When we shuffle off this mortal coil, the best we can hope for is that we reside in the memory of those nearest and dearest to us. And preferably for the right reasons.
But if your influence during life extended beyond the boundaries of friends and family, then your final resting place will carry a fascination for those who come after you.
And for those with a certain morbid fascination – or simply a desire to pay their respects – you can visit the graves of a host of those whose memory continues to be passed on down through the generations.
From comedy legends to the creators of iconic characters; best-selling authors to artists – Kent’s cemeteries play host to plenty of well known names.
We take a look at just a few…
Perhaps it was a case of nominative determinism, but Thomas Crapper was to become a big name in the world of toilets.
You’d think if your surname was Crapper you’d have a pretty tough time of it at school. And the workplace for that matter. But imagine if it was your name which if not starting the sniggering then certainly elevated it into the lexicon.
Well, granted there is some debate over that (deviations of the word ‘crap’ have been dated back long before Mr and Mrs Crapper welcomed their bundle of joy into the world in 1836, but there’s plenty to suggest US soldiers stationed here during the war used the name they saw on the porcelain and elevated it into widespread use).
For young Tommy Crapper was the man who invented the U-bend (he came up with the floating ballcock too for you cistern fans out there) and helped revolutionise the flushing mechanism.
His range of toilets and bathroom equipment attained ‘must have’ status in Victorian England. In fact, he even provided a ‘throne’ to members of the royal family, with four royal warrants to his name. His name was carried on everything from toilet bowls to manhole covers. Tourists often snap shots of the drain covers in Westminster Abbey today which bear his name after his firm relaid the drains there in the late 19th century. How they must chortle.
After retiring in 1904, he saw out his life in Anerley, in Bromley – then part of Kent. When he died, of colon cancer, in 1910, he was buried in the nearby Beckenham Cemetery on Elmers End Road, which has a grand white marble tomb, in the same plot as his wife Maria.
John Le Mesurier
Among the death announcements carried by The Times newspaper on November 16, 1983, was a short paragraph penned in advance by the very man to who it related.
It read simply: “John Le Mesurier wishes it to be known he conked out on November 15. He sadly misses friends and family.”
It was a rather fitting farewell to an actor who rarely took leading roles yet has become one of the nation’s best-loved comedy characters.
His portrayal of Sgt Wilson in Dad’s Army, a role which he first took in his late 50s and which he used his own character as inspiration, has ensured him a place in the living rooms of millions of homes over the years, courtesy of its regular repeats.
For those of a certain vintage, he was also the man who voiced children’s TV character Bod in the 1970s (Arthur Lowe, who portrayed Captain Mainwaring, battled with him for the hearts and minds of children by voicing the Mr Men series aired in the same era).
He lived for many years in Ramsgate – often inviting the Dad’s Army cast down for a night on the town. A heavy drinker, he had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver a few years before his death, and had suffered a haemorrhage in the July of 1983 before it returned in November. His last words to his wife as he slipped into a coma were “it’s all been rather lovely”.
He was cremated and his remains are marked by a simple grave in the cemetery of the St George the Martyr Church in Church Hill, Ramsgate. The stone engraving reads ‘much loved actor 1912-1983. Resting’.
He was joined by the ashes of his son, the musician Kim Le Mesurier, who died in 1991 at the age of 34.
There are precious few comic characters which have stood the tests of time over the years, but Rupert Bear is one of them .
With his red top and yellow scarf , his adventures with his chums in Nutwood continue to enthral readers to this very day.
And we owe his creation to Mary Tourtel, an artist who was both born and died in Canterbury.
Not that she spent much of her adult life in it. In fact, like her creation, she had a sense of adventure and preferred travelling the world or staying in hotels to putting her roots down in any one place.
Married to Daily Express staffer Herbert Tourtel, it was she he turned to when the paper wanted a comic strip to rival those of other Fleet Street titles. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Born in 1874, the talented artist continued penning the series until 1935 when, at the age of 61, she decided to retire as both her health and eyesight began to deteriorate.
As age caught up with her she stayed in a hotel on Ivy Lane – now part of the city centre’s Travelodge. In March of 1948, she collapsed on Canterbury High Street suffering from a brain tumour. She was taken to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital but died a week later, on March 15. She was 74.
She was buried alongside her husband at the ancient St Martin’s Church – part of the city’s World Heritage Site.
They don’t make beards like WG Grace’s any more. But the man who is said to have invented the modern day batting technique, remains perhaps cricket’s most influential and iconic character .
William Gilbert Grace played first class cricket for a staggering 44 years, captaining England, the MCC, and Gloucestershire in the process, and was an all-rounder without compare.
His versatility with the cricket bat would transform the game.
Plying his trade between 1865 to 1908 (he had almost given up the sport to pursue a career in medicine) his beard, bulk and talent made him one of the most famous people in the country – and, more than 100 years after his death – at the age of 67 in 1915 – he is still, perhaps, the sport’s most instantly recognisable character.
In fact, his image was even used as the face of God in Monty Python’s Holy Grail movie.
He saw out his final years of life in Mottingham – once a part of Kent – and continued to play club cricket into his 60s.He died after suffering a heart attack.
His final resting place, along with his wife and two children, is at the Beckenham Cemetery in Elmers End Road. Just don’t use it as a wicket.
