Most people visit St Mary’s, Hornsey, for the fantastic view from the church tower but there’s another treasure here, a simple gravestone which, though less spectacular, is significant enough to get listing by English Heritage.
What’s special here is that this is the grave of Harriet Long, an American matron from Virginia and Jacob Walker who had been her slave in America but, since that was illegal in Britain, had changed his status to servant when the family moved to Jackson’s Lane in 1828 as Harriet’s husband, George, had a job as professor of Greek in the newly formed University of London. Harriet died in 1841 of cancer and her servant two months afterwards, the cause given was smallpox after vaccination.
There’s nothing particularly striking about these deaths but what is pretty amazing is that George Long chose to bury his wife and their male servant Jacob in the same tomb, giving equal consideration to both their lives in the length and detail of the inscription. There has inevitably been speculation about a romantic involvement, and, who knows, maybe there was but it seems unlikely that a husband would endorse such a thing. Why George did bury them together is still a mystery – it has been suggested that Jacob had been instrumental in guiding Long’s view on slavery, both in the ancient world he studied, and in the living present he represented. Whatever the truth, I think it is pretty wonderful that we have such a poignant reminder of the struggle for equality right here in our community.
If you would like to read the full listing you can see it online at
http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1392351Subscribe to our blog