Finding Mr Merrick


An author who has written a biography of Joseph Merrick, the so-called ‘Elephant Man’, has tracked down his final resting place. Jo Vigor-Mungovin consulted cemetery records around the time of Joseph Merrick’s death and found he had been interred at the City of London Cemetery & Crematorium, near Epping Forest.

The problem had always been that although Merrick’s deformed skeleton had been carefully preserved at the Royal London Hospital after his death in 1890, nobody knew (or perhaps bothered to find out) where his remains, presumably soft tissue, had been buried. The cemetery where his records were found also plays host to two of Jack the Ripper’s victims. If it seems that every historical biography must now be accompanied by a newsworthy revelation, at least it brings the book publicity.

I think of Merrick mainly because David Lynch’s 1980 film was largely shot in Shad Thames before it had its gantries torn down, and was the last film ever to capture the old wharves of London on film. These days the old city is recreated with less than convincing CGI.

A number of other films offering insights into background scenes in London. Two spring readily to mind. James Mason’s hour-long documentary about forgotten places in ‘The London Nobody Knows’ should have become a series, because he makes a delightful host.

And Barry Norman’s tour of the East End and the South Bank with Bob Hoskins is a TV gem (you can find it @BBCArchive on Twitter), especially where he rails against the privatisation of the Thames walkways and persuades Norman to break into a warehouse.

John Betjeman’s ‘Metroland’ can be seen on iPlayer, along with several other looks at London that feature surprising backdrops. Are there any other rare programmes showing London out there?

3 comments on “Finding Mr Merrick”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, London? Right, that’s where we started. I was lured into that steam O gauge in Rahn (really?) Pennsylvania. A lovely ride around a beautifully planned layout. Sorry.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Pardon me – G gauge. Let’s be correct in our total asides.

  3. Brian Evans says:

    All the “Look at Life” cinema programme fillers are worth looking at. They are on DVD. There is a lot about London of the time, all with an enthusiastic positive feeling narration and in glorious colour.

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