This is one of a series of posts exploring some of the more obscure parts of London and their past. Some of the photographs will appear in my 2022 calendar which will shortly be on sale. Click here for more information and check back to see when the calendar is available.
London is a city of towns and villages, once separate from each other and with their own distinct character. And then there would have been the spaces in between; the fields, moorlands and forests almost unpopulated save for the occasional dwelling.
It was in these spaces that were often on the edges of authority that people could fly under the radar, fall through the cracks. It was inevitable that the more radical and unconventional would be attracted to such areas.
One such space is Bunhill Fields on the northern edge of the City of London. This would once have been moorland outside the City’s boundary and as far as the next village, Hoxton. Its name suggests it may have been a burial place for many years, possibly back to Saxon times. Rather than an actual burial ground, with all the ritual that implies, it may, however, have been more of a dump for human remains taken from the charnel house at St Paul’s Cathedral in the 16th century. There were sufficient bones to create a hill in this bleak space.
In 1665, the year of the plague, the space became used as an overfill burial ground. It continued in that capacity until the middle of the nineteenth century. The land was never consecrated by the Church of England so it became the choice of burial for those outside the established church. This included John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress; and William Blake, the engraver, poet and philospher.
Close by, and in keeping with the non-conformist tradition of the area there is the home of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley; and elsewhere the last resting place of the founder of the Quaker movement, George Fox.