Sanstone funerary monument, c.1888
Reason for Listing
The monument to James Selby is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Artistic Interest: bears good-quality relief sculpture which directly reflects the occupation of the person commemorated;
* Historic Interest: commemorates a record-breaking driver from the last days of the coaching trade;
* Setting: it is located within the Grade I registered Highgate Cemetery and has group value with other listed tombs and structures nearby.
James Selby (1842-1888) was a London coachman who achieved fame in July 1888 by breaking the 8-hour record for the return trip from London to Brighton. He made the trip in 7 hours 50 minutes, using seven teams of horses and winning a £1000 newspaper bet in the process. He died of acute bronchitis in December of the same year; the 'Old Times' coach suspended its services until after his funeral as a mark of respect.
Highgate Cemetery was the third of London's 'magnificent seven' burial grounds, a ring of suburban cemeteries established in the 1830s and 1840s to relieve pressure on overcrowded urban churchyards. It was the creation of the London Cemetery Company, a joint-stock company founded by the architect and engineer Stephen Geary and formally instituted by Act of Parliament in 1836. A seventeen-acre site on Highgate Hill was laid out as a picturesque garden cemetery with a network of serpentine drives, culminating in a monumental catacomb complex at the top of the hill. Geary himself supplied the initial plans, with assistance from the architect JB Bunning and from the landscape gardener David Ramsay. The cemetery, opened in 1839 and extended to the east of Swain's Lane in 1854, enjoyed great popularity and prestige during the second half of the C19 (famous occupants include George Eliot, Christina Rossetti and Karl Marx), but lack of money and maintenance led to a severe decline during the C20. Since 1975 it has been run on a charitable basis by the present Friends group.
The monument takes the form of a simple square-cut stone cross on three square steps set at the head of the grave plot, which is surrounded on the other three sides by posts and chains. The cross is unadorned but there are inscriptions on the upper two steps: ‘In memory of James William Selby, who died 14th Dec 1888 in his 46th year'; 'This monument was erected to the memory of James W Selby, the noted whip and proprietor of the Old Times coach of as a mark of esteem by his many coaching friends.’ A relief of a horsewhip and post-horn, illustrating Selby’s occupation, adorns the lowest step. The posts at the foot of the grave are each decorated by a single inverted horseshoe.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.