Leighton family tomb


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
St Mary's Churchyard, Church Hill, Harrow on the Hill, HA1 3HL


Ordnance survey map of Leighton family tomb
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Statutory Address:
St Mary's Churchyard, Church Hill, Harrow on the Hill, HA1 3HL

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Harrow (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Family tomb, c1867 by John Leighton.

Reasons for Designation

The Leighton family tomb, c1867, in St Mary's churchyard, Harrow on the Hill, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Design interest: the unusual gothic tomb incorporates colourful mosaics, and playful monograms that directly reference Leighton's life and is executed with craftsmanship using good quality materials;

* Historic interest: it commemorates the nationally significant book illustrator and cover designer, John Leighton;

* Group value: it has group value with the Grade I listed St Mary's Church.


The Leighton family tomb was designed by John Leighton (1822-1912), and probably built around 1867 following the death of Emma Leighton (1825-1867). John Leighton was a talented and prolific book cover designer in the Victorian period when the binding of books and their decoration was a key element of the publishing process. He executed over 400 known cover designs for a variety of publishers and also exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, where his brochure work won a gold medal. His early career also produced a number of fine book illustrations.

Leighton's signature designs include the decoration of all the available space on a book cover, the use of humour often featuring animals, and intricate use of line and space on the book spine. He enthusiastically participated in the Victorian fashion for all things medieval, including the use of his own monograms and pseudonyms such as Luke Limner, which may have been a reference to St Luke, who is the Patron Saint of Artists. Further evidence of this can be seen in his book cover for John Eliott Hodgkins ‘Monograms’ where he uses heraldry in his illustrations. In later life, Leighton was active in local politics and developed ideas for improvements to the London tube system. He died in 1912 at the age of 90 and was buried in the tomb. As befits a family tomb, inscriptions have been added over time. The entrance has now been sealed with render, and there is evidence of a lost moulding or railing set on the top of the tomb.


Granite family tomb, c1867, designed by John Leighton.

Materials: granite, brick, and mosaic tiles.

Plan: a rectangular tomb with burial chamber below, set in to a steep slope and standing on an east-west axis. Under the main granite section, brickwork in a Flemish bond is utilised to level the structure into the fall of the hill.

Exterior: the large and deep granite tomb is carved with broad flat ribs in a gothic style which frame brightly coloured and playful triangular mosaic panels of ‘memento mori’ imagery, or carved inscriptions. The panel to the south face features a rampant red lion within a shield; and a crest below displays the words ‘LIGHT ON’ which is a play on words for the Leighton family name. To the north face, a skull lies above the Latin motto ‘HODIE MIHI CRAS TIBI’ which translates to ‘Today me, tomorrow for you’. To the east face there is a carved date stone inscription ‘18 JULY 1867’, with John Leighton's monogram above, and to the west face, a floral flower mosaic interlaced with the words ‘HE/COMETH FORTH LIKE A/FLOWER/&/IS CUT DOWN’. All across the tomb, much use is made of symbols such as the cross patteé, and Leighton inspired monograms. The tomb also has a total of eight shield shaped stone plaques, two on each face, inscribed with the date of birth and death of family members. There is also an inscription at the western base which reads ‘L DEL: D.M & J. NEWALL Sc/DALBEATTIE NB’, referring to Leighton as designer and probably the name of the granite polishers and quarry who supplied the materials and executed the tomb. The top of the tomb has a shallow arrow shaped moulding which points east to St Mary's Church. Set in to the top of the arrow are the remains of three metal locating pins.


Books and journals
King, E M B, 'The book cover designs of John Leighton F.S.A.' in British Library Journal , , Vol. 1998, (1998), 234-255
Oxford National Biography, accessed 11 February 2016 from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/61656


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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