London’s most peculiar tomb: Pinner’s floating coffin

A coffin hangs from the side of a stone mausoleum.  It is very peculiar

Coffins should go underground, right? Not this one.

This is William and Agnes Loudon’s grave in the cemetery of St John the Baptist, Pinner. It towers over its neighbors and, more importantly, it appears to house a floating sarcophagus.

What we have here is a monolithic stone wedge, lightened at the bottom with a fan-like metal lattice and markedly odd in the middle of the protruding coffin.

A church with a red roof with a wedge-shaped monument in the foreground.

If you think it looks a bit quirky from the front, consider the page view. Here we can see that the presumed sarcophagus really passes all the way through the grave. It looks like a magic trick; a floating coffin.

Two sides of a sarcophagus look out on each side of the stone mausoleum.

In truth, Loudons is buried under the monument. The floating tomb is pure art. But why does it take this peculiar shape?

This strange monument was designed by Loudons’ son John Claudius Loudon, who would go on to become a renowned landscape gardener and cemetery designer.

An entertaining just-so-story provides one explanation, albeit false. It is said that Loudons inherited a sum of money that would continue to pay in installments while still “above the ground” (ie, alive). By burying their bodies one meter from the ground, Loudon junior ensured that the proceeds would continue to come his way.

A wedge-shaped grave with a coffin protruding in front
The dead have risen … they all float down here … etc.

The story gets additional mileage of an enigmatic sentence woven into the ironworks. “I’m holding my time.” It could be a reference to the Loudons extending the legacy through cunning, though it is more likely a reference to the fact that the dead arose on the Day of Judgment.

The truth is unknown, but probably more banal. In all likelihood, Loudon junior designed the tomb to raise his parents above their fellow parishioners or to indicate that they were now closer to God.

A faded inscription on the side of a tomb
The ends of the ‘sarcophagus’ note the lives of Agnes and Williams and tell that their son is buried in Kensal Green.

Regardless of the reasoning behind its strange design, the facts about the monument are these: It marks the last resting place of William Loudon, who died in 1809, and his wife Agnes, who lived until 1841. None of them are buried in the flying sarcophagus, but in more conventional coffins underground.

Along with Joseph Grimaldi’s musical grave and the kennel grave of the “Nazi dog” Giro, this must be one of London’s strangest grave monuments.

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