John and Uriah Wilkinson

St John the Baptist upon Walbrook - monument and plaques John and Uriah Wilkinson

John Wilkinson died July 8th 1804 aged 15 years Uriah Wilkinson died Dec 21st 1806 aged 45 years.

16 ft 6 ins north of wall in Cloak Lane 7 feet east of this wall.

This plaque is puzzling in a number of ways: Material? Date erected? Where erected? Why erected? It’s not a simple burial marker since the last section of text directs one to the location of the grave. This suggests the plaque was created after some disturbance took place. We know that the church on this site, St John the Baptist upon Walbrook, was lost in the 1666 fire and never rebuilt. So, any one buried here in the early 1800s would have had graves in the graveyard, not the church, and hence the grave marker(s) would have been normal outside gravestones, not a plaque like this.

We know of no disturbance of the graveyard until 1884 when the railway arrived. The style of lettering looks earlier than that date but perhaps it was felt appropriate to ‘antique’ the plaque. The inscription on the nearby monument declares that "The formation of the District Railway having necessitated the destruction of the greater part of the churchyard all the human remains contained therein were carefully collected and reinterred in a vault beneath this monument". This suggests that the Wilkinsons' grave could have been in the smaller part of the churchyard which was not destroyed, Besant's "asphalted square has been railed in and reserved as a home for gravestones, and a large ornament". So it seems that when the grave markers were removed someone cared enough for the Wilkinsons (buried 80 years before) to want to record the location of their grave.

Another puzzle is the location text: it refers to two walls: the wall to which the plaque is attached and also a wall in Cloak Lane, but the plaque is on a wall in Cloak Lane, and how can something be east of a wall which runs east-west? All this suggests that the plaque has been moved since first erected.  

So the probably course of events is that the Wilkinsons were buried in the graveyard of St John the Baptist upon Walbrook, with normal gravestones. When the arrival of the railway caused the graveyard to be disturbed, the Wilkinsons' grave marker was removed and the grave's position was recorded with this plaque. Later another disturbance took place, possibly the construction of a building on the site, which caused the repositioning of the monument and also caused this plaque to be moved, possibly to its current position, thus losing its meaning and purpose.

Moving on to the people concerned: The commemorated grave contained Uriah Wilkinson, and John, who predeceased him aged only 15.

We gave this problem to Andrew Behan, who, despite the early date, has probably identified the two deceased. He writes “Most of my research depends on records from 1837 onwards when registrations for all births, marriages and deaths were recorded and local records were published in a national form by the General Register Office in London on a quarterly basis each year. Prior to this we only have sporadic records of baptisms, marriages and burials in church registers and most of these records are not on line.

I was able to find that a Uriah Wilkinson was, on 8 July 1794, admitted to the Freedom of the City of London by redemption into the Worshipful Company of Barbers. The fee was £2-6s-8d. The records state that he was the son of David Wilkinson of Manchester. (There are two ways to be admitted to the Freedom: by patrimony or by redemption. By patrimony is where the person was born after their father had already become a Freeman. Being born before your father was a Freeman does not enable you qualify by patrimony. The other method is by redemption where the applicant has to pay a fee to be admitted).

I was also able to trace that a Uriah Wilkinson, the son of David and Mary Wilkinson, was baptised on 16 August 1761 in Manchester Cathedral. Assuming that this Uriah Wilkinson was baptised as a young baby (as was common practice) he would have been born earlier in 1761. This would tie in nicely with the plaque that states Uriah Wilkinson was aged 45 years when he died in 1806.

Unfortunately, I could find no record of a baptism for a John Wilkinson in or around 1788/9. But I did find a baptism held on 18 June 1784 in St Anns Church, Manchester for James, the son of Uriah and Ann Wilkinson. Could this father be the same Uriah Wilkinson? Probably, as he would have been aged 22 or 23 years at the time, but I cannot be certain.

We thank Andrew for that information. We still don't understand why the Wilkinsons were singled out for this memorial/plaque/grave marker in 1884, the only one in the whole disturbed graveyard. But being a family of affluence, with a Freeman of the City of London, may be at least a partial explanation.

Site: St John the Baptist upon Walbrook - monument and plaques (3 memorials)

EC4, Cloak Lane

Whenever we visit this site the gate into the space beside the monument is always locked shut. The gate is made of ornamental railings with the addition of a strong metal mesh. Andrew Behan found our image on Google Street View, 2008 being the only date on which the Google camera captures the gate open.

On the back wall of this small gated enclosure are 4 plaques, the top one being for the Wilkinsons; the lowest one being for the church. The middle two read: ‘Walbrook Ward 1892’; ‘Cord.Ws Ward 1853’. 

This 1828 map shows that the Walbrook Ward and the Cordwainders Ward did meet in Cloak Lane. So we take these two plaque to be boundary markers which are often dated.

This 1904 map shows that the site, after the 1884 disruption, had no buildings and that the monument was free-standing in an oblong walled off area to the west of the site. Sir Walter Besant's 1910 London City describes the layout: “The churchyard is no more; the greater part of its site is enclosed by a brick wall which screens the opening in the roof {the yellow square on the map, we think} of the station below. At the extreme west end an asphalted square has been railed in and reserved as a home for gravestones, and a large ornament {the monument}…”.

From the text on the Wilkinson plaque we think its original location was on the west wall of the space, on the building labelled "Grosvenor, Chater & Co, Ltd" on the map, and that the Wilkinson grave was north of the monument.

Besant goes on to describe what was found in the excavations: remains of the church, Roman artefacts and a channel through which the Walbrook would have run.

Mike Coleman directed us to BBC Autos - an excellent long post with lots of images, concerning cemeteries, plague pits, and the construction of the railways.

A London Inheritance has also researched this site and reports on the archaeological findings.

This section lists the subjects commemorated on the memorial on this page:
John and Uriah Wilkinson

Subjects commemorated i

John Wilkinson

Son of Uriah Wilkinson?

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Uriah Wilkinson

Possibly a Freeman of the City of London, born in Manchester. Father of John ...

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This section lists the other memorials at the same location as the memorial on this page:
John and Uriah Wilkinson

Also at this site i

St John the Baptist upon Walbrook - monument

St John the Baptist upon Walbrook - monument

An unusual and unsuccessful siting of a three-dimensional monument. One face ...

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St John the Baptist Upon Walbrook - plaque

St John the Baptist Upon Walbrook - plaque

The inscription on the upper plaque requires careful examination to read but ...

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