The Reinternment of John Newton 1893

The reinternment 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 internments after the Metropolitan Internment 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. Click this link to explore a virtual 360 degree tour of the inside and outside of St Peter & St Paul.

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

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

You might also be interested in...

The Electrifying Machine

Surprisingly, William Cowper owned and operated an electric shock machine, and used it to treat Mrs Unwin after her second stroke in 1792.  It consisted of a large glass cylinder, a wooden disc and turning handle, a Leyden Jar, a ferocious-looking metal tube with spikes and knobs, as well as

Read More »

William Cowper’s Missing Will

Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the National Archives at Kew has allowed free downloads of digital records from its website, a concession which will continue for as long as it’s only able to open for a very limited number of researchers. Seizing the opportunity, Trustee Amanda Molcher came

Read More »

At The Museum

A Peek Inside Orchard Side House

Take a peek inside Orchard Side House as we begin to unveil some of our hidden secrets. Visit the ‘Welcome’ page for a short guide to the other delights we have in store for you during your visit.

Read More »

The Three Hares Art Gallery

The Three Hares Gallery is located on the top floor of the Museum building and holds monthly exhibitions, it is now in a bigger, brighter space with state of the art CCTV security and direct stair access from our Shop.  Since 2007 our exhibitions have included artists who work in watercolours, acrylics, oils, pastels, drawings,

Read More »

Flower & Summer House Gardens

Visit our tranquil & historic Gardens. William Cowper was an innovative gardener at a time when seeds & plants were arriving from North America. Find out more here, including a plan of the gardens.

Read More »

Related Articles

The language of rings: William Cowper and his women friends

Here we look at two rings in the museum collection which date from the mid-eighteenth century and are said to have belonged to William Cowper. We also discuss the romantic nuances associated with them. The seal ring The cameo ring Both rings came to the museum from descendants of the Cowpers and Johnsons, and both

Read More »

John Newton Dissenting Minister

In 1893, the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society published an article in ‘Records of Buckinghamshire’ which contained a page from ‘The Monthly Review’ on which William Cowper had ‘marked his disapprobation’ to a critic’s comment in six lines of poetry.  The article itself was a review of both Rev John Newton’s. ‘Apologia. Four Letters to a Minister

Read More »
Category filter
Item added to cart.
0 items - £0.00

Book Museum Tickets

Our Museum building remains CLOSED.  We are opening our gardens on limited entry.  The Cowper & Newton Museum gardens will be open to welcome you on Wednesday 5th August 10.30 – 12.15 and Saturday 8th August 10.30 – 12.15

(Follow our social media accounts or check back here for further opening days & times as they become available)