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Follow the link here for a full listing of Memorial Inscriptions in St Mary’s Churchyard

Notable Memorials

At first sight East Barnet Churchyard may hold no secrets, pleasant though it may be. But those who have been laid to rest here over the years were real people who were part of our local community. They all have a story to tell, and some of them, as we have discovered, played a small part in the shaping of history.

Major General George Prevost

GeorgeprevostBorn in New Jersey, the eldest son of Swiss French Augustin Prévost, he joined the military as a youth and became a British Army captain in 1784. Prevost served in the West Indies during the Napoleonic Wars and was commander of St. Vincent from 1794 to 1796. He became lieutenant-governor of St. Lucia from 1798 to 1802 and governor of Dominica from 1802 to1805. His tenure in Dominica was marked by a sudden raid by French troops under General Lagrange, accompanying the fleet under Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, and the raid was an episode in the preliminary moves which led to the Battle of Trafalgar. Prevost’s outnumbered troops withdrew from the main town of Roseau, which was thoroughly looted, but the French left the island after three days. In 1808, Prevost became governor of Nova Scotia. In May 1811 he was advised that he would be replacing Governor James Craig in Lower Canada and was sent to Quebec. On July 4, 1811 he was officially promoted Lieutenant General, and on October 21 he was appointed as Governor-General of British North America and Commander-in-Chief of the British forces there. War with the neighbouring United States of America appeared probable. With few British forces to defend a long frontier, Prevost raised several regular and local units from among the Canadians. When the War of 1812 broke out the following year, these Canadian units proved themselves to be valuable additions to the British forces. For most of the War, Prevost’s strategy was defensive and cautious.

Learning in August, 1812 that the British government had repealed some of the orders in council which the United States regarded as a cause of war, he negotiated an armistice, but peace did not result and the war resumed. During the early months of 1813, Prevost visited Upper Canada where the military and civil situation was unsatisfactory after the Governor and Commander there (Major General Isaac Brock) had been killed in action. As a result, he was present in Kingston in May, and took charge of an attack on the main American naval base on Lake Ontario. A victory here could have been decisive but the attack was hastily planned and at the Battle of Sackett’s Harbor, both Prevost and the naval commander, James Lucas Yeo, attacked hesitantly. After meeting stiff resistance, they withdrew. In 1814, large reinforcements became available after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. Prevost planned an attack along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, but the army which he led personally was driven back at the Battle of Plattsburgh after the British naval squadron on Lake Champlain was defeated. Commodore Yeo considered that the British ships had been ordered into action prematurely by Prevost, and became his most bitter critic.

Prevost had also made himself unpopular among some of the Army officers under his command by his perceived over-caution, his insistence on correct uniform and his apparent failure to reward properly several successful officers. He was relieved and temporarily replaced by Lieutenant General George Murray, by coincidence only a day or so after he learned that the War had ended. As he returned to England he was given a hasty vote of thanks by the Assembly in Quebec.

prevost tombOn his return to England, the Government and Army authorities at first accepted Prevost’s explanations for his conduct at Plattsburgh and during the War generally. Soon afterwards, the official naval despatch on the Battle of Plattsburgh was published, together with Yeo’s complaints. Both these accounts blamed Prevost. Prevost requested a court martial to clear his name. The trial was set for January, 1816 (the delay being necessary to allow witnesses to travel from Canada), but Prevost was already in ill health and died a week before it was due to convene.

George Prevost’s tomb is in the South East area of the churchyard.


Sir William Richmond Cotton: Lord Mayor of London, 1875

[Extracts from Famous City Men by J. Ewing Ritchie, published in 1884]

william richmond cotton“Grey-haired and of portly build, the Alderman looks a little older than when some seven-and-twenty years ago he used to ride outside the Barnet Royal Mail – an omnibus, it is true, but one which was driven by men in red coats, who had driven in their day real stage-coaches, and which was drawn by four horses. He resided at Finchley then, nor had he long been married I fancy, but he was a handsome man to look at, and was as companionable as any of us who used to ride that way twice a day.”

“As the Alderman was born in 1822, he was in the very prime of life when he became the senior member for the City. At one time it seemed that the Alderman’s talents would have taken a literary rather than a political turn. Long before he was known to the public he had written a poem on Imagination, of which the popular edition, dedicated to Carlyle, was published after he became Lord Mayor.”

