This is a small pocket park in Twickenham that was once a graveyard. Today, it’s a park, but it’s also the burial site of a controversial vicar.

The site opened in 1782 as the burial ground for the local parish of St Mary the Virgin in Twickenham, but by 1835, it was already nearly full, so a larger burial ground in nearby Oak Lane was opened as an overflow site.

Holly Road officially closed as a burial site in 1868, although some family burials continued for a few decades. It remained untouched as a disused cemetery until it opened as the Holly Road Garden of Rest in 1953. It was cleared and replanted in 1991 to its current layout, with the iron railings added in 1995 to replace those removed during WWII.

The benches and tables are a recent addition from 2013 as part of a town centre investment. They were requested as the park is heavily used during the daytime by local students. At the same time, a fenced-off play area also got upgraded, and a new ornate gate was added in the high wall off to one side.

Some of the notable burials include Thomas Twining, founder of Twining’s Tea, and William, 5th Viscount Howe, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army during the first part of the American War of Independence

However, there’s one resident in the ground who is notorious in Georgian history – the Reverend Robert Burt.

In the 1780s, Reverend Burt was chaplain to George, Prince of Wales, and around the same time, the young Prince George fell in love with the twice-widowed Catholic society beauty, Maria Fitzherbert.

They plotted a secret marriage, and Burt was persuaded to carry out the ceremony.

As anyone who has watched The Madness of King George will know, this was illegal.

The Prince hadn’t secured permission from the King or the Privy Council, and even if they had agreed to him marrying a Catholic widow, it would have meant him being removed from the succession to the British throne. Had that happened, his brother, Prince Frederick, Duke of York, would have taken the throne, and it’s possible that we would have ended up with an entirely different set of monarchs to rule the country.

News of the marriage leaked out, and it was annulled.

Being involved in the dodgy marriage didn’t hold Robert back, and in 1788 he was promoted to vicar of St Mary’s, but died in October 1791, aged just 35.

These days, his burial place is a walled-off small park with some of the grander tombs still dotted around it. The recently added park benches and tables are largely set back from the path closer to the edges of the park.

A fenced-off area is for the smaller kids, and on my weekend visit, it was very busy. There’s a small plaque by the ornate gates that lists a little of the history and some of the notable burials here.

It’s a fairly well-hidden space, set back from the main roads down a narrow side street, but it is evidently very well known locally, judging by how busy the children’s play area was, even on a Saturday morning.

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