A modest brick building in Greenwich is the final resting place of Sir Thomas Hardy and Admiral Lord Hood, and also many ordinary sailors. The Devonport Mausoleum was built around 1750 in a new cemetery in the grounds of the former Devonport Nurses Home, and the cemetery was in use until 1857 as the graveyard of the Royal Hospital for Seamen.
It’s thought that some 24,000 people, mostly men but a few women, were buried in the cemetery, but many were later moved in 1875 and 1929 when National Maritime Museum and later Devonport House were both built on the site.
What remains is the Mausoleum though, which sits on top of an underground crypt.
The very first burial in the crypt was of a hospital pensioner, John Meriton, but later the space was mainly given to senior officers.
Two of the most famous men lying there are Sir Thomas Hardy, Nelson’s flag captain on Victory at Trafalgar and Admiral Lord Hood one of the admirals of the War of American Independence. Both were also Governors of the Hospital.
The grounds have changed a fair bit since the Mausoleum was built, and it was given a restoration in 1999 when Greenwich University took over the buildings next to it.
It’s a simple brick building with a number of stone monuments on the outside, and despite the metal gates, there’s just one monument inside the Mausoleum, from the 1890s to Edward Riddle and his son John, both former headmasters of the Hospital School. There are a few ledger stones on the floor, and a list of those who died in the American War of Independence, but otherwise, it’s a simple brick building. For the dead, the main action is in the crypt below.
What you won’t see though is the entrance to the crypt, as that’s actually a staircase around the back of the mausoleum, and is not only in the bottom bricked up but there’s a metal railing over the steps. The dead rest in peace.
The grounds of the Mausoleum are usually locked, but open for London Open House Weekend, so chances to see inside this modest but important building are quite rare.