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A talk about the history of tomb tourism by Dr Roger Bowdler, FSA.

About this event

Part of the April-May 2021 mini-series of lectures providing an introduction to the Church Monuments Society.


Most of us are suffering from the denial of opportunity to explore churches, graveyards and cemeteries. This talk will look at how tombs became destinations for visitors: from arduous pilgrimages to sight-seeing jaunts. Westminster Abbey was one of the principal sites for any visitor to London from early modern times, with guidebooks available to capture epitaphs. Church monuments were illustrated in county histories from the 18th century, and the rise of the cemetery in the romantic era brought a new twist on the idea of moral tourism. Postcards, a new form of consumer image, provide a special lens through which the public appreciation of inner and outdoor tombs can be studied from late Victorian times onwards. In the 20th century, war graves became a new destination for the sepulchral pilgrim, while older church monuments back home became increasingly studied and written about. Using contemporary visual sources, the development of tomb tourism is surveyed at a brisk pace with some excursions across the Channel and across the Atlantic.

Dr Roger Bowdler FSA is a historian of tombs and buildings. He studied history of art at Cambridge, and completed a PhD on macabre 17th century church monuments in 1991. He was formerly Director of Listing at English Heritage, and is now a heritage consultant, lecturer and author. He is a former chairman of the Mausolea and Monuments Trust, a Commissioner of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and a Research Associate at the University of London’s Institute of Historical Research. He is currently a specialist in heritage for Montagu Evans.

Event Information

This online talk is FREE to all and will take place on Zoom. Places must be booked via Eventbrite. This is the fifth in a series of online talks April-May 2021 that aims to provide an introduction to the Church Monuments Society.

Guidelines and handy Zoom hints

Before the event:

• Please ensure you have already downloaded and installed Zoom to the device you wish to use. Read their guide if you are unsure about how to do this ( )

• Make sure you have registered via Eventbrite using your correct email address (or you will not receive the joining instructions).

• We will email the access link to you via Eventbrite shortly before the event begins.

• Please ensure that Eventbrite is on your safe-senders list and check your Spam/Junk inbox for our communications if you cannot see them.

During the webinar:

• Please remain muted throughout.

• The talk will last approximately 45 minutes and will be followed by questions.

• You are welcome to use the Chat box to contact panellists.

• Send formal questions for the speaker using the Q&A function so that they are easily identifiable. These can then be put to the speaker by one of our event coordinators.

• The session may be recorded by the Church Monuments Society. Screenshots and/or recording by participants is not permitted for copyright reasons.

• The host can remove attendees from the webinar.

• If you experience technical difficulties, contact panellists using the chat function. We will do our best to help.

• Enjoy the talk!

Image Credit: Thomas Rowlandson, ‘Dr Syntax among the Tomb Stones’ from William Combe’s The Tour of Dr Syntax in Search of the Picturesque (1812) (source: public domain)

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