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Grave of Richard Trevithick
St Edmund's Pleasance, East Hill, Dartford, Kent, UK
associated engineer
Richard Trevithick
date  26th April 1833
era  Georgian  |  category  Grave of Engineer  |  reference  TQ545740
Richard Trevithick, the Cornish engineer and pioneer of steam locomotion, is buried somewhere in the former churchyard of St Edmunds. The graveyard was turned into parkland and the exact location of his grave now is unknown.
Trevithick was born in Cornwall on 13th April 1771 and died at the Bull Inn (TQ541740, now the Royal Victoria & Bull Hotel) on High Street, Dartford, on 22nd April 1833, aged 62, after a short illness. At the time he was working on marine engines with John Hall (1764-1836), who is also buried here.
Trevithick’s most notable achievements date from the first decade of the 19th century — using steam power to propel vehicles capable of carrying passengers and freight on the roads and on rails. He also revolutionised the design of steam engines generally, making them small and efficient by using high pressure steam and internally fired boilers. He spent 11 years in South America and on his return found his innovations had been almost forgotten.
None of Trevithick’s family attended his funeral, which was held at the chapel of St Edmund, King and Martyr, on 26th April followed by burial in the chapel’s upper graveyard. It is often quoted that he had a pauper’s funeral, but it is more likely that either his gold watch was sold to pay the fees or Hall paid them, or both. Staff members from Hall’s company (later J. & E. Hall Ltd) acted as pallbearers and the place was marked by an engraved headstone, though by 1898 this had disappeared.
Burials in the graveyard stopped around 1857, though the gravestones were not moved until the area became a parkland called St Edmund’s Pleasance in the 1960s. Some of the larger tombs remain in place surrounded by railings, but the space has been planted and landscaped and is open to the public year round.
A commemorative plaque was unveiled in the 11th century Holy Trinity church (TQ544740), also on High Street, on 9th March 1902. It reads — “To the glory of god and in memory of Richard Trevithick one of the pioneers of the great mechnanical developments of the XXIX century, and amongst the first inventors of the locomotive engine, of screw and paddle wheel propulsion for steamships, of the agricultral engine and of many other appliances whereby the forces of nature have been utilised in the service of mankind. He died in poverty and was carried to his grave in the churchyard of S.Edmund, king and martyr, by the mechanics of Hall’s Engineering Works where he was then employed. This tablet was erected to perpetuate the memory of one whose splendid gifts shed lustre on this town, although he was not permitted to enjoy the fruits of his labour here. Born 1771 Died 1833”.
Around the same date a wall plaque was erected at the burial ground, which reads — “Approximately 25ft from this wall lie the remains of Richard Trevithick the great engineer and pioneer of high pressure steam he died at the Bull Inn Dartford and was carried here by his fellow workers of Halls Engineering Works to a paupers grave, born Illogan Cornwall April 13th 1771, died Dartford Kent April 22nd 1833”.
A centenary memorial service was held for Trevithick at Holy Trinity church on Sunday 23rd April 1933, with the sermon being delivered by the Bishop of Rochester.
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"Richard Trevithick: Giant of Steam" by Anthony Burton, Aurum Press Ltd, London, 2000
"The Cornish Giant: The Story of Richard Trevithick, father of the steam locomotive" by L.T.C. Rolt, Lutterworth Press, London, 1960
"Richard Trevithick: the engineer and the man" by H.W. Dickinson and Arthur Titley, Cambridge University Press, London, 1934
"Trevithick Centenary Commemoration", in Transactions of the Newcomen Society, London, 1934
"Life of Richard Trevithick, with an account of his inventions" by Francis Trevithick, E. & F.N. Spon, London, 1872
www.dartfordarchive.org.uk
Location

Grave of Richard Trevithick