Press Release: Richmond’s very own ‘Indiana Jones’ explorer is 200 years old

Richmond’s very own ‘Indiana Jones’ explorer is 200 years old

Local charity is raising funds to conserve Richard Burton’s extraordinary tent-shaped mausoleum in Mortlake cemetery

19th March 2021 is the 200th birthday of the flamboyant and daring Victorian rebel explorer Sir Richard Burton. Like a real life Indiana Jones, “Ruffian Dick’ was known as much for his flamboyant lifestyle and wild social life as for his daring expeditions throughout Africa.

To mark the bicentenary local charity Habitats & Heritage is raising funds to  conserve the extraordinary tent-shaped mausoleum in Mortlake cemetery, Richmond, where he is buried.

“We organised a whole programme of information and events to promote interest in the colourful character of Richard Burton and his equally daring wife Isabel and to raise money for the restoration of the tomb as a local historical landmark,” explains Emily Lunn, Heritage Project Manager, Habitats & Heritage. “Sadly many of the events we planned had to be cancelled because of Covid-19 restrictions. Others were moved online, including a fascinating interview with explorer, Levison Wood.”

Despite the setbacks, Habitats & Heritage has already raised a fifth of the £30,000 it needs to restore the outside of the handsome sandstone mausoleum which is beautifully carved so that its ‘tent’ walls appear to ripple in the breeze. The charity is asking for further donations to complete the external work and to open the inside of the mausoleum to public view for the first time since the 1970s. Artefacts hidden inside since then include a collection of lanterns and camel bells from the Middle East.

“In a year when none of us has been able to travel as much as we might have liked, our ideas about exploration and adventure have been challenged. Many of us have found new places to discover on our own doorsteps and new ways of learning about other countries and cultures from the comfort of our sofas. Understanding more about historical figures such as Richard and Isabel Burton and engaging in conversations around the issues their discoveries and unconventional lifestyles raise is important because it helps us to think more deeply about our relationship to the world around us and each other,” says Emily.

You can see the Richard Burton mausoleum at St Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Church in Mortlake, Richmond. To read more about the man and his exploits and to donate to the appeal to restore the tomb visit the Habitats & Heritage web site or contact 07702 850 160


Sir Richard Burton KCMG FRGS (1821 – 1890) was an extraordinary man, whose achievements included leading an expedition to find the source of the River Nile, and mastering over twenty languages, from Marathi to Arabic. According to Mary Lovell, author of the biography of Burton called A Rage to Live, ‘Burton was almost a real life Victorian prototype for the fictional Indiana Jones: scholar, adventurer, soldier, explorer, geographer, linguist, orientalist, ethnologist, diplomat and writer – to name only some of his abilities.’

Habitats & Heritage is the local charity that acts for the natural and historic environment in south and west London, taking care of the local landscape, its wildlife, ecosystems and heritage in the London Boroughs of Richmond; Hounslow; Kingston; Wandsworth; Ealing; and Merton.

Habitats & Heritage is a registered charity (1140872).

For more information contact:

Emily Lunn, Heritage Project Manager,  07702 850 160

Colin Cooper, CEO, 07870 648 148


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