Next week a bouquet will be left in the two-and-a-half acre St George’s Gardens, King’s Cross, to commemorate the execution on July 30, 1745, of more than a dozen Jacobites.
Every year about this time the floral tribute, bearing the simple tribute ‘in memory of the brave Jacobites who were murdered for their beliefs’ has been left in the gardens by an unknown person.
More than a dozen Jacobites were hanged, drawn and quartered on Kennington Common and their headless bodies buried in the gardens, which lie between Judd Street and Gray’s Inn Road. The executed Jacobites known to be buried here are Thomas Siddal, James Dawson, Thomas F Deacon, John Borwick, Thomas David Morgan, Andrew Blydes, Thomas Chadwick and George Fletcher.
St George’s Gardens are now a popular venue for overseas visitors staying at hotels in the area, for many famous people are buried there. They include Anna, the sixth and favourite daughter of Richard Cromwell, the second Protector of England, and Zachary Macaulay FRS, the father of Lord Macaulay, the eminent historian. The burial ground, which formerly belonged to the Church of St George the Martyr, Holborn, was opened as a public garden by the Marchioness of Lorne in July 1884.
They also have a claim to notoriety – for it was here that the first indictment for stealing a body for dissection arose. In a trial heard at Westminster before Judge Sir John Hawkes in 1777, the gravedigger, John Holmes, and his assistant Robert Williams, were arraigned, charged with stealing the body of Jane Sainsbury. The court heard that Williams was stopped in the King’s Cross area carrying a sack and when asked what was in it replied “I don’t know”. The court was told: “The sack was untied and found to contain the body of a woman, with the heels tied up tight behind her, the hands tied together behind, with cords round the neck, so as to almost forcibly bend the neck between the legs.”
The graveyard was searched and it was discovered that the coffin from which the body had been removed was buried only six inches below the level of the ground. While the search was going on, Holmes was detected hiding several pieces of the shroud in his pockets. The two prisoners were found guilty of stealing Mrs Sainsbury’s body and were each sentenced to six months imprisonment. The Judge added, ‘During the last week of your confinement you will each be severely whipped from Kingsgate Street, Holborn, for a distance of half a mile to the Seven Dials’.