18th century gravestone granted listed status

The conservation group English Heritage have confirmed that an iconic gravestone in Hertfordshire is to be awarded Grade II listed status, following a passionate campaign.

While it may not be as ornate or durable as modern marble headstones, the memorial that was erected for someone known as ‘Peter the Wild Boy’ when he died in 1785 has fascinated historians for many years, and is now to be officially recognised for its illustrative ties to a bygone era and the reign of George I.

Peter, who now lies in the peaceful churchyard of St Mary’s in the village of Northchurch, was brought over to England by King George from Hanover in Germany in 1724, where he was found in a forest, clearly unable to talk or walk in a normal fashion.

From accounts that were written about Peter at the time, historians and medical analysts have now come to the general conclusion that he suffered from a serious genetic condition known as Pitt-Hopkins syndrome which had not been officially discovered at the time.

One of the people to have campaigned for the awarding of the listing is Lucy Worsley, the chief curator for the Historic Royal Palaces, who described herself as ‘delighted’ at the long awaited recognition of an ‘intriguing character’ who was ‘much misunderstood’ by his peers when he was alive.

Whilst Peter’s grave has clearly not always seen the highest standards of memorial care over the many years that have passed since his death, his monument does serve as a lasting tribute to a man who was an important part of the Georgian era, and its listed status has been praised by many.

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