London’s Bunhill Fields Cemetery gets Grade I listing

Bunhill Fields Cemetery, home to the tombs of some of English literature’s greatest writers, has been given Grade I protected status.

The cemetery, off City Road in Islington, north of the City of London, is the last resting place of Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe, Jerusalem poet William Blake and Pilgrim’s Progress writer John Bunyan.

Its new status gives it the highest level of recognition as an historic landscape on the national Register of Parks and Gardens.

In addition, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on the advice of English Heritage, has listed 75 of Bunhill’s 1,600 individual tombs.

Previously the whole Bunhill Fields site had the lower Grade II listed status.

David Garrard, of English Heritage, said: “Bunhill Fields has long fascinated historians and romantics alike and is considered the terra sancta of English Nonconformity.

“With its distinctive atmosphere and impressive monuments the cemetery offers both solace and beauty in the middle of our busy city. Few places nationally document religious history as vividly or with such poignancy as Bunhill Fields and we welcome the minister’s endorsement of our advice to list the 75 individual tombs.”

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Sue Ireland, director of open spaces at the City of London, said: “Bunhill Fields is an area of huge cultural importance within the historic City of London - the last resting place of some of England’s eminent literary non-conformists and has been managed as a public open space since 1867.

“I am delighted that its cultural value has been recognised with its Grade l entry on the Register of Parks and Gardens.”

Bunhill Fields dates back to the 1660s and was London’s principal non-conformist cemetery.

Around 123,000 burials took place in this four-acre plot before it was closed and laid out as a public garden in 1869.

In the southern enclosures there are more than two thousand surviving monuments, the oldest being that to theologian Theophilus Gale, who died in 1678.

The most recent major phase in the history of Bunhill Fields took place in the 1960s, when the northern part of the ground was cleared following bomb damage in the Second World War.

Today the cemetery is a haven for stressed workers seeking sanctuary from their busy lives in the City.