Naval History

Remains Of Navy Explorer Who 'Put Australia On The Map' Found In Central London

Experts discovered Captain Matthew Flinders' remains during excavations of St James's burial ground in Euston.

Navy explorer Captain Flinders died in 1814 (Picture: HS2 Ltd). 

The remains of a Royal Navy explorer who led the first circumnavigation of Australia have been found in central London.

Captain Matthew Flinders, who historians credit with giving Australia her name, was the first known person to sail around the entire coast of Australia, thus confirming the landmass to be a continent.

As such, his surname has been attached to a number of places Down Under, such as Flinders Station in Melbourne, Flinders Ranges in South Australia and the town of Flinders in Victoria.

Archaeologists made the find while excavating a burial ground for a new High-Speed railway line between Birmingham and London.

Forty thousand people are interred at St James’s burial ground in Euston, London and their remains are being moved ahead of the construction of a new station.

Historians were doubtful that Captain Flinders’s body would be found; his headstone was removed in the 1840s when Euston Station was expanded – although rumours persisted that his body was buried under Platform 15.

In the end, his remains were identified because of the lead depositum plate, or breastplate, placed on top of the coffin.

Helen Wass, HS2 head of heritage, said: "The discovery of Captain Matthew Flinders' remains is an incredible opportunity for us to learn more about the life and remarkable achievements of this British navigator, hydrographer and scientist.

"Captain Matthew Flinders put Australia on the map due to his tenacity and expertise as a navigator and explorer.

"Given the number of human remains at St James's, we weren't confident that we were going to find him.

"We were very lucky that Captain Flinders had a breastplate made of lead, meaning it would not have corroded.

"We'll now be able to study his skeleton to see whether life at sea left its mark and what more we can learn about him."

Captain Flinders' body will be reburied in St James's Gardens at a location yet to be announced.

Captain Matthew Flinders breastplate
Captain Flinders' breastplate (Picture: HS2 Ltd).