The grave holding the remains of Puritan preacher and writer John Bunyan, who died in August, 1688, now celebrates the famed author of The Pilgrim’s Progress with an effigy lying atop a chest tomb. But it was not always so.
Bunyan, was in fact, first buried in the Baptist corner of the burial ground but it was understood that when the tomb of his friend John Strudwick was next opened (it was at Strudwick’s London home that Bunyan had died), his body would be moved into it. It’s thought this was done which Strudwick himself died in 1695.
Bunyan’s name was inscribed on the side of the monument over the tomb which took the form of a relatively unadorned stone chest in the Baroque style.
By the mid-1800s, however, this had fallen into decay and a public appeal was launched for the tomb’s restoration.
More than simply cleaning up the existing tomb, however, the Portland stone monument was completely reconstructed in 1862.
Designed by sculptor Edgar George Papworth, the new monument was again constructed as a chest, but this time with an effigy of Bunyan lying on top and two relief panels on the sides depicting scenes from his famous book.
The now Grade II* monument has been further restored a couple of times since, including after World War II when it was damaged by bomb shrapnel.
WHERE: Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, 38 City Road (nearest Tube station is Old Street); WHEN: 8am to 7pm weekdays/9.30am to 7pm weekends; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/city-gardens/visitor-information/Pages/Bunhill-Fields.aspx.
PICTURES: Top – Edwardx (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0); Right – David Adams
• 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.
• 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.