Famed as much for his casino-operating skills as his passion for wildlife, it is perhaps fitting that visitors to one of John Aspinall’s two Kent wildlife parks can pay their respects to the man himself while visiting the animals he devoted much of his life too.
Chum of Lord Lucan (police searched the grounds of Howletts, in Bekesbourne, near Canterbury, after the peer went missing after killing his children’s nanny at his wife’s plush London home) he funded the development of the park, and its sister site at Port Lympne, near Hythe, primarily through house-winnings at his gambling clubs in the capital.
Living in the white mansion at Howletts, his private collection of exotic animals would soon become a major tourist attraction when he opened its doors.
But his penchant for allowing keepers to mix with the animals often proved ill-fated with a number dying as a result.
Yet Aspinall himself would continue to be seen in the cages with tigers and gorillas and lived to tell the tale.
When he died at the age of 74 in London, after battling cancer, he was laid to rest in the shadow of his home at Howletts – where today a memorial and grave can be seen by those visiting the park.
There can be few folk who haven’t shed a tear when watching the Railway Children – the 1970 film featuring a young Jenny Agutter.
And the woman who penned the children’s classic book, upon which is based way back in 1906, held the county very close to her heart. So close, indeed, her remains are here.
Edith Nesbit, to give her her full name, spent three years living in Halstead, near Sevenoaks , as a child – a location which would inspire her to write the book with which she remains best remembered.
She lived in or around the county her whole life – including stints in London and East Sussex. While in London she, along with husband Hubert Bland, were among the founders of left-leaning think tank the Fabian Society in 1884.
Said by some to be the mother of the children’s adventure book, her other popular volumes include The Story of the Treasure Seekers and The Story of the Amulet.
After living in a grand house in Eltham for many years, she lost her husband during the First World War and, after his death, moved to St Mary’s Bay, near Dymchurch on the Romney Marsh, with her second husband, Tommy Tucker, who she wed in 1917. She would live in the house they built until her death, at the age of 65, in 1924. It is believed she was suffering from cancer – possibly caused by a lifetime of heavy smoking.
She was laid to rest in the churchyard of St Mary in the Marsh. Her grave is marked by a wooden marker created by Tommy.
Back in the day, being named a presenter of Blue Peter elevated you to a remarkable level of stardom. In a world where multiple TV channels were something only the Americans did, children’s TV was an integral cog in the entertainment landscape. So when bubbly Caron Keating, with her Northern Irish accent, joined the team in 1986 she became a household name.
Not that fame was any stranger to her. Her mother was TV and radio presenter Gloria Hunniford , who has lived in Sevenoaks for many years.
After four years in the hotseat, during which time she interviewed then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Caron stepped down and enjoyed a host of other roles including a stint as host on This Morning and working on BBC Radio 5 Live.
However, in 1997 she was diagnosed with breast cancer . After a brave seven-year battle with the illness, the married mother-of-two died, aged just 41, at her mother’s home.
Her funeral service, attended by the likes of Sir Cliff Richard, Cilla Black, Ant & Dec and Richard and Judy, took place at St Peter’s Church, next door to Hever Castle. Her grave lies in the churchyard.
Sir Malcolm Campbell
If you were to consult your Guinness Book of Records, it would tell you that the current landspeed record is a face-rippling 763mph.
But when Chislehurst-born Malcolm Campbell first added his name to the record holders in 1924, it was at a rather more sedate – although still death-defying at the time – 146mph, achieved on sands near Carmarthen Bay in Wales.
And he wasn’t done there. Over the next nine years he would break the record a further nine times – becoming, in his last effort, the first person to ever drive an automobile in excess of 300mph as he pushed the record up to 301mph.
Not content just with land records, he went on to set the record on three occasions for the fastest water speed record – hitting 141.7mph in 1939 behind the wheel of Bluebird .
It was a record he would take to his grave – although later surpassed by, among others, his son Donald Campbell (although he would die in a later incarnation of the Bluebird as he attempted a water record).
Malcolm Campbell, who was knighted in 1931, died, after a series of strokes, in Reigate, Surrey in 1948. He was 63.
His grave is in the churchyard of St Nicholas’ in Church Row, Chislehurst – marked by an ornate celtic cross.
Now, admittedly with this final one, you’re not going to be able to find the precise spot of Pocahontas’ remains – but you can at least be in the vicinity of them.
Known around the world courtesy of a 1995 Disney animated movie based on her life – one can only assume the studio is planning a live action remake – Pocahontas’ story is so remarkable its sounds more far-fetched than most movie scripts.
Born at the end of the 16th century and daughter of a Native American chief, her tale of capture, conversion to Christianity, marriage and subsequent journey to London – where she was presented as a “civilised savage” – have long been told and their veracity debated.
What does seem agreed upon is that that as her husband set sail from the capital to return to Virginia, she fell ill and the boat she was travelling in stopped at Gravesend. She died of unknown causes – theories range from everything from pneumonia to poisoning – aged 21.
Her funeral is believed to have taken place on March 21, 1617 at St George’s Church in the Kent town. However, after a fire at the church, more than 100 years later, the exact site of her remains are unknown.
Her time in Gravesend may have been short, but her memory lives on there, with a life-sized bronze statue at the church in her memory.
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