Daniel-Defoe-memorial2
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.

Daniel-Defoe-memorialWhen 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

Advertisements

• It includes everything from the iconic Lloyd’s Building in the City to the former Strand Union Workhouse in Fitzrovia which may have inspired scenes in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and the red phone boxes which sit outside the British Museum in Bloomsbury. English Heritage this week released it’s London List 2011 which documents the more than 100 sites in London which have been awarded listed status by the organisation last year. They include 19 Underground stations (among them that of Oxford Circus, St James’s Park and Aldwych), four war memorials (including the grand Central Park War Memorial in East Ham) and two schools as well as various cemetery monuments (including at Highgate and Brompton Cemeteries, and Bunhill Fields Burial Ground) and parks (the status of Green Park was upgraded to Grade II*), religious and commercial premises, public libraries and homes. To download a copy, visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/london-list-2011/.

It’s just one week to go until the Open House London weekend when more than 750 buildings of all sorts open their doors to you. We’ll be talking more about some of the special places open this year in next week’s update – this is, after all, one of our favorite London events of the year, and while, if you haven’t already entered, you’ve missed on the balloted openings, there’s still plenty of places where you can simply turn up on the day (and entry to all is free). If you haven’t already bought one, you can buy the Guide online – just follow the links from www.openhouselondon.org.uk. It can also be picked up free at some participating London libraries.

• Dame Ida Mann, Oxford’s first female professor and a pioneering ophthalmologist, has been honored with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at her childhood home in West Hampstead. The plaque, which was unveiled by an Australian opthalmologist who worked with Mann, Donald F. Ezekial, last week, has been placed on a house at 13 Minster Road where Mann lived from 1902-1934. Mann was born in West Hampstead and lived there for 41 years before eventually emigrating to Australia. For more on blue plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk.

• On Now: Motya Charioteer at the British Museum. Best be quick for this one, the charioteer, on loan from the Museo Giuseppe Whitaker on Motya, is only around until 19th September (that’s next Wednesday). The stunning statue, displayed near the sculptures from the Parthenon, dates from about 460-450 BC and is generally credited as one of the finest examples of Greek marble sculpture to have survived down the ages. It is believed to depict the winner of a chariot race and is likely to have been commissioned to commemorate a victory by a participant from one of Sicily’s Greek cities. It was found in Sicily in 1979. Admission is free. For more, see www.britishmuseum.org.

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.