours in Westminster Abbey, as a symbol and remembrance for the millions of "unknown warriors" who had died in the war. The ceremony took place on Armistice Day, 11 November 1920.

With thanks to Douglas Greenwood. A new edition of `Who's Buried Where in England' by Douglas Greenwood is published by Constable on 26 July, pounds 12.99

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