The Reinterment of John Newton 1893

The reinterment of the remains of the Rev John Newton and his wife, Mary Newton, took place at the church of St Peter & St Paul, Olney on the 25th January 1893.  Many newspapers reported on this event, as did the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society in their publication ‘Records of Buckinghamshire’.  BAS has kindly allowed us to reproduce the article. 

Click on each of the pages below to open up the full page and to be able to enlarge the text.


St Mary Woolnoth c1850 Cowper & Newton Museum collection

Rev John Newton, his wife, Mary, and their adopted daughter and niece, Eliza Cunnigham were all interred in the crypt of St Mary Woolnoth.

Newton had left instructions to his executors for the wording of the memorial which was to be ‘on a plain marble tablet, near the vestry door’.

The crypt of St Mary Woolnoth was closed to interments after the Metropolitan Burial Acts of the 1850s banned most burials within London.

However, by the mid 1880s parishioners were complaining about the ‘bad smells emanating from the vaults of the church’. The building was closed temporarily whilst repairs were undertaken but newspapers report that Inspectors found bodies and coffins in a state of decomposition and decay. In 1891, the Rector Rev JMS Brooke raised the matter again.

‘The fact that there are thousands of bodies within a foot or two of the floor constitutes standing evidence of an insanitary condition.’

Architect Mark Judge investigated further and then the Medical Officer of Health, Dr Sedgwick Saunders, was called in.  On 7th November 1892 he closed the church, and after the faculty was given, coffins and cases of bones were taken to the City of London Cemetery. Some remains, such as those of John & Mary, were reinterred elsewhere.

image (c) Akabashi

The gravestone of George Catlett, the father of Mary Newton, can be seen to the left. 

Rev John Newton original coffin plate image courtesy of St Peter & St Paul
Cowper & Newton collection

Further Reading:

John Newton’s father married again after the death of his first wife and had more children.  Here is the Newton family tree showing the children of the two marriages. 

City of London Cemetery and Crematorium 

Johnson, Malcolm, Crypts of London, The History Press, 2013

Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society

Records of Buckinghamshire

St Mary Woolnoth

Olney Railway Station

Author Credit:

The original article was written by John T Maitland, M.A. Oxon for the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society and published in the 1893 journal – Records of Buckinghamshire 

Additional information by Amanda Molcher, Trustee Cowper & Newton Museum

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