Call to Action: Crypts & Catacombs

02 January 2012

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Crypt Cafe, St Martin in the Fields, London. Copyright © GothPhil.Crypt Cafe, St Martin in the Fields, London. Copyright © GothPhil.

Welcome to Day 2 of 2012! The sun is tentatively shining down on London – perhaps a good omen for the year of the London 2012 Olympics? In any case it’s better than the gloomy start yesterday, which threatened to make January a month of hibernation rather than exploration! But whatever the winter weather over the coming weeks, we’ve got plenty of (dry) places for you to discover with us on the blog, as we set out on a search for Underground Discoveries. From abandoned tunnels to ancient caves, this is your chance to tell us about the secret places that you’ve unearthed underfoot.

We start off the month with an important, but often overlooked, part of the UK’s heritage – its Crypts & Catacombs. Whilst these resting grounds are often seen as places to be avoided rather than visited, we will be featuring stories of crypts and catacombs that are not only essential to the history of places across the UK, but are also open to public access, hopefully making them places where you can encounter heritage and culture, rather than simply the dead and buried.

Headstones in the Crypt Cafe. Copyright © Krystal Medrano 2010.

One such sepulchral place that is worth visiting is the Crypt Café under the St Martin in the Fields church in the heart of central London. Whilst excavations in the church site itself have revealed a Roman burial dating back to 410, the current crypt was built in the 18th century along with the church building that stands today. It is one of the few places in the UK where you can take afternoon tea or enjoy live jazz music in a beautifully restored crypt, with the headstones of the long departed under your feet…

If dining with the dead is perhaps not your cup of tea, the crypt is still worth a visit if you are near Trafalgar Square – if only to shelter from the rain as you do the rounds of London’s main tourist sights.

Have you recently discovered a crypt or catacomb with an important history? Or one where interesting historical figures were laid to rest? If so, let us know here on the blog, on Facebook or Twitter.

We wish you a happy month of underground exploration!

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