Bunhill

Bunhill, Islington

An electoral ward that takes its name from a renowned Dissenters’ burial ground at the southern end of City Road


John Bunyan's memorial in Bunhill Fields
John Bun­yan’s memo­r­i­al in Bun­hill Fields

Bun­hill Fields – which is a cor­rup­tion of Bone Hill Fields – had been asso­ci­at­ed with inter­ments since Sax­on times and became a Quak­er bur­ial ground in 1665, the year of the plague. It was pop­u­lar with Dis­senters of var­i­ous denom­i­na­tions because the ground was uncon­se­crat­ed.

By the 1800s the grave­yard had seen 12,000 buri­als and had become so over­crowd­ed as to con­sti­tute a health haz­ard – or at least so it was thought at a time when the mias­ma the­o­ry held sway.

In response to the con­ges­tion a Non­con­formist bur­ial ground called New Bun­hill Fields was opened in South­wark, at a site now occu­pied by the Globe Acad­e­my. The ceme­tery oper­at­ed from around 1821 to 1853 and at least 12,000 buri­als took place here too. In addi­tion, a Non­con­formist bur­ial ground called City Bun­hill oper­at­ed at Gold­en Lane between 1833 and 1853.

The orig­i­nal Bun­hill Fields closed in 1863 and the Cor­po­ra­tion of Lon­don sub­se­quent­ly took over its main­te­nance. Part of Bun­hill Fields was laid out as a gar­den in 1960.

John Bun­yan, William Blake and Daniel Defoe are buried here, but their memo­ri­als do not mark the pre­cise sites of the graves as there has been so much dis­arrange­ment.

In the elec­toral ward of Bun­hill 43 per cent of res­i­dents are white British. There are also sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of ‘oth­er West­ern Euro­pean whites’ and peo­ple of Chi­nese ori­gin or descent – which is nowa­days often an indi­ca­tor of an abun­dant stu­dent pop­u­la­tion. (City Uni­ver­si­ty is near­by.) The major­i­ty of res­i­dents live in rent­ed accom­mo­da­tion. Two-thirds of house­holds have no access to a car.

John Milton lived in Artillery Row, now Bunhill Row, from 1663 to 1674. Here he completed Paradise Lost and wrote its sequel Paradise Regained and the poetic drama Samson Agonistes.

Postal district: EC1
Population: 14,639 (2011 census)
Further reading: Susan Black, Bunhill Fields: The great Dissenters’ Burial Ground, Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1990