Bunhill Fields, bunyan, Burial Grounds, Cemeteries, Daniel Dafoe, Graveyards, history, London, non conformist, William Blake
Bunhill Fields Burial Grounds, London
Bunhill Fields is sited in the Finsbury area of North London, a short walk from Old Street tube station. Twice in recent months I have found myself meandering through the clutter of tombstones, monuments and ancient trees.
Although the burial ground really took off as a non-conformist cemetery from the seventeenth century onwards, the origin of the name goes back to earlier times. Originally known as bone hill, the site may have been used for burials as far back as the Saxon period. It is also possible that the gruesome name came about much later. During the mid sixteenth century St Paul’s was clearing out its overflowing charnel house and in the somewhat pragmatic manner of the time the excess bones were dumped on nearby fenland until they formed, one imagines, a very gruesome looking hill.
Although the cemetery was remodeled in the nineteenth century, you can still get a feel for how jumbled and cramped together London Cemeteries were before work began to alleviate pressure on London’s overcrowded urban cemeteries with the opening of the likes of Highgate Cemetery and Brookwood in the mid-nineteenth century. Bunhill Fields saw its last burial in January 1854 – it is estimated that over 120,000 people were buried in the burial ground during its existence.
Bunhill fields attracted some quite famous individuals as a nice place to go whilst awaiting the final trumpets (or what ever the individual’s own particular brand of religion specified). John Bunyan (1628-1688), author of The Pilgrim’s Progress; Daniel Defoe (1660 -1731) author of Robinson Crusoe and the naughty novel Moll Flanders; Susannah Wesley (1669 -1742), the Mother of Methodism; and William Blake (1757-1827), visionary poet, painter and keen nudist (!) all took their final rest in Bunhill.
Amongst the gnarled old trees and scattering of wild flowers are not only notables and famous literary and non-conformist figures. There are many equally unique and extraordinary individuals..
Most of the graves are fenced off to protect them, however you can still get close to some of the larger monuments. Here are a few of my photo’s of some of the more famous monuments:
And the not so famous….
Amongst the many notable individuals, there are of course may thousands of ordinary individuals whose bones lie in Bunhill Fields….and one has to spare a thought for the suffering and fortitude of some of these unfortunate individuals such as Dame Mary Page, relict of Sir Gregor Page Baronet, who slithered off this mortal coil on March 4th 1728 at the age of 56, her epitaph reads:
One wonders if Dame Mary actually wanted her demise commemorated in quite so detailed a manner!
The Bone Hill Today
Today the old burial ground is protected landscape, filled with wildflowers and ancient trees and patrolled by the ubiquitous grey squirrels that abound in English park lands. Here are a few more of my pictures for you to enjoy…
Images – all images copyright Lenora and Haunted Palace unless otherwise credited.
Some great photos. Especially like the tree (fifth from the bottom), and the last two. That squirrel seems pretty tame. Makes me wonder if there are any legends about cemetery squirrels.
I love old cemeteries. Thanks for this.