Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:


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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Islington (London Borough)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 32718 82272

Reasons for Designation

DCMS agree- list at Grade II.


635-1/0/10247 BUNHILL FIELDS BURIAL GROUND 21-FEB-11 Monument to William and Catherine Soph ia Blake, Central broadwalk

GV II Headstone of William and Catherine Sophia Blake, renewed 1927

LOCATION: 532718.5, 182272.4

MATERIALS: Sandstone

DESCRIPTION: The monument takes the form of a simple upright slab with a shaped top. The inscription reads: 'Near by lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake 1757-1827 and of his wife Catherine Sophia 1762-1831'.

HISTORY: William Blake (1762-1827) is now among the most revered artistic and literary figures of the Romantic era. Born into a tradesman's family in Soho, he manifested from an early age both the graphic ability and the mystical tendencies that were to shape his adult life, making sketches after the Renaissance masters and encountering angels and prophets in his walks on the rural fringes of London. At 14 he was apprenticed to the master printmaker James Basire, and as a young man worked as a commercial engraver whilst training as a painter at the Royal Academy of Arts; his first original works comprised a series of watercolours on English historical themes. Blake married Catherine Sophia Boucher, his muse and helpmate throughout his creative career, in 1782, and in the following year published his first book of verse under the title Poetical Sketches. He developed a new technique of relief etching, guided - so he believed - from beyond the grave by his beloved younger brother Robert (d.1787), and used it to produce a series of 'illuminated books' combining freehand text and visionary painted images; these included the first edition of Songs of Innocence (1789) and its counterpart Songs of Experience (1794). With Catherine he attended a Swedenborgian church, but William's own brand of anti-Christian mysticism found expression in the apocalyptic prose-poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790) and numerous other works. He continued to work commercially and to carry out commissions, including a number for the writer William Hayley, at whose behest he moved to live at Felpham in Sussex in 1800. The friendship with Hayley soured, however, and in 1803 Blake, having been indicted for sedition after an altercation with a soldier, returned to London. Although he was later acquitted, his commercial career went into decline, and Blake immersed himself in private projects including the illustrated mythological epics entitled Milton and Jerusalem (both published in 1804). Although the avant-gardism of his style increasingly divorced him from the world of the Royal Academy, he was taken up in old age by a circle of younger artists and writers who, revered him as a genius and sage, and commissioned many of his last works including his unfinished cycle of illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy.

Blake's work exerted an immense influence upon later Romantic and Modernist writers and artists, especially Samuel Palmer and WB Yeats. On the centenary of his death in 1927 his original monument was replaced with the present headstone; this in turn was moved during the re-landscaping of the 1960s. Blake's actual resting place is in the cleared northern section of the burial ground, east of the surviving tomb of Matthew Wilks.

Bunhill Fields was first enclosed as a burial ground in 1665. Thanks to its location just outside the City boundary, and its independence from any Established place of worship, it became London's principal Nonconformist cemetery, the burial place of John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, William Blake and other leading religious and intellectual figures. It was closed for burials in 1853, laid out as a public park in 1867, and re-landscaped following war damage by Bridgewater and Shepheard in 1964-5.

SOURCES: Corporation of London, A History of the Bunhill Fields Burial Ground (1902). A W Light, Bunhill Fields (London, 1915). Robert N Essick, entry on Blake in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (retrieved on 9 June 2009).

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The monument to William and Catherine Sophia Blake is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * It commemorates one of the Romantic era's most celebrated and influential writers and artists. * It is located within the Grade I registered Bunhill Fields Burial Ground (q.v.), and has group value with the other listed tombs in the central broadwalk, and especially with the neighbouring monument to Daniel Defoe.


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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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