“It was during the time of the American war than Mr Cotton first became known to fame. There was an awful state of destitution in Lancashire in consequence of the failure of the supply of American cotton….. In April 1861, when the bloodless fall of Fort Sumter took place, the cotton famine began, though Lancashire did not feel the impending danger till a year after…..According to Mr Arnold, the historian of the cotton famine, Mr Cotton, with an early proffer of services and money, introduced the subject to the notice of Lord Mayor Cubitt. Towards the end of April 1862, the Lord Mayor announced that (the fund established by Cotton) had been resolved to send £1,500 to the distressed districts. Since then it transmitted nearly half a million sterling….Mr Cotton was not only the promoter, but chairman and treasurer of the fund, which continued to exist under the Mayoralty of Sir William Rose.”

cotton vault“Mr Cotton became Alderman of Lime Street Ward without ever having been a Common Councilman. In 1868 he was Sheriff of London and Middlesex, and in 1875 became Mayor, the duties of which state he discharged in a style of princely munificence. During his term of office the return of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) from India was the principal event, and it was signalled by a splendid banquet to His Royal Highness and suite, and not only was the expense bourne by the Lord Mayor, but still further to commemorate the event he placed in the Guildhall a window representing the reception of the Prince and Princess and other guests, and the passing of the loving cup at the banquet.”

William Cotton’s grave is in the north east corner of the churchyard.

Sir Alexander Cuming: ‘Chief of the Cherokees’

cuming1Alexander Cuming was born in Edinburgh in 1691, of Scottish nobility. At the age of 12 he obtained a Captain’s commission from Queen Anne, and in 1731 he attained Doctor of Law at the University of Aberdeen. He led a company during the Jacobite uprising in 1715, and afterwards become a lawyer, from 1719 in the empl0y of the Duke of Argyll.

Declining the Governorship of Bermuda in 1722, he became second Baronet of Culter on his father’s death in 1725. By 1729 he had enlisted as a member of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, and had been granted the King’s leave of absence to travel. His reason for travelling to the Americas is unclear – possibly to evade financial difficulties, or simply to make a name for himself.

His journal, however, attributes his departure to a prophetic dream that his wife had, heralding great achievements among the Cherokee people. In March 1730 he made the dangerous journey to the Cherokee mountains (now in South Carolina and Virginia in the United States) as a self-styled diplomat on behalf of his country – with no authority from King or government whatsoever. He must surely have impressed the Cherokee people, because very soon after his arrival they hailed him as a ‘lawgiver, commander, leader and chief’ and presented him with the scalps of their enemies.

The population of the Cherokees was estimated to be around 60,000, and an alliance with the French was close to being forged. Cuming toured the country, and held a great council at Nucassee or Nequassee, near the present Franklin in North Carolina.

new-outacite-cherokee-chiekOutacite, the Peace Chief had died in 1729, and had been succeeded by Moytoy of Tellico (‘Rainmaker’). By the consent of the other chiefs, Cuming conferred on Moytoy the title of ‘Emperor of the Cherokees’ and persuaded them to acknowledge the soverignty of King George II. Seven chiefs then accompanied Cuming to London to visit King George II, among them Oukou-naka, who was later to be known as Attacullaculla (the Little Carpenter), one of the greatest Cherokee Chiefs who ever lived. On June 22nd 1730 a treaty was signed between the English and the Cherokee Nation (even though no such ‘nation’ actually existed!) Sir Alexander Cuming became involved in the barbarous debt laws of the time, and was thrown in jail for debt. Consequently he was unable to accompany the Cherokee delegation on their return trip to America. Attacullaculla became Peace Chief, associated with Oconostota as War Chief. The history of the Cherokees for the succeeding forty years is practically the story of these two men.

The Indians loved Cuming, and were much impressed by his imprisonment. They regarded the white men as exceedingly foolish to place a man in jail for debt, thus making it impossible for him to pay!

Moytoy, the Cherokee “Emperor,” died about 1753. Attacullaculla, the Little Carpenter, is remembered as the most influential man of the Cherokee Nation. Sir Alexander Cuming died aged 84 and was buried in East Barnet churchyard on 28th August, 1775. His entry in the Burial Register (Book 5) reads:

“Sir Alexander Comyns, Baronet, Pensioner in the Charterhouse”

Search though you may, you will not find his grave in the churchyard – sadly it has either been damaged and removed, or so eroded that it is now illegible

Information drawn from: Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 16, No. 1 March, 1938 and EASTERN CHEROKEE CHIEFS By John P. Brown


Sir Simon Haughton Clarke

h-c memorialThe elaborate memorial on the North east corner is to Sir Simon Haughton Clarke, ninth baronet, and his family and is so sited that it may be seen from Oak Hill (formerly Monkfrith House, and now a theological college) where he died in 1832.





Elizabeth Press

eliz press grave

The inscription on her gravestone describes her as ‘one time pew-opener of this Church’ – her job would have been to open the doors on the box pews which predated the Victorian bench pews still in use in the nave.

It seems fitting that as she once ushered the local gentry to their places in church, she is buried by the church path so that high and low pass her on their way to worship.

►The Sharp Memorial

Information to follow

► The Grove ‘Obelisks’

Information to follow

Holocaust Snowdrops

In recent years, at the end of January we have planted snowdrops in the churchyard to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th. This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, seen as a powerful symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust.

In 2005 our memorial snowdrops were planted by members of Year 6 at St Mary’s School.

Holocaust Memorial Day