This Week in London – Rosalind Franklin’s grave; American printmaking; and Disabled Access Day at royal residences….
March 9, 2017
• Acclaimed biologist Rosalind Franklin’s grave in Willesden United Synagogue Cemetery has been given listed status, Historic England announced in marking International Women’s Day this week. Franklin’s tomb commemorates her life and achievements – they include X-ray observations she made of DNA which contributed to the discovery of its helical structure by Crick and Watson in 1953. Meanwhile, Historic England has teamed with The Royal Society to highlight the achievements of 28 remarkable women noted for their achievements in the fields of chemistry, biology, physics and astronomy. The women’s stories have been explored and key historic locations mapped. They include the Marianne North Gallery in Kew Gardens (named for 19th century botanist Marianne North), the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital – founded in 1872 as the New Hospital for Women in London by Anderson, a suffragette and the first English woman to qualify as a doctor, and the Royal Academy of Arts where natural history illustrator and painter Sarah Stone was an honorary exhibitor in the 1780s.
• The first major exhibition focusing on contemporary American printmaking has opened in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery of The British Museum. The American Dream: pop to the present features more than 200 works from 70 artists including Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Chuck Close, Louise Bourgeois and Kara Walker. Including loans from institutions such as The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, as well the museum’s own collection, the works span six decades – from the moment when pop art arrived in the New York and West Coast scene of the early 1960s, to the rise of minimalism, conceptual art and photorealism in the 1970s, and through to the practices of today’s artists. Among the works on show are Warhol’s Marilyn, Willie Cole’s Stowage and Claes Oldenburg’s sculpture of the Three-Way Plug. Admission charges apply. Runs until 18th June. For more, see www.americandreamexhibition.org. PICTURE: Andy Warhol (1928–1987), ‘Vote McGovern’, Colour screenprint/© 2016 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London.
• Visitors with disabilities will be offered free admission to royal residences – including the Royal Mews and The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace – this weekend to mark Disabled Access Day. Visitors to the Queen’s Gallery can join verbal descriptive tours of the Portrait of the Artist exhibition on 12th March while the Royal Mews will offer free admission to disabled visitors on 10th and 11th March. Standard access resources, including plain English tour scripts, induction loops, large-print and list access will be available across all venues. For more, see www.royalcollection.org.uk.
Send all items for inclusion to email@example.com.
January 26, 2016
Brompton Cemetery in London’s west is to undergo a major renovation thanks to a £6.2 million project. Designed by Benjamin Baud and consecrated by the Bishop of London in 1840, the 39 acre cemetery – one of the oldest Grade I listed cemeteries in the country and known as one of London’s “magnificent seven” cemeteries – was strongly influenced by landscapes around St Peter’s in Rome. Among the 205,000 people buried there are suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Sir Thomas Spencer Wells – Queen Victoria’s surgeon, and thousands of former Chelsea pensioners. The project will see the chapel, central colonnades and catacombs restored and the transformation of North Lodge into a visitor’s centre with shop and cafe as well as other conservation and improvement works. It is funded by an almost £4.5 million grant from the BIG Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as a £1.2 million investment from The Royal Parks, managers of the site, and £500,000 from The Royal Parks Foundation, only half of which has been raised. Those looking to donate to the foundation’s appeal, can visit www.SupportTheRoyalParks.com. PICTURE: © The Royal Parks
September 30, 2015
The church – the third to serve the parish – was built here in 1740 but was replaced when the current parish church was built between 1813 and 1817.
In 1951, the St Marylebone Society created a Memorial Garden of Rest on the site (also known as the Old Church Garden). It was opened in March, 1952, by Viscount Portman.
The foundations of the former church were marked out in the sunken portion of the garden. The predominantly paved garden also contains numerous gravestones and memorials.
These include that of Methodist movement leader Charles Wesley, erected in 1858 to commemorate his burial in 1788 (pictured right). There’s also a plaque recording notable burials at the church, including the painter George Stubbs (1806), royal apothecary John Allen (1774), architect James Gibbs and bare knuckle boxer James Figg (1734). Other plaques detail some of the church’s history.
