John Francis Bentley
Posted by Richard Rawlinson
To Clergy House for a council meeting of the Friends of Westminster Cathedral. It’s the council’s job to organise fundraising events from concerts to barbecues for the upkeep of said cathedral, and to plan the best ways to spend the money raised. There are separate charitable initiatives that support the London homeless or international aid agencies, so the Friends’ work focuses on housekeeping matters: a mosaics appeal for the Chapel of St George and the English Martyrs, for example; the repair of a leaking roof; new lavatories for visitors, or the purchase of new missals for the year ahead.
While with clerical and lay council members in the wood-panelled library, a dinner is suggested to honour John Francis Bentley (1839-1902), the acclaimed architect responsible for the neo-Byzantine magnificence of the Cathedral.
During the meeting, I learn Bentley is buried, not in his architectural legacy, but in a cemetery in Mortlake, West London, and that his simple tombstone is neglected and in need of restoration, there apparently being noone left to take on its upkeep.
There are so many causes out there but it seemed sad that Bentley, though remembered in art history books, is being forgotten in his resting place. Something will be done about it.
Footnote: Other more famous worthies have no such anonymity. See here the much-visited graves of stars including Oscar Wilde, Bruce Lee, Princess Diana, Frank Sinatra and Jim Morrison.
Westminster Cathedral, the Lady Chapel