Sir Richard Burton's Tomb

Perhaps the most extraordinary monument in the parish of Mortlake is the tomb of the explorer Sir Richard Burton. It stands in the churchyard of St Mary Magdalen's church in North Worple Way.

Burton was born in 1821. His most celebrated explorations were a journey to Mecca in disguise, at a time when non-Muslims were forbidden access, and his journey with John Speke to the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the Nile's source. He was also an author and linguist who translated a number of works from Arabic into English including The Arabian Nights. In 1861 he married Isobel Arundell, who was a Catholic.

Sir Richard died in 1890 in Trieste; Isobel had persuaded a priest to perform the last rites, although Burton was not a Catholic. Lady Isobel, who lived in North Worple Way after Burton's death, designed the mausoleum. It is a stone replica of a Bedouin tent some 12 feet square by 18 feet high, decorated with a frieze of Islamic crescents and stars. The coffins of Sir Richard and Lady Isobel Burton lie in the mausoleum. There is a ladder at the rear of the tomb leading to a window which allows visitors to view the tomb's interior.