Tranquility in the Heart of the City – Bunhill Fields Burial Ground

Green space in the middle of urban sprawl is definitely something to be treasured. It doesn’t have to be a park or common it could be a graveyard or burial ground. Cemeteries offer lots of opportunities for city wildlife and provide quiet, tranquil spaces for humans too.

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground (technically in the London Borough of Islington) is just off the City Road and is only a 10 minute walk north of the Barbican and the edge of the towering, hectic energy of the Square Mile.

The name Bunhill is thought to be derived from Bone Hill as the site has been used for burials for over 1000 years.

Bunhill Fields is not a large area and it is surprising to think that nearly 123,000 burials have taken place here between the 1660s and when the grounds closed for burials in 1867.

It was a burial ground for Nonconformists, those folk who were dissenters from the Church of England. Nowadays, there are some two thousand monuments, mostly simple headstones of Portland stone, still standing.

Tomb of John Bunyan (1628-1688)

There are also some famous people buried here with tombs and monuments marking their burial places amongst whom are John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe.

Resting place of Daniel Defoe (1660-1731). The inscription reads ‘This monument is the result of an appeal in the Christian World newspaper to the boys and girls of England for funds to place a suitable memorial upon the grave of Daniel De-Foe. It represents the united contributions of seventeen hundred persons. Sept 1870.’

Most famously it is also the resting place of William Blake and his wife Catherine Sophia although until recently the precise location of Blake’s grave was unmarked.

Inscription reads ‘Near by lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake (1757-1827) and of his wife Catherine Sophia (1762-1831).

That has now all changed as following more than a year’s research by Luis and Carol Garrido, Blake’s final resting place has been re-discovered. A new grave marker, organised by the Blake Society along with many Blake enthusiasts, was unveiled in a ceremony last August (2018).

Majestic plane trees planted in the 1870s provide cooling, dappled shade adding to the tranquility of Bunhill Fields Burial Ground.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

16 thoughts on “Tranquility in the Heart of the City – Bunhill Fields Burial Ground”

  1. What a fascinating post – never thought there would have been a ‘nonconformist’ burial ground around since the 1600’s! And 123,000 burials is also a mind blowing number. Would love to visit this green oasis with such interesting history one day.

    1. You know I lived for years in London and knew about it, but just never found it despite living less than a couple of miles away when I was a student. My daughter and I walk a lot more than I used to. She doesn’t like the Tube especially in the summer months and consequently we see more and discover more.

    1. It was a place I have known about for a while, but it has taken me a long time to finally visit. That is the upside of being with my daughter who doesn’t like using the Tube so we walk a lot more than I used when I lived in London.

    1. Yes, peaceful is the right description. I have just run thorough thinking of all the cemeteries and graveyards I have visited and I don’t think I have experienced less than peaceful. Actually our town’s civic cemetery is at the top of my road and I have walked through many times and it is always a tranquil haven.

      1. Yes, cemeteries are stereotypically spooky and ghost chasing you and all of that, but I’ve always felt as you do. It makes me feel hopeful about the afterlife, I don’t know why, but the fact that the earthly areas closest to the afterlife seem peaceful encourages me!

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