Bunhill Quaker Gardens

Charting the redevelopment of the Quaker Gardens between Banner Street and Chequer Street, London, in 02005.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Soil mounds

Soil mounds
Soil mounds
Originally uploaded by davidjennings.
I thought we might have some respite at the weekend, but another lorry was being loaded with rubble at 8.10 this morning (good overtime rates, I hope).

I didn't see these mounds of soil arrive. Perhaps the lorry brought them. But they were deposited at the Chequer Street end of the site, only for the digger and the little shovel-buggy (that's my name for it) to ferry one of them back, Sisyphus-style, to the other end of the site, nearer the entrance.

the great plane tree
The great plane tree
Originally uploaded by davidjennings.
My friend Huw told me that the house you can see on the right of the top picture, and in the middle of the bottom one, used to belong to TV chef Jamie Oliver. Apparently each programme in one of his early series started with him coming out of the door, hopping on his scooter, and scooting off down Chequer Street. I'm ashamed to say I don't do a lot of cooking, and I'm a bit smug about how little TV I watch, so I can only take Huw's word for it.

Update: I've just Googled "Jamie Oliver" and "Chequer Street" and this proves Huw right: try this link.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Clearing the ground

Loading up the lorry
Loading the lorry
Originally uploaded by davidjennings.
A few more lorry-loads of rubble were taken away today, and the all-weather webbing for the playground (visible in a pile on the left of yesterday's photo).

The yellow quonset huts (can I call them that?) have been moved off the grass, and the site is almost level and clear now.

Clearing the turf
Then the digger removed the turf from what will be the ball court (see the plan). It's impressive how such a heavy 'blunt instrument' is wielded with precision to do a wide range of jobs.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Heavy machinery arrives

Quaker Gardens 02005-02-17
Quaker Gardens
Originally uploaded by davidjennings.
Yesterday it was the baby digger, but today the heavy machinery moved in.

The last vestige of the playground, the see-saw, was unceremoniously uprooted. At least two large lorry-loads of concrete blocks, rubble and bricks were taken away via the Banner Street entrance.

The big digger started to remove the brick paving that surrounds the trunk of the plane tree: vibrations shook right up through the building.

About this blog

This blog will chart the redevelopment of the Quaker Gardens in the Bunhill area between Banner Street and Chequer Street, London. This development began on 14 February 02005 and is scheduled to complete in the early summer.

I first wrote about the development elsewhere — see the text here. Inspired by the day-by-day changes I can see out of my window, I decided to keep a running photo commentary.

This development also mirrors a parallel narrative that may become more explicit as time goes by.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Twelve thousand people are buried here

Quaker Gardens 020050216
Until this week there was a playground here. You may be able just to make out the yellow seats of a see-saw, slightly to the left of the centre of the picture. But on Monday the sounds of innocent play mingled with the incipient bullying of older children were replaced by buzz saws and diggers.

This is the view out of my window, and over the next four months I shall have to get used to a different aural landscape. The good news is that when the work is over — in June or July — we'll have an even better public space, including a 'quiet garden' under the beautiful old plane tree (some branches of which are visible on the left of the picture). Here's a plan of how it's intended to be laid out (the window from which the picture was taken is about a third of the way up the left-hand side of the plan).

The area in the foreground has been in Quaker ownership since 1661, and, between then and 1855, 12,000 people were buried here in unmarked graves, including George Fox, founder of the movement (see more details). In fact, the area had already been used for burials before that, the name Bunhill being derived from 'Bone Hill'.

In the top right of the picture, between the buildings, you can see Bunhill Fields burial ground. This ground, unconsecrated by the Church of England, was used for burials from 1315 to 1854, and is the resting place for many religious non-conformists and freethinkers who were not welcome in church cemeteries: William Blake, Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan and Susanna Wesley are buried here. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, is buried just the other side of Bunhill Fields in Wesley's Chapel. Here's a wonderful walking tour of the area, including its history and some good photographs.

To my shame, I was only vaguely aware of the Quaker heritage of this area until we got a leaflet about the changes to Quaker Gardens yesterday. The Bunhill Fields Quakers are still active at the Friends Meeting House just behind our building. We will join them one day.

I love being enfolded in the legacy of pacifism and radicalism: these bones surely make fertile ground for new life.