Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Bunhill Fields—25 May 1708

Post Boy, January 10, 1708 - January 13, 1708; Issue 1975.

In early 1708, the religious group known as the French Prophets (a millenarian movement active in London from 1706), sensationally announced in the London newspapers that Thomas Emes, one of their number, who had died at the end of December 1707, would rise from his grave at Bunhill Fields on 25 May.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Blakespotting: Private Eye

The Private Eye letters pages regularly include “Lookalikes” where sometimes surprising visual resemblances are brought to our attention. The issue of 4-17 October 2019 features, on pages 21-22, no fewer than three Lookalikes and a Moggalike (Jacob Rees-Mogg appropriately paired with a relaxing kangaroo).

Here’s page 22 (click to enlarge)

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Bunhill Fields—3 September 1688

John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, died in August 1688, at the age of sixty. Drenched in a rainstorm on a rare visit to London for a preaching engagement, Bunyan fell ill while staying at the home in Snow Hill, Farringdon Without, of the grocer John Strudwick. His cold developed into a fever, though he still preached on 19 August to a London congregation, until illness claimed his life on 31 August 1688. He was buried at Bunhill Fields on 3 September.

Strudwick had already purchased a plot for a family vault in Bunhill Fields and it was his intention that Bunyan’s remains would be placed there too, though Bunyan was initially buried in the “Baptist Corner” at the back of the burial ground. John Strudwick survived another nine years, himself dying in 1697. There is no record of when Bunyan’s coffin was placed in the Strudwick vault although one might guess it was soon after Strudwick’s burial; the surviving burial ground registers only begin in 1713.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Bunhill Fields—the long continuities of London life and death

Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.—BLAKE
The Bunhill Fields Burial Ground and the adjacent Artillery Ground are the last large open spaces remaining of the three great fields (Bunhill Fields, Smithfield, and Moorfields) that constituted the Manor of Finsbury. The name Bunhill is a corruption of “Bone Hill”, perhaps implying the presence somewhere on the land of a Saxon burial mound. Another suggestion is that the marshy field was used as a refuse tip—a dumping ground for rags and bones, including animal bones from the Smithfield shambles, but I think the name predates the establishment of the livestock market. The manor was originally the prebend of Halliwell and Finsbury, established in 1104 to provide support for a canon of St Paul’s Cathedral.

In 1315, in the reign of Edward II, the prebendary manor was granted by Robert Baldock, the king’s secretary, to the Mayor and commonalty of London. This act enabled more general public access to a large area of fen or moor stretching from the City of London’s boundary (London Wall), to the village of Hoxton. Though ownership of Bunhill Fields reverted to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s Cathedral from 1514 to 1867, it continued to be leased and managed by the Corporation of London. The Corporation in turn sublet the field. This pattern of lease and sub-lease (and often sub-sub lease) was customary with Corporation land and persists to this day.