Bunhill Heritage is a community heritage project, in partnership with local residents, exploring the rich and radical history of the Bunhill area. Located just outside the City of London, for centuries the district has been home to radical thinkers, lively characters and pioneering industries. Bunhill Fields Burial Ground was the final resting place for the thousands of Nonconformist Christians who dissented from the Church of England, such as Methodists, Quakers and Unitarians. The first burial took place in 1665/66 and, until 1853 when it closed, over 120,000 people were interred here. They included philosophers, authors, poets and theologians, as well as thousands of ordinary men, women and children.
Islington Heritage Service is working with three artists over three years, each to create their own work of art inspired by the history of Bunhill. The artists will work with different groups within the community to creatively explore aspects of the area’s heritage. The first work of art, 'Collector' by Georgie Fay, is currently on display here in Bunhill Fields.
Printmaker Georgie Fay was inspired by the historic industries that once existed in Bunhill. Working closely with St Luke’s Community Centre, she explored the district’s heritage with older residents and local primary schools. The schools visited Bunhill Fields to learn more about
the hundreds of years of history on their doorsteps.
Printing was one the major industries of Bunhill from the 19th Century, and the pupils even got
to use a real-life printing press! De La Rue printers, famous for printing bank notes, had
their factory on Bunhill Row from 1874-1940 when it was destroyed in the Blitz during the
Second World War. Georgie and the school children also learned about other prominent
professions and trades formerly found in the Bunhill area, including metalworking, textile
mills, dye makers and ropemakers.
Participants created symbols that reflected the historic industries in the area, some of these jobs sound very strange to us today; blacksmith, rag sorter, whalebone cutter, barometer maker and stick mounter. These symbols made by the children are incorporated into the work of art.
'Collector', is the final piece by Georgie Fay and consists of printed sails of original artwork suspended above the ground. The banners hang from a metal ring reminiscent of the wheel of a printing press. Ropes safely suspend the wheel from three trees. These three aspects pay tribute to Islington's historic industries.
“During the project I met so many people and learned so much, it felt as if I was gathering things. The stories, places and people are all in here in some way. Bunhill Fields is a such a still space, where headstones like pillars emerge from the undergrowth. This work is like a drifting stone circle... Heaven reaching down to Earth.”