Also of note in the garden is a Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum), named for being the variety upon which Judas hung himself or, alternately, because its fruit pods resemble bags of silver. The current tree replaces an earlier one.
WHERE: Garden of Rest Marylebone, Marylebone High Street (nearest tube stations are St Paul’s and Barbican); WHEN: 7am to dusk; COST: Entry is free; WEBSITE: www.myparks.westminster.gov.uk/parks/garden-of-rest-marylebone/.
September 16, 2015
The park – which took its name from its popularity with postal workers who came here to escape their job at the nearby former General Post Office (read a Lost London article on the GPO here) – opened in 1880.
It was originally located on the site of the former churchyard of St Botolph’s-without-Aldersgate and was subsequently expanded to incorporate the adjacent churchyard of St Leonard, Foster Lane, and the burial ground of Christ Church, Greyfriars (also known as Christ Church, Newgate Street). Some of the headstones still stand along the park’s boundaries.
Its key feature is the G.F. Watts Memorial To Heroic Self Sacrifice (pictured, right). Victorian artist and philanthropist George Frederic Watts proposed the memorial commemorating “heroic men and women” who had given their lives to save others to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887 but the memorial which now stands there wasn’t built until 1900.
The memorial consists of a loggia, the inside of which is lined with glazed tablets. Each of these commemorates acts of bravery by “everyday heroes” as they attempted to rescue people from fires, runaway trains, sinking ships and drowning. There were 13 plaques at the time of his death in 1904 and his wife Mary added a further 34.
The latest of the memorials commemorating 62 individuals was added in 2009 (for more details, head to our earlier post here, part of our Curious London Memorials series; you can also find more about the memorial, including a free app, here).
The park also features a sundial and fountain amid bright flower beds and various species of trees including a large banana tree, a dove tree and Tasmanian tree ferns.
Claims to fame include its role in the 2004 film Closer, which starred Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen (we won’t go into details, just in case you haven’t seen it!).
WHERE: Postman’s Park, between King Edward Street and St Martin’s le Grand (nearest tube stations are St Paul’s and Barbican); WHEN: The park, managed by the Corporation of London, is open 7am to 8pm or dusk (whichever is earlier); COST: Entry is free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/city-gardens/visitor-information/Pages/Postman’s-Park.aspx.
Located in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground in City Road, this memorial to Daniel Defoe, the author of numerous books including Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders as well as a journalist, pamphleteer and ‘provocateur’ or spy, wasn’t erected until 1870, almost 140 years after his death.
After he died in 1731 at the age of 70, Defoe was among the more than 120,000 people buried in Bunhill Fields, a Nonconformist cemetery which opened in 1665 and had closed by 1853. He was apparently buried under the name Dabow, thanks to a spelling mistake made by the gravedigger.
When he died in relative obscurity (he was believed to have been hiding from his creditors at the time), his fame rose after his death – due in large part to the rising popularity of Robinson Crusoe, and by the mid-19th century, it was believed that the simple headstone over his grave didn’t do justice to him.
Hence an appeal was run by children’s magazine Christian World for a more suitable memorial for the writer – named as Daniel De-Foe on the memorial – and more than £150 was raised from 1,700 people, an amount which apparently exceeded expectations.
Sculptor Samuel Horner was subsequently commissioned to carve the memorial obelisk, which features projections at the base resembling a coffin lid, to the designs of CC Creeke of Bournemouth. It was unveiled on 16th September, 1870, in a ceremony attended by three of Defoe’s great grand-daughters.
There was apparently a newspaper story that the sculptor uncovered a coffin bearing Defoe’s name in preparing the site for the monument and had to get the aid of police to prevent watchers from making off with the bones from within.
The monument, which may not mark the exact location of Defoe’s grave site due to the movement of graves in the burial ground, is now Grade II*-listed (and the burial ground itself Grade I-listed). Others buried at Bunhill Fields include author John Bunyan, artist William Blake and Susanna Wesley, mother of John Wesley, founder of Methodism.
