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Looking for the gravestone of Raffles: A walk through Dollis Valley Greenway, Dollis Brook Viaduct, and St Mary’s Hendon

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One dreary winter morning I decided to walk from Totteridge & Whetstone to Hendon, following the Dollis Brook southwards. The Dollis Valley Greenwalk is actualy a linkway between the Capital Ring and the London Loop, and goes all the way from Hampstead Heath up to Barnet. The area surrounding it is a leafy and very residential suburban neighbourhood with lots of hills and obviously as its name suggests the Greenwalk is at the bottom of the valley itself. As for the totter of the ridge, Totteridge is supposed to be the ridge or high point in that valley formation, possibly having been named after someone called Tata.

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A recurrent theme that I always see on my walks in London are balls. So many balls. Balls in water. Balls under trees. Balls balls balls. I myself do not know how to play with balls. First you throw them, then you have to go and get them back. It is so much work. Sometimes you can’t get the balls back. Its very difficult to play ball with yourself. The last time I brought a ball to the beach, I spent more time worrying that my ball was going to be permanently swept out to sea, so I had to forbid the throwing of balls. Maybe I am playing with balls completely wrongly. But look here! It looks like many people and their balls have been wilfully parted!

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There were reports just that morning (23 Feb) of gale force winds as a result of Storm Doris with people being apparently killed by trees being blown over. As it was to be expected, the Greenway was largely devoid of casual walkers beyond the odd dog walker, and I must say I did not like the loud CRACK sounds I kept hearing from overhead. I was compelled to sprint through parts of the Greenway due to a fear of being flattened by falling trees.

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See what I mean about balls? They are just everywhere.

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More sacrificial balls.

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Fursby Allotment is along this route.

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This greenway is even well-paved at points.

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And full of mushrooms, real and fake.

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The real highlight of this walk is the very magnificent Dollis Brook Viaduct.

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The Dollis Brook Viaduct is used by the Northern Line to carry trains going to and from Mill Hill East and Finchley Central. So the burning question in your mind (or at least mine) is: what is the difference between a bridge and a viaduct? Well I suppose that it is said that a viaduct is a special type of bridge which has many many little spans or arches underneath it, and which can go on for long distances over land (not just water). And all of these spans are also equal in size, forming a formidable sight through the valley. For me I think of the viaducts as a particularly ‘London’ sort of thing – it is so common to see urban rail lines constructed on top of these viaducts and often in more built-up areas the space underneath the railway arches are also turned into car repair shops, nightclubs, eateries, or put to other kinds of commercial or industrial uses.

Not long after this point, I decided to deviate off the Greenway, largely because the greenway has no rest stops or toilet facilities along the way (ARGH!!!), and if there were any, they were not visible to walkers following the path. However, I was saved – walkers may want to note that there are restrooms to the left side of the Hendon Cemetery and Crematorium.

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After this point I decided to take the bus a short distance into West Hendon: I had heard about Sir Stamford Raffles being buried in Hendon but had never seen the stone for myself before, so…

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I have to say it always surprises me how you can just walk into churches. I did worry that someone might walk in and think I was up to no good, scouring their floor in search of a gravestone…

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Prior to arriving I had searched on Findagrave.com which suggested he had a stone in the ground, as in this picture by David Conway in 2001. I’ve got to admit that this threw me off, because it has changed since then, and if you were to just search randomly as I did through the church grounds, it will take ages and ages…

Source: Findagrave.com

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Cue about 20 min of searching on the floor below all the chairs to find Raffles’ stone.

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I was about to give up when I started looking at pillars and there it was!

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Raffles died suddenly of apoplexy in Mill Hill at Highwood House – but because he had been against slavery, the vicar Theodor Williams (whose family had made its fortunes through the Jamaican slave trade) refused to allow him burial within the local parish church at the time, which was St Mary’s Hendon, resulting in his burial location not being known for quite some time. Various sources mention that his remains were found in a vault in 1914, and that a brass plaque (1887) and floor tablet had been incorporated into the building itself (1920s), but it appears that today only a brass plaque from 1887 remains.

The Walk:

 

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