The Grave of William Blake Rediscovered

Photo: Victoria Jones/PA

On August 12, 2018 a new memorial was unveiled at Bunhill Fields in London marking the grave of poet, artist, and printer William Blake (1757-1827). Previously a stone in the burial ground attested that Blake and his wife Catherine were interred “near by.” The unveiling of the new monument marks the 191st anniversary of Blake’s death and the culmination of fourteen years of work by Luis and Carol Garrido to identify the location of the grave.

The Guardian reports:

“When you see the stone that says ‘near by’, it’s so vague,” Luis Garrido said. “We wanted to know the exact spot.”

Finding it proved a bigger challenge than they imagined. Bunhill Fields was a cemetery popular with Dissenters, and when Blake died, largely unrecognised, in 1827, his was the fifth of eight coffins to be buried in the plot.

The graveyard had been arranged in a grid, and the co-ordinates were in the Bunhill Fields burial records, given as “77, east and west, 32, north and south”. But after bomb damage during the second world war, the Corporation of London decided to transform part of the site into gardens, leaving only two remaining gravestones, and moving Blake’s stone next to a memorial to an obelisk commemorating Daniel Defoe.

The burial records were not always precise, according to Carol Garrido, whose skills as a landscape architect were vital. “You could see the handwriting in the burial order book change,” she said. “We imagined someone who was a clerk in the office, writing what the foreman of the gravediggers told them.” By using the two existing graves to find a point of origin, after two years they had found the right place.

The crowd-funded monument was designed by Lida Cardozo and is inscribed with a passage from Blake’s poem Jerusalem: “I give you the end of a golden string / Only wind it into a ball / It will lead you in at Heavens gate / Built in Jerusalems wall.” A detailed account of how Luis and Carol Garrido located the grave can be read here.

See also: The Tomb of Coleridge Rediscovered.

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