The hopes of discovering Matthew Flinders’ remains underneath Euston Station were low. Records of the exact location were unclear, and even if he was found, identifying plates can deteriorate over time. But on the eve of Australia Day this year, High Speed 2 (HS2) Principal Archaeologist Caroline Raynor and her team uncovered the remarkable find.
The discovery so early in the dig has thrilled archaeologists who were not confident they would find Captain Flinders among the 40,000 people interred on the site. They were able to identify his remains by the lead breast plate placed on top of his coffin.
The Office of the Agent General, in partnership with the Australian High Commission, HS2 and Matthew Flinders’ family and descendants, marked this find at a recent event at Australia House. In recognition of Matthew Flinders’ importance to South Australia, a commemorative maquette was gifted to his descendants by South Australian Agent General Bill Muirhead.
While it was known that Captain Flinders was among the thousands of people buried at the site, it was unclear whether his body or others would be able to be identified. Following the expansion of Euston station in the 1840s, his headstone was removed and it was thought that his remains had been lost. For a long time, there was an urban myth that he was buried under platform 15.
Captain Flinders was the first European to circumnavigate Australia, sailing the HMS Investigator around the country with Indigenous man Bungaree and Englishman George Bass between July 1802 and May 1803. He was the greatest force in naming our great continent Australia, has been honoured in Australia by more than 100 landmarks – of course including the Flinders University in Adelaide – and he was one of the greatest navigators of all time.
Whilst well recognised in Australia, arguably his achievements deserve much greater appreciation in his home country.
Increasing Mathew Flinders’ recognition in the UK started in earnest with His royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge revealing a Matthew Flinders’ life sized statue with his beloved cat, Trim in July 2014. The statue is on display at Euston Station for all to see. The memorial statue at Euston has given Flinders a much higher visibility as it is seen by tens of thousands of commuters every day. The landmark highlights the great man that Matthew Flinders was and the historic and enduring links between Australia and the UK.