WHERE: Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, 38 City Road (nearest Tube station is Old Street); WHEN: 7.30am to 7pm or dusk; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/city-gardens/visitor-information/Pages/Bunhill-Fields.aspx
LondonLife – Astrologer, former Lord Mayor and Leveller among those buried in Bedlam, new research finds…
February 11, 2015
The remains of an astrologer believed to have been stoned to death by an angry mob, a former Lord Mayor of London and a member of Civil War era dissenting group, the Levellers, who was executed by firing squad may be among those exhumed from the former Bedlam burial ground in Liverpool Street in the City of London in a new archaeological excavation.
A research project carried out ahead of the planned excavation of the new eastern entrance of the Liverpool Street Crossrail Station has unearthed the names and backgrounds of more than 5,000 of the 20,000 Londoners who were buried on the site in the 16th and 17th centuries.
They include Dr John Lamb, an astrologer and advisor to the Duke of Buckingham, who a mob apparently stoned to death outside a theatre in 1628 after allegations against him of rape and black magic, Sir Ambrose Nicholas, Lord Mayor of London in 1575, as well as victims of riots by ‘Fanatiques’ (as noted in the diaries of Samuel Pepys in January, 1661) and, according to a report in The Independent, Robert Lockyer, a member of the Leveller movement who was executed by firing squad in 1649 during the English Civil War.
Some 3,000 skeletons will be disinterred in the excavation along with, it is expected, Roman and medieval artefacts. The dig will start next month and will be carried out by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology). The skeletons will be analysed before they are reburied in consecrated ground.
The research into the backgrounds of more than 5,000 of those buried on the site – which was established in 1569 to help alleviate overcrowding caused by outbreaks of plague and other epidemics – has been carried out by 16 volunteers with the results compiled into a new online database – the Bedlam Burial Ground Register. Plague was the most common form of death followed by infant mortality and consumption.
“This research is a window into one of the most turbulent periods of London’s past,” said lead archaeologist Jay Carver. “These people lived through civil wars, the Restoration, Shakespeare’s plays, the birth of modern industry, plague and the Great Fire.”
Crossrail workers recently discovered the gravestone of Mary Godfree who died in September, 1665, as a result of the ‘Great Plague’ which reached its peak that year.
PICTURES: Courtesy of Crossrail.
We’re running a bit behind this week, so the next instalment in our Churchill series won’t appear until later this week.
February 2, 2015
The remains of the teenaged girl – believed to have been aged between 13 and 17 years – were found in 1995 when the conically-shaped skyscraper at 30 St Mary Axe, fondly known as the Gherkin (and then formally known as the Swiss Re Tower), was being constructed.
The girl, whose skeleton was unearthed where the foundations now stand, was buried sometime between 350 and 400 AD in what appeared to be an isolated grave which would have lain just outside the edge of early Roman Londinium.
The body lay with the girl’s head to the south and the arms folded across. Pottery was found associated with the body which provided dating information.
After being exhumed, the skeleton was housed at the Museum of London for some 12 years before in 2007 it was reburied near the new building. The burial featured a ceremony at nearby St Botolph-without-Aldgate followed by a procession to the gravesite where a dedication took place which included “music and libations”. Among those who attended was the Lady Mayoress of the City of London.
There’s an inscription in honour of the girl on a stone feature outside the building in both Latin and English while a stone set in the pavement decorated with laurel leaves marks the (re)burial spot.
Other recent Roman remains found in London include the skeleton of a young Roman woman, believed to date from the 4th century, which was found still inside its sarcophagus at a site in Spitalfields and a series of two dozen Roman-era skulls which, likely to date from the first century A, were found during excavations for the Crossrail project in 2013. It has been suggested they may have been Britons executed for their role in the famed Queen Boudicca’s rebellion against the Romans in 61 AD.
We started this series with a pyramidal-shaped structure (see A pyramid in Trafalgar Square), so we thought it only fitting that we end with one as well.
