Explorer who named Australia returns to Lincolnshire

A Lincolnshire explorer who helped put Australia on the map will return home in 2024, more than 200 years after his death.

The long journey of Matthew Flinders, the first man to circumnavigate Australia, is set to end next summer when his remains, carried by Royal Navy pall bearers, are reburied in his home village.

Captain Flinders (1774–1814) – whose body were discovered during work for HS2 in London – was born and brought up in Donington, eight miles from Spalding in the south of the county.

Now, two centuries after he died, his remains will complete their homeward journey, after the pandemic delayed original plans from 2020.

His bones were unearthed in 2019 by archaeologists working at the St James’s Gardens burial ground near Euston in central London as part of construction of the high-speed rail line.

The reburial has been confirmed for Saturday 13 July 2024 in the church of St Mary and the Holy Rood, where he was baptised, with a special celebration weekend event planned.

It will be the first time in more than 200 years that a burial has taken place within the church, and organisers believe that the event will attract strong interest, especially from Australia.

As the first person to sail around the continent and popularise its name, Flinders is a national hero in Australia, where more than 100 geographical features are named after him.

In 1804 he drew the first complete map of the continent and the first to use the name Australia on an accurate chart, instead of the British Government’s preferred name, ‘Terra Australis’.

Celebrated ‘Down Under’ as a national hero, his story is less well-known in the UK, although his home village has a memorial to him in the church, and a statue of Flinders, in naval uniform, in the Market Place. While the original house where he was born is now gone, the site is commemorated with a blue plaque.

Inspired by Captain Cook’s discoveries of the time and after reading Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Flinders left for a life at sea aged 15.

After serving with the famous Captain William Bligh, of Mutiny on the Bounty fame, he went on to become a celebratednavigator and cartographer. He made several coastal explorations of Australia, completing the circumnavigation in 1803.

Captain Flinders was buried at the site in London, but the exact spot was lost in the mists of time, until the HS2 dig. Archaeologists were able to identify his coffin by a lead breast plate placed on top.

For updates on the reburial and village celebrations, visit www.matthewflinders.net

For details about visiting, and staying in, Lincolnshire, see www.visitlincolnshire.com