10 September 2020, The Tablet

Word from the Cloisters: Lost founder

Word from the Cloisters: Lost founder

The big draw in St Mary Magdalen’s churchyard in Mortlake is the exotic mausoleum of the Victorian explorer Sir Richard Burton, who died in 1890. It was erected by his wife and collaborator Isabel Arundell, and is shaped like an Arab tent. She joined him six years later: their coffins can be seen through a window at the back.

Elena Curti, author of the forthcoming Fifty Catholic Churches to See Before You Die (Gracewing) and former deputy editor of The Tablet, was stumbling around the churchyard a few weeks ago in search of the grave of J. F. Bentley, the Doncaster-born architect of Westminster Cathedral. Bentley, a convert, also designed the fabulous Holy Rood, Watford, which is one of Elena’s unmissables. “I stumbled around the churchyard for ages trying to find Bentley’s grave,” Elena told us. “Eventually I resorted to the internet and identified it from a photograph. His name and the inscription are completely worn away.”

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