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Remains of explorer are to be reinterred

26 June 2020

The remains were discovered during the excavations for the HS2 project

CHRISTOPHER HILTON/GEOGRAPH/COMMONS

A sculpture st Euston station of Captain Flinders with his cat, Trim

A sculpture st Euston station of Captain Flinders with his cat, Trim

THE remains of Captain Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), which were discovered during the excavations for the HS2 project (News, 29 October 2019), will be reinterred in St Mary and the Holy Rood, Donington, in Leicestershire. The Grade I listed church, together with its churchyard, had been closed to new burials by Orders in Council in 1864 and 1865.

Captain Flinders, a navigator and cartographer, was one of the first Europeans to explore Australia, and was the first ever to circumnavigate it in 1802-03. His remains were discovered in January last year, in an area that had been built over by the expansion of Euston Station in the 19th century. The area had included the former burial ground of St James’s, Euston, where Captain Flinders had been buried in 1814, and his grave was identified by a breastplate bearing his name.

Captain Flinders had links with Donington, where he was born and attended school. Members of his family were buried in the churchyard, and the church had a stained-glass window commemorating his life and achievements. An application was made for a faculty to create a grave in the east end of the north aisle of the church for the burial of his remains.

The Diocesan Chancellor of Lincoln, the Revd Judge Mark Bishop, said that a faculty to permit the burial of cremated remains within a church “will be exceptional and will never be lightly granted”. Chancellors had, in the past, been concerned about a precedent being set, particularly if there had been no burials or interments in the church before. Chancellors also had to be satisfied about the exceptionality of the life of the person whose remains were being interred, and the ties that person had with the church.

The Chancellor was satisfied that no precedent was being set by Captain Flinders’s reburial, because no other burials were permitted either in the church or in the churchyard. But, in April, the Queen, by Order in Council, had ordered that an exception be made in the case of Captain Flinders. The fact of that Order confirmed the exceptional nature of the proposed burial. Moreover, the circumstances of the discovery of his remains, more than 200 years after his burial, were so exceptional that it also meant that no precedent was set.

Granting the faculty, the Chancellor said that the applicants for the faculty were to be congratulated “on an exciting project which honours a distinguished Englishman in the place of his birth”.

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