A Nonconformist burial ground
in the heart of London
, dating from the era when Christian burial
was available only to members of the Church of England
, so dissenter
s had to make do with unconsecrated
ground. A number of the most famous Nonconformist
s of England are buried here, including Blake
, and Defoe
Bunhill means bone-hill: it is an ancient burial-ground. The fields lie to the west of City Road in EC1, just south of Old Street tube station and north of the Barbican. The larger, southern field is now the parade ground of the Honourable Artillery Company, with the burial ground to the north. Directly facing it across City Road is the chapel, house, and burial place of John Wesley.
The graves are old and some of them are broken; it's only a small area and you can walk round it in a couple of minutes. It's open to the public during the day but most of the grave areas are enclosed, accessible only by request. Those of Bunyan, Blake, and Defoe are out in the open with paths leading to them.
John Bunyan's tomb is a busy affair, with an effigy of the author lying on top of it, and scenes from The Pilgrim's Progress around it. The tomb has been much restored and built up, with the effigy added by the Earl of Shaftesbury and public subscription in 1862.
Daniel Defoe has an obelisk to him. William Blake and his wife Catherine have a simple upright gravestone. As this says that they are buried "near by", the actual burial-place may be across a barrier in an enclosed area, or simply unknown, because unmarked graves were common among the nonconformists.
The statistician the Rev. Thomas Bayes is to be found, though not approached, off in a corner. The hymnist Isaac Watts has a plain table tomb. The Quaker founder George Fox is apparently here, though I can't recall seeing his tomb or knowing where it is; there is a Quaker meeting house nearby. John Wesley's mother Susanna is buried here, as are several members of the Commonwealth government including some Cromwells. Milton lived in the adjoining street Bunhill Row for many years (but is interred in a proper church, St Giles Cripplegate).
Founded in its modern form in the mid 1600s by the Quakers, it had originally been procured as a plague burial-ground. There have not been any burials there since the mid nineteenth century, and this part of Bunhill Fields is now maintained as a public space by the Corporation of London.
Some pictures at: web.ukonline.co.uk/cj.tolley/nch-bunhill.htm