This time, it’s not so much a monument, however, as a place to house some of London’s ever increasing population of dead. The over-crowded graveyards of early Victorian London (and the horror stories that went with them of bodies bursting forth from their graves), led to proposals for a range of innovative solutions in the early nineteenth century.
Among them was a pyramidal-shaped necropolis for Primrose Hill. Architect Thomas Willson came up with the 94 storey-high structure – which would have stood higher than St Paul’s Cathedral – to provide storage for some five million corpses with steam-powered lifts to carry the bodies to their place of rest.
Made from brick with granite facings, the base of the vast structure would have covered 18 acres. Its design, which included quarters for staff, four entrances and a central ventilation shaft, drew upon the Victorian fascination for all things Egyptian.
“It was supposed to be compact, hygienic and ornamental,” author Catharine Arnold told the BBC. “Willson hoped people would come to admire this huge pyramid from far and wide, picnicking on Primrose Hill and enjoying this splendid monument. But it would be rather like a giant car-park of the dead.”
According to the prospectus Willson, who trained at the Royal Academy, issued for potential investors, the pyramid – which was to cost £2,500 to build – would have raised a staggering sum of more than £10 million in profit when it was full.
Still, it was not to be and the idea never left the drawing board. But Willson did go on to join the board of the General Cemetery Company.
For more on London and its dead, see Catharine Arnold’s Necropolis: London and Its Dead.
July 15, 2014
A team of volunteers are searching through historical records for evidence of people buried at the Bedlam burial ground in the 16th and 17th centuries. The 15 member team are carrying out the work at the London Metropolitan Archives as archaeologists prepare to excavate 3,000 skeletons from the former burial site next year in anticipation of the construction of the new Liverpool Street Crossrail Station – part of the £14.8 billion cross London Crossrail project. About 400 skeletons have already been removed during preliminary works. Located near Bethlem Hospital, the burial ground opened in the 16th century as part of the city’s response to the plague and was the first burial ground in London not associated with a parish church. Among those buried here were Robert Lockyer, a soldier executed under the orders of Oliver Cromwell for leading the Bishopsgate mutiny of 1649, and Leveller John Lilburne. Crossrail are keen to hear from members of the public who may be able to provide further details of burials at Bedlam – if you can help, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 20, 2014
One of the highlights of any visit to Highgate Cemetery, the grave of Karl Marx is one of London’s most visited final resting places even though it didn’t attract a crowd at the time of his death.
Marx died in London on 14th March, 1883, having battled ill health for many months beforehand. He was buried at Highgate Cemetery just three days later and there were reportedly only between nine and 11 mourners at the funeral (his wife Jenny was not among them – she had died in late 1881 and is buried in the same grave). Among those who did attend was Friedrich Engels, who, in his eulogy, described Marx as “the greatest living thinker” and told of how he had “peacefully gone to sleep”.
While the original tomb was modest, the grander memorial which stands on the grave today was erected in 1954 by the Communist Party of Great Britain. It is inscribed with Marx’s words “Workers of all lands unite” and “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways – the point however is to change it” and topped with a larger-than-life bust of Marx created by Laurence Bradshaw.
As well as Marx’s wife, others buried in the tomb include Marx’s grandson, Harry Longuet, who died only six days after his grandfather at the age of four, Eleanor Marx, his daughter, who died in 1898, and Helene Demuth, the Marx family housekeeper.
The monument was attacked in 1970 by vandals using a home-made bomb, reportedly causing £600 of damage which was quickly fixed. There have been a couple of further attacks on the tomb.
WHERE: Highgate East Cemetery, Swain’s Lane (nearest Tube station is Archway); WHEN: 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday/weekends and public holidays 11am to 5pm (last admission 4.30pm); COST: £4 adults/children under 18 free (tours additional); WEBSITE: www.highgatecemetery.org
December 20, 2013
Can you identify where in London this picture was taken? If you think you can, leave a comment below. We’ll reveal the answer early next week. Good luck!
