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William Blake’s Ancient of Days projected on to St Paul’s Cathedral

William Blake finally honoured with a gravestone at his final resting place

William Blake gravestone © James Murray-White

William Blake’s new gravestone in Bunhill Fields
© James Murray-White

William Blake (1757-1827) is widely regarded as one of, if not the, greatest artist in British history. The born and bred Londoner was an acclaimed poet, painter, author and printmaker, although never had much success during his lifetime. Nearly 200 years after his death, Blake’s canon continues to amaze and inspire people around the world. Among his more famous works include ‘Songs of Innocence and of Experience’, ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, ‘The Four Zoas’, ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Milton’, ‘And did those feet in ancient time’.

Having been brought up as an English Dissenter (Protestant Christians which broke away from the Church of England), Blake was laid to rest in a Dissenters’ graveyard following his death in 1827. The painter died at home in the Strand and was buried in Bunhill Fields in the London borough of Islington. As well as the location of his parents and two of his brothers’ graves, Bunhill also included the burial sites of Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan and Susanna Wesley. Blake was buried in an unmarked grave on 17 August – on what would have been he and wife Catherine’s 45th wedding anniversary. He was buried on top of several bodies, with another four being placed above him in the coming weeks. His widow Catherine died in 1831 and was also laid to rest at Bunhill Fields, but in a separate plot.

Bunhill Fields was closed as a burial ground in 1854 after it was declared ‘full’, having contained 123,000 interments during its 189 year history, and became a public park. Although William and Catherine Blake had both been buried in unmarked graves, the William Blake Society (founded 1912) erected a memorial stone to the couple in Bunhill Fields on the centenary of the painter’s death in 1927. The stone read: ‘Near by lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake 1757–1827 and his wife Catherine Sophia 1762–1831.’ Re-landscaping in the 1960s following widespread damage during World War II resulted in many of the monuments being cleared. Although the Blakes’ memorial was one of those to survive, it was moved from its location at William’s grave to near Defoe’s memorial stone in 1965.  Read the rest of this entry

Spirit Of Soho mural | Celebrating the history and characters of Soho

Discover the colourful story of Soho on this huge Berwick Street mural.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The Spirit Of Soho mural stands on the side of 9 Carnaby Street overlooking Broadwick Street

Various areas of London come and go as the ‘trendy’ new postcode to visit. However, one that has remained an eternal draw to Londoners and visitors for decades as a playground for both is Soho. Bordered by the shops of Oxford and Regent Street with the theatres of Shaftesbury Avenue cutting through it, Soho today retains a mix of its old and new haunts – with iconic venues and restaurants such as Ronnie Scott’s and the Gay Hussar sharing the same roads as the inevitable chain restaurants and coffee shops.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

The right panel features (top to bottom) the Palladium, Carnaby Street and Ronnie Scott’s

Back in 1991, the community of Soho created a mural at the western end of Broadwick Street to celebrate the characters and venues which make the area so special. Crowning the mural is St Anne – who lends her name to Soho’s church in Dean Street – with her skirt forming the streets and lanes of Soho. Dotted around are dogs and hares, harking back to Soho’s origins as royal hunting ground between the 16th and 17th centuries. In fact, the word Soho is believed to have come from an old hunting cry.

Representing Chinatown in the south east corner of the skirt, is the pagoda and Lee Fung supermarket, while the western borders features a depiction of Liberty’s department store with its iconic Tudor-style timber frame. On the right panel of the mural, popular Soho spots are depicted including the Palladium, Carnaby Street and Ronnie Scott’s, while the left panel features an artist in his studio (believed to be late animator Bob Godfrey MBE), fashion stores and international restaurants. Among the streets of Soho you may well recognise one of the Groucho Brothers – likely alluding to the iconic Groucho Club on Dean Street.

At the bottom of the mural is a huddle of notable Soho residents and clientele, including revolutionary Karl Marx (1818-1883), artist William Blake (1757-1827), poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) and jazz musician George Melly (1926-2007). When the clock (which was restored in 2006) strikes on the hour, look carefully to see Marx sipping a can of Coca-Cola, while opera singer Teresa Cornelys (1723-1797) winks at her former lover Casanova (1725-1798), who returns the favour by blowing her a kiss. Marx actually lived in Dean Street in the 1850s with his family, above what is now the Quo Vadis restaurant. During his time in Soho, Marx and his wife suffered the loss of three of their children in infancy, while he also wrote his proposal for the Communist Manifesto in a room above the Red Lion pub on Great Windmill Street. Meanwhile, Teresa’s parties at her home, Carlisle House in Soho Square, were legendary in the mid 1700s. She fathered a daughter Sophia during an affair with Italian playboy Casanova, who used to visit the house.

Next time you’re in Soho, why not pay a visit to the mural and see who you can recognise. Aim to visit on the hour for the very subtle animations around the clock.

  • The Spirit Of Soho mural in located on the Berwick Street side of 9 Carnaby Street, Soho, W1F 9PB. Nearest stations: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus.
Soho mural © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2014

Animated: As the clock strikes the hour, watch as Karl Marx sips Coke, Teresa Cornelys winks as Casanova, who blows a kiss back


For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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