Monumental discovery: Bunhill Fields – a resting place more than worth a visit


So are you planning on coming to London for a short-break and fancy the idea of staying in the City/ Islington area? If so, you may also be interested in the idea of seeing one or two rarer, more unique sights – especially if you’ve stayed in the UK capital before.

Well, somewhere that may pique your interest is the public garden commonly referred to as Bunhill Fields. That’s because not only is this site (just south of Old Street, east of Hoxton and west of Clerkenwell) an elegant spot of green for quiet repose, but also a one-time burial ground of important and famous literary and clergy figures, ensuring it’s also a place for peaceful reflection and contemplation.

Nowadays a charmingly diminutive four acres (4.6 hectares) in area, it was much larger when used as a burial place between 1665 and 1854. And, although around 2,000 monuments can still be found and counted, over the course of it its history at least 123,000 bodies were buried beneath the site.

It’s believed that the Bunhill Fields’ moniker comes from ‘Bone Hill’, possibly its original name because it was used as a place for burials since before medieval times, but maybe more likely because it was where human bones were deposited following the rebuilding of the relatively nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Restoration era of the 1660s.

And, come the plague of 1665, it was immediately adopted as a burial ground once more, eventually evolving into a popular resting place for Noncomformist Christian worshippers (Protestants outside the Anglican church), thus why it became where so many significant members of the clergy have been laid to rest, something you’ll be able to discover if you choose to make your base The Montcalm Royal London House hotel and fancy paying the space a visit.

Yet for those who have a penchant for finding the graves and monuments of famous and decorated figures from history, it’s the site’s literary connections that perhaps draw the majority of its visitors. Indeed, given it’s the final resting place of Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe and the iconic poets William Blake and John Bunyan, that’s no surprise.

Following its eventual closure, Bunhill Fields was laid out in its present guise, opening as a public space in the autumn of 1869, which – presumably for curiosity’s sake, as much as anything else – saw the restoration of many of its monuments.

A portion of its burial ground, though, was heavily damaged during the London Blitz of World War Two, despite it maybe being the location for an anti-aircraft gun. With the war over by the 1960s, the space was finally transformed via landscaping into a garden for everyone to enjoy, as so many people who pay it a visit do so today.