If you’ve been living in suspense for the past couple of weeks, then you need wait no longer. This coffin-shaped object is actually an interactive musical artwork commemorating clown Joseph Grimaldi (1776-1837), credited as the father of modern clowning, and the man remembered in the annual clown service held at Holy Trinity Church in Hackney each February. The artwork (and another next to it dedicated to theatre proprietor Charles Dibdin the Younger) was created by Henry Krokatsis and is located in Joseph Grimaldi Park on Pentonville Road in Clerkenwell – the site of the churchyard of the former Pentonville Chapel. The memorial is actually located on the site of Grimaldi’s grave (the gravestone has been moved and now stands nearby) and is tuned so that his popular song Hot Codlins can be played by standing on it.
Thirteen adult skeletons, believed to be up to 660 years old, have been discovered lying in two rows 2.5 metres below the ground on the edge of Charterhouse Square.
It is likely based on the depth at which the bodies were buried and other evidence (including pottery found at the site and a similarity between the layout of the bones and those of 14th century plaque victims unearthed at the East Smithfield Burial Ground in the 1980s), that the skeletons were buried here in 1349 during the Black Death.
Historical records suggest that as many as 50,000 people may have been buried here in the three years from the burial ground’s opening in 1348. The burial ground remained in use until the 1500s but has never been located in modern times.
The skeletons are being excavated and taken to the Museum of London Archaeology for laboratory testing.
Crossrail Lead Archaeologist Jay Carver described the discovery as “highly significant”.
“We will be undertaking scientific tests on the skeletons over the coming months to establish their cause of death, whether they were Plague victims from the 14th Century or later London residents, how old they were and perhaps evidence of who they were,” he said.
“However, at this early stage, the depth of burials, the pottery found with the skeletons and the way the skeletons have been set out, all point towards this being part of the 14th century emergency burial ground.”
It is likely more remains will be found according to experts.
Archaeologists working on the Crossrail project have previously uncovered more than 300 burials at the New Cemetery near the site of the Bedlam Hospital at Liverpool Street from the 1500s to 1700s.
For more on Crossrail, see www.crossrail.co.uk.
Around London – Resurrection men at the MoL; Hollywood costumes at the V&A; Hanwell locks “at risk”; and, David Nash sculptures at Kew…
October 18, 2012
• A new exhibition at the Museum of London opens tomorrow (Friday) looking at the “murky world” of the early 19th century ‘resurrection men’ and the surgeon/anatomist whom they supplied with bodies. Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men will centre around the 2006 excavation of a until then forgotten burial ground at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. The excavation of the area – which was used between 1825-41 – uncovered some 262 burials and while many contained just one person, others contained a mix of bones providing ample evidence of dissections, autopsies, amputations and the wiring together of bones for teaching as well as evidence animals had been dissected for comparative studies. The excavation revealed that rather than rely on body snatchers, the hospital had used its own ‘unclaimed’ patients for dissection practice. As well as human remains from the find (displayed for the first time), exhibition highlights include various instruments used in early 19th century surgery, a plaster cast of James Legg who was hanged for murder before his body was flayed and cast in plaster for study purposes and a wooden skeleton and other detailed anatomical models made by Joseph Browne. The exhibition runs until 14th April. An admission charge applies. For more details – including the programme of talks taking place alongside the exhibition – see www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
• The three piece white suit worn by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, the blue and white gingham pinafore dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz and costumes worn by Meryl Streep in the recent film, The Iron Lady, are all making their public appearance in London this weekend with the V&A’s major autumn exhibition. Opening on Saturday, Hollywood Costume features more than 100 iconic costumes designed for some of the big screen’s most unforgettable characters. A three gallery (or three ‘act’) journey covering the silent film era of Charlie Chaplin through to a look at motion capture costume design in Avatar, the exhibition explores the role costume design plays in cinematic storytelling and examine the changing social and technological context in which designers worked over the past century. Sourced from major motion picture studios, costume houses, museums, archives and private collections, the costumes will be displayed alongside interviews with costume designers, actors and directors. Runs until 27th January. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk/hollywoodcostume.
