Support the Café

Search our Site

Five archbishops’ remains found under former village church

Five archbishops’ remains found under former village church

The Sunday Telegraph reported Easter Sunday on the discovery of the remains of five former Archbishops of Canterbury buried under a church linked to Lambeth Palace.

The BBC took up the story:

One of the most sacred and precious sites in London, St Mary’s was built in the 11th Century along London’s Embankment, opposite Westminster Abbey, by St Edward the Confessor’s sister.

Mr Woodward said: “This church had two lives: it was the parish church of Lambeth, this little village by the river…but it was also a kind of annex to Lambeth Palace itself.

“And over the centuries a significant number of the archbishops’ families and archbishops themselves chose to worship here, and chose to be buried here.”

The church was deconsecrated in the 1970s and slated for demolition, until it found a new vocation as the Garden Museum. Builders were working on renovating the museum, and lifting flagstones from the floor, when they uncovered the entrance to an underground crypt.

Site manager Karl Patten said: “We discovered numerous coffins – and one of them had a gold crown on top of it”….

The red and gold mitre was resting on top of one of the coffins – which were stacked on top of each other in a brick-lined vault. …

The coffins have been left undisturbed, though builders have installed a glass panel in the chancel floor above them for visitors to catch a glimpse.

Two archbishops’ coffins were identified by their nameplates. Richard Bancroft was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1604-1610, and oversaw the translation of the Bible that would become the King James Version. John Moore served from 1783-1805. His wife, Catherine, was also identified by her nameplate.

According to Mr Mount, St Mary-at-Lambeth’s records have since revealed that a further three archbishops were probably buried in the vault: Frederick Cornwallis (in office 1768 to 1783), Matthew Hutton (1757 to 1758) and Thomas Tenison (1695 to 1715). …

Also identified from coffin plates was the Dean of Arches John Bettesworth (who lived from 1677 to 1751) – the judge who sits at the ecclesiastical court of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Beyond that, Mr Woodward said: “We still don’t know who else is down there”.

Read more about the surprising discovery at the BBC, and find fuller background coverage in the Telegraph on Sunday.

Photo via



Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Donna Hicks

This is enough to get me back to visit the Garden Museum again! For those who haven’t visited, if you’re in London, it’s worth a visit.

David Allen

That’s good to know. I saw some inexpensive flights to London recently and I have never been off the North American continent, so I was thinking I might take advantage of them.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café