My accountant works from a delightful Georgian townhouse in Pinner, to the north west of central London. I’ve been going there for my annual ticking-off for years but this time I passed by the tidy, half-timbered, Georgian and Regency High Street, the cute village green and the ancient pub, on a Quest.
The story goes like this. William Loudon and his wife Agnes were left a substantial bequest, which would be theirs until they were dead and buried in the ground.
Unwilling to see a significant source of cash dry up, they arranged to be interred in one of the oddest memorials in the country, a giant cheesegrater of a monument, pierced through, javelin-style, by a massive stone casket that would ensure they would never be buried in the ground.
Of course, the tale requires a large pinch of salt. It’s believed to have its source in the imagination of a Victorian picture postcard publisher trying to make a few extra sales, but there’s no denying that the flying coffin in Pinner parish churchyard is quite an eyeful.
At the bottom is a curious, arched ironwork ‘window’ leading down, one presumes, to the real vault. I find it hard to imagine there’s anyone actually in that coffin – though if they fit it, I don’t want to meet their ghost – it must be ten feet tall.
What was in the mind of whoever dreamed it up? I’ve never seen anything even remotely like it before, and yet there it is, in the middle of deepest suburbia. The church’s website doesn’t even mention it.
It’s completely out of scale with the rest of the 14th century church’s scattering of weathered headstones, mummy-shaped tombs and stone vaults, and yet somehow so very British that whatever the story behind it, it was worth playing hooky from my long-suffering accountant to see it.
Pinner Church is at the top of the high street, and is open for prayer every day.