• A flight of locks which raise the Grand Union Canal 53 feet over the course of a third of a mile at Hanwell in west London is among the top Grade II heritage sites at risk in England, according to English Heritage. The organisation released its Heritage At Risk Register 2012 this week and announced a new program to examine how Grade II listed buildings not already covered by the register can be assessed. Other “at risk” sites in London include Kensal Green (All Souls) Cemetery – one of London’s “magnificent seven” Victoria cemeteries, Abney Park Cemetery in Hackney, Gunnersbury Park in Houslow and 94 Piccadilly (Cambridge House) in Westminster. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/heritage-at-risk/.
• On Now: David Nash at Kew: A Natural Gallery. New works by renowned sculptor David Nash were officially unveiled at Kew Gardens last weekend. Mostly created using Kew trees which have come to the end of their life whether through storms, lightning or disease, the series of sculptures – created on site since April in a ‘wood quarry’ in the arboretum – has been installed in gallery spaces across the gardens including The Nash Conservatory, the Temperate House and The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. They are displayed along with a series of drawings and short films. Runs until 14th April. An admission charge applies. See www.kew.org.
Around London – 250,000 British Library titles to be available online; summer in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground; funding for church and synagogue repairs; and, the British Museum takes a closer look at relics and reliquaries…
June 23, 2011
• The British Library is to digitise 250,000 books and make them available on the internet under a deal with tech giant Google. The works, which are all out of copyright, date from between 1700 and 1870 and include printed books, pamphlets and periodicals. Among them are feminist pamphlets about the ill-fated French Queen Marie Antionette dating from 1791, blueprints of the first combustion engine-driven submarine dating from 1858, and a 1775 account which tells of a stuffed hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange. The works will all be available online via Google Books which has partnered with more than 40 libraries around the world. The project will include material published in a range of European languages and will focus on works not already freely available in digital form online. For more see www.bl.uk.
• A series of events running under the banner of ‘Green Garden Lunchtimes’ will be held at the Bunhill Fields Burial Group (off City Road) in the City of London from next Monday until 1st July. The events include free yoga and tai chi classes, a bike repair workshop, a history tour from City Guides and a wildlife talk courtesy of the Natural History Museum. The Wren Clinic will also be providing free advice and treatments. Bunhill Fields is famous for its connections to the Nonconformists and contains the graves of writers William Blake, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan. For dates and times, follow this link.
• Six churches and a synagogue in London have been granted £582,000 to carry out repair works under the Repair Grants for Places of Worship scheme. The grants, which are administered by English Heritage and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, include £199,000 for the Church of St Augustine in Honor Oak Park – an early example of the Gothic Revival in the Early English style, £122,000 for Christ Church in Christchurch Park, Sutton, and £111,000 for the Golders Green Synagogue in Barnet. The grants were part of £8 million worth of funding given to 67 of England’s most important Grade II listed churches, chapels and synagogues. For more, see www.hlf.org.uk.
On Now: Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion at the British Museum. The museum’s major summer exhibition looks at the spiritual and artistic significance of Christian relics and reliquaries in medieval Europe. Among the highlights are: an arm reliquary of St George, which was housed in the treasury of St Mark’s in Venice following its capture in the sack of Constantinople in 1204; the British Museum’s bejewelled Holy Thorn reliquary, dating from 1390-97 and said to contain a relic from the Crown of Thorns; and, a 12th century bust of St Baudime from France, which once contained a vial of the saint’s blood and is being seen for the first time in Britain. Other exhibits come from the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore as well as from the Vatican. Runs until 9th October. There is an admission charge. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.
A squirrel spotted playing among the tombstones of Bunhill Fields Cemetery in the Borough of Islington. The Dissenters’ graveyard – burial place of the likes of writers John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe, artist and poet William Blake and Susanna Wesley, mother of Methodist founders John and Charles Wesley – was recently given a Grade I listing on the national Register of Parks and Gardens. For more information on the cemetery, see our previous post here.
