– Quaker Garden Bunhill Fields
– The Friends Burial Ground, Bunhill Row
This garden predates the more famous non-denominational Bunhill Burial Ground, although the area (“Bone Hill”) has long been associated with burials.
Quaker Gardens is all that remains of the former burial ground of the Society of Friends, or Quakers. The site was once part of Bunhill Fields purchased in 1661. Some 12,000 Quakers were buried here most famously the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), George Fox who was born in 1624 and died on 13th January 1691.
It was in used until 1855 when burials in London ceased.
It never had gravestones “as the practice is of no service to the deceased” but there is one general memorial in the Quiet Garden unusually made out of slates and shaped to resemble a burial mound. There are also some other historic memorials mounted on the west wall of the Meeting House Garden.
George Fox was born in Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire, and apprenticed to a Nottingham shoemaker, he developed strong opinions about religion.
Fox rebelled against the state control of the Church of England and in 1643 began touring the country giving sermons in which he argued that consecrated buildings and ordained ministers were irrelevant to the individual seeking God.
Three years later Fox had a divine revelation that inspired him to preach a gospel of brotherly love. He formed a group called the Friends of Truth. Later they became known as the Society of Friends. Fox’s central dogma was that of the inner light, communicated directly to the individual soul by Christ.
After 1656 followers of Fox refused to attend Anglican services or pay tithes. This resulted in Fox being arrested. According to Fox’s journal, Justice Bennet of Derby “was the first that called us Quakers, because I bade them tremble at the word of the Lord”. Eventually members of the Society of Friends became known as Quakers.
Two days after preaching, as usual, at the Gracechurch Street Meeting House in London, George Fox died between 9 and 10 p.m. on 13 January 1691. He was interred in the burying ground at Bunhill Fields three days later in the presence of thousands of mourners.
A school was built here in 1840 and in the corner of the garden is what remains of the Society’s Memorial Buildings, built in 1881. All but one wing of the building was demolished as a result of WWII bombing.
Bunhill Fields Quakers now meet in a simply furnished room that was the school keeper’s cottage, in what remained of the much larger Quaker establishment, which originally included
- a Coffee Tavern
- an adult school
- medical mission
- and large meetinghouse.
The site was eventually laid out as a recreation ground in 1965 within the GLC’s Banner Street estate. In one corner is a playground and small-enclosed garden of the Quakers’ Horticultural Project, which runs horticultural therapy workshops. The garden has impressive mature plane trees and a few monuments. It has been substantially re-landscaped with new planting and seating in recent years.
A small voluntary group exists to support the gardens as wild life friendly, woodland edge, low maintenance space.
There are occasional activities and events that have included beastie hunts for children, gardening talks and community gardening work. Informal ‘gardening Sundays’ are often arranged on the first Sunday of the month.
For more details – Islington Greenspace
SJG-B July 2017