There’s a grave in Pinner, in northwest London, that is quite remarkable — it has a coffin floating in the air right through the middle of it.
The monument, which can be found in Pinner Church, marks the burial site of William and Agnes Loudon, and was created by their son, the noted horticultural author, John Loudon., and is as far as I can tell, unique in its design. A triangular slice with a semi-circular grill in the base, and as if that’s not odd enough, the stone coffin that sits floating in the middle.
There’s a legend attached to the monument, because, of course there is.
It’s claimed, roughly, that the descendants of William Loudon, a Scotch merchant, retain the property bequeathed by him so long as he remains “above ground.”
In September 1907 though, the myth was busted. In the Parish Magazine, the Rev C.E. Greenside wrote that the rumour that the coffin contains a body was a myth. He said that beneath the monument, which he confirmed was made of brick and covered in stucco, was a vault containing two coffins.
Another more recent news report also suggested that the semi-circular arch at the base of the monument is the entrance to an underground vault for the burials, although I have no idea how that would be possible. According to the Pinner historian, E.M. Ware, some local lads once climbed up onto the monument and bored a hole in the coffin and also found it to be empty.
Jumping back to 1907, the vicar having dismissed the story, also described the monument as hideous, and only tolerable thanks to it being half-hidden in ivy.
The grave was still covered in ivy in 1921, and again in 1944, and an accompanying photo to the news report shows a mass of ivy climbing up one side of the monument, although the floating coffin is clear of ivy.
The monument was finally given a restoration in the late 1970s, and these days it’s a bit of a local landmark. It’s easy to see from the street, but you need to be willing to slightly climb up the raised surroundings to get up close to the monument.
On either side are inscriptions:
One side is in Latin:
In sacram memoriam Gulielmi Loudon
prima stirpe generis de Loudon
Paroch Midcalder provinciae.
Mortuns est apud Woodhall
XXIX Decr. A.D. MDCCCIX.
Hoc monumentum positum
A Johanne Claudio Loudon
seniore de filiis
stat testimonium ejus pietatis
Which roughly translates as:
Sacred to the memory of William Loudon
of the original stock fo the Loudon family
of the parish and county of Midcalder.
He died Decr. 29, A.D. 1809.
This monument set up by John Claudius Loudon
the eldest of his sons
stands as a witness of his piety.
On the other side, the inscription is more helpfully in English
Here lies the body of Agnes Loudon
Wife of the late William Loudon
of Woodhall in this parish.
Died October 14th 1841, aged 77.
This monument was erected
to the memory of his parents by their eldest son
John Claudius Loudon
who died 14th Decr. 1843
and is interred in the cemetery at Kensal Green.
The iron grill below bears the words BYDE-MY TYME.
The monument can be found in the graveyard of Pinner Parish Church, which is about a 10-minute walk from the nearby tube station. The church itself is also worth a look around, and unusually for an Anglican church, the doors are generally kept unlocked during the day for people to pop inside for a look.
Apart from the usual churchy things to see, there are a couple of wooden tablets near the altar listing bequests from the past — such as £50 left in 1735 to provide bread for the poor, or £500 to fund a Christmas lunch for people who do not receive alms, or two fields left to the church to provide an income for the priest.
But most people will visit to see the strange floating coffin of Pinner.