Around London – Burial place of Bunyan, Defoe and Blake gets Grade I listing; Kew Gardens joins Streetview; and, Afghan treasures on show…
March 3, 2011
• The London burial place of writers John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe and artist and poet William Blake has been recognised as one of the city’s most significant historic landscapes with a Grade I listing on the national Register of Parks and Gardens. The news, which was announced last month, also sees 75 tombs located within Bunhill Fields Cemetery individually listed. Bunhill, located between City Road and Bunhill Row, is one of 106 registered cemeteries in London (and now one of only seven Grade I listed cemeteries). It was established in 1660 and, thanks to its not being associated with Anglican place of worship, is viewed as the “pre-eminent graveyard for Nonconformists in England” . About 123,000 burials took place in its four acres before it was closed in 1869. The oldest monument is that of theologian Theophilus Gale, who died in 1678. As well as the tombs of Buynan, Defoe and Blake, others listed on the register include that of Dame Mary Page, who died in 1728 and whose tomb inscription talks of her stoicism in the face of 240 gallons of water being taken out of her prior to her death, and Joseph Denison, a banker who died in 1806 and was one of England’s wealthiest commoners at the time. The listing was made by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport following advice from English Heritage. For more on Bunhill Fields, follow this link…
• Kew Gardens has joined Google Streetview, meaning it’s now possible to navigate your way around the gardens from the comfort of your own home. More than 26 kilometres of paths and the interiors of some of the garden’s glasshouses – including the Palm House and the Temperate House – can now be seen on Streetview which offers 360 degree views. Professor Stephen Hopper, director at Kew, says the new technology is “bound to encourage people to visit us and experience Kew for themselves”. Follow this link to see the gardens on Streetview.
• On Now: Afghanistan’s heritage is on display in a newly opened exhibition at the British Museum. Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World showcases more than 200 objects from the National Museum of Afghanistan as well as some items from the British Museum and includes sculptures, ivory inlays once attached to furniture, Roman glassware and Egyptian stone tableware, and inlaid gold ornaments once worn by the area’s “nomadic elite”. The objects were found between 1937 and 1978 and were preserved thanks to officials who kept them out of harm’s way during the Soviet and Taliban eras. The museum announced this week that they would be joined by carved ivory fragments that were stolen from Afghanistan’s national museum in the early 1990s and only recently presented to the British Museum by a benefactor with the idea that they will eventually be returned to Kabul. The exhibition runs until 3rd July. There is an admission charge. For more information, see www.britishmuseum.org.
September 4, 2010
Cemeteries can often provide a fascinating insight into past lives and among the most prominent in London is Highgate Cemetery, located in the city’s north.
With the population of London growing rapidly in the early 1800s, the 17 acre Highgate cemetery was first opened in 1839 with the first burial taking place in May that year.
The cemetery quickly became one of London’s most fashionable and was extended by 20 acres before the opening in 1856 of a new cemetery to the east. These days both are open to tourists although the West Cemetery can only be explored on a guided tour, thanks at least partly to vandalism.
The atmospheric East Cemetery is primarily known for being the resting place of Karl Marx but also features the graves of authors George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) and Douglas Adams, Australian painter Sidney Nolan and co-founder of Foyles – London’s famous Charing Cross bookstore – William Foyle.
Features at the West cemetery, meanwhile, include an avenue of Egyptian-style vaults and the vaults in an inner ring known as the Circle of Lebanon. Among those buried there are physicist Michael Faraday and the parents and brother of Charles Dickens.
The cemetery is now operated by a non-profit charity, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery.
WHERE: Swain’s Lane. Nearest tube is Archway; WHEN: Eastern Cemetery – daily from 10am (11am weekends) to 5pm (4pm between November and February), Western Cemetery – guided tours only (weekdays at 2pm with phone bookings required, weekends hourly from 11am to 4pm (3pm between November and February); COST: Eastern Cemetery – £3 adults/£2 students, Western Cemetery tours – £7 adults/£3 children aged 8-16; WEBSITE: www.highgate-cemetery.org