The Tomb of Sir Richard Burton

In the leafy suburbs of Southwest London is a small parish church cemetery that has one of London’s most remarkable tombs. The tomb is of Sir Richard Burton and his wife Isabel.

Burton Mausoleum - St Mary Magdalens Mortlake
[Burton Mausoleum - St Mary Magdalens Mortlake]

Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821 – 1890) was a remarkable man in an age of remarkable men. He is best known as an explorer and linguist (he could speak 29 languages), but he could also be called a translator, writer, poet, soldier, orientalist, ethnologist, hypnotist, fencer and diplomat.

Burton Mausoleum
[Burton Mausoleum]

Burton is famous for his pilgrimage in disguise to Mecca. He spoke Arabic and knew the ways of the Islamic world from his time spent in India. Before the trip he was even circumcised to reduce the risk of being discovered as a non believer. His other notable travels include the exploration of the great lakes of Africa.

As a writer he is best known for his translation of Arabian Nights, whose version is still printed today.

Burton Mausoleum under Heathrow Flightpath
[Burton Mausoleum under Heathrow Flightpath]

Tomb Details

The tomb is in the shape of a Bedouin tent and has great attention to detail such as the crescent moon trimmings and the illusion of canvas tent walls.

Camel Tribute
[Camel Tribute]

Burton Tent Wall
[Burton Tent Wall]

Burton Tent Wall Detail
[Burton Tent Wall Detail]

Inside the Tomb

At the back of the tomb is a ladder leading to a glass viewing window, where you can peer in to see the final resting place of Richard and Isabel.

Burton Mausoleum - viewing window
[Burton Mausoleum - viewing window]

Richard Burton
[Richard Burton]

Isabel Burton
[Isabel Burton]

In Memorium

Memorial Poem
[Memorial Poem]

Richard and Isabel Burton RIP
[Richard and Isabel Burton RIP]

Location

St Mary Magdalen’s Roman Catholic Church Mortlake
61 North Worple Way
London SW14 8 PR


View Larger Map

St Mary Magdalens Roman Catholic Church - Mortlake
[St Mary Magdalens Roman Catholic Church - Mortlake]

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Comments

  1. says

    I’m reading Burton’s Pilgrimage at the moment. He wasn’t just an adept traveller and good writer: he was funny, sometimes hilarious. I think insinuating crescent moons into a Catholic cemetery might have been his last joke.

    How did you find out about the mausoleum?    

    • says

      Thanks Iain, I’m going to have to bookmark that book for a later read. I don’t recall how I found out about 
      the mausoleum but it was most probably digging into his bio online after reading his translation of 1001 nights.

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