The independent London newspaper

Sorry state of Mary’s memorial

26 November, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Unkempt memorial stone to Mary Wollstonecraft in the churchyard

BE prepared for a shock if you wander into the quiet St Pancras Gardens in Somers Town. A sorry sight may meet your eyes.

You are likely to suddenly come across an unadorned tomb for one of our great women radical writers, Mary Wollstonecraft, among the great of her period – and what a sad sight it makes.

The Portland stone throws off a neglected air, moss grows all around it, the lettering about the famous woman, her great book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, her death in 1797, all aged and difficult to read and, sitting forlornly on top of the edifice, a small plastic flower someone, sometime ago, left.

Though Mary’s remains were moved later to another resting place in Bournemouth, this is where she and her equally famous husband, William Godwin, were first buried.

Detail of Maggi Hambling’s statue to Mary Wollstonecraft in Newington Green. Photo: ©Ioana Marinescu

The tomb – presumably unattended for so long, an unkempt thing – makes one wonder why Camden and the public appear indifferent to the state and upkeep of such a historic site.

Following the recent publicity over the unveiling of the first statue to Mary Wollstonecraft by the artist Maggi Hambling in Newington Green, I assumed that the Grade II-listed tomb in St Pancras Gardens – given a facelift nearly 30 years ago – would in these times deserve commemoration.

Her radical ideas in that beautiful period of Enlightenment more than 220 years ago established her, after all, as the “mother of feminism”. She also lived in Somers Town and Holborn, was part of our history, her daughter Mary Shelley wrote the book Frankenstein. What an extraordinary woman!

Yet here stands such a disregarded edifice, unwanted it seems.

And to think how in recent years women politicians have busied themselves as leaders at the Camden Town Hall, following the feminist cause in one way or another, and yet allowing the historic site of one of the greatest feminists to fall into such sorrowful neglect.


Share this story

Post a comment