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Monument to Joseph Denison, South Enclosure

A Grade II* Listed Building in Islington, London

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5235 / 51°31'24"N

Longitude: -0.089 / 0°5'20"W

OS Eastings: 532677

OS Northings: 182235

OS Grid: TQ326822

Mapcode National: GBR S8.51

Mapcode Global: VHGQT.DZT0

Entry Name: Monument to Joseph Denison, South Enclosure

Listing Date: 21 February 2011

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1396509

English Heritage Legacy ID: 508626

Location: Islington, London, EC1Y

County: London

District: Islington

Electoral Ward/Division: Bunhill

Built-Up Area: Islington

Traditional County: Middlesex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Giles Cripplegate

Church of England Diocese: London

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Listing Text


635-1/0/10259 BUNHILL FIELDS BURIAL GROUND
21-FEB-11 Monument to Joseph Denison, South encl
osure

GV II*
Funerary monument to Joseph and Elizabeth Denison and William Butler, c1806, restored late C20

LOCATION: 532676.7, 182234.9

DESCRIPTION: a Neo-Grecian pedestal tomb of Portland stone on a stepped stone and brick plinth with vermiculated rustication. It is a large cuboid on a moulded base with fluted corner pilasters and acroteria, the latter decorated with a Greek key pattern and palmettes. Between the acroteria, on the long sides, are pediments carved with a broad scallop shell, a symbol associated with Methodism. Paterae at the corners of the pilasters are missing. There are surviving fielded panels on three of the four sides, only that to the north bearing an inscription. This records that the tomb commemorates Joseph Denison and his wife Elizabeth, 'daughter of the aforesaid William Butler'. The inscription to Butler does not survive, however, but was presumably on the south side panel.

HISTORY: Joseph Denison (c.1726-1806) was a banker and plutocrat. Nineteenth-century accounts of his life, seeking to contrast his humble origins with his later wealth and the fine marriages of his daughters, went so far as to assert he was 'a parish boy, ignorant of reading and writing, who made his way from Yorkshire up to London on foot' (Taylor, 1865). While no evidence of Denison's baptism has been unearthed, a mercantile background seems more plausible: true rags-to-riches careers were rare in Georgian England.

By the 1780s Denison had made a very considerable fortune, the reward, according to Taylor, of 'unabated industry and the most rigid frugality'. In fact, little is known of Denison's banking activities, although his success was evident enough. In 1787 he purchased Denbies in Surrey, built by Jonathan Tyers, the celebrated proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens; five years later he acquired, for around £100,000, the east Yorkshire estates of the Duke of Leeds.

Denison's second wife Elizabeth is buried with him, along with her father William Butler. This marriage produced a son and two daughters before Elizabeth's early death in 1771. Their son William Joseph continued his father's banking business and was an MP for thirty-eight years; by the time of his death in 1849 his estate was reckoned to be worth a colossal £2.3 million, realising £80,000 a year. The elder daughter Elizabeth achieved notoriety as George IV's avaricious, overweight mistress. By the early C19, the name of Denison was a byword for wealth and social ascent. Both were founded on Joseph Denison's extraordinary assiduity as a banker.

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: RV Taylor, ed., The biographia Leodiensis, or, Biographical sketches of the worthies of Leeds (1865)
Corporation of London, A History of the Bunhill Fields Burial Ground (1902).
A W Light, Bunhill Fields (London, 1915).
R G Wilson, 'Denison, Joseph (c.1726-1806)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/49178, accessed 19 Jan 2010]

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The monument to Joseph and Elizabeth Denison and William Butler is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is a well-preserved tomb of c1806 in an elegant Neo-Grecian design
* It commemorates an extraordinarily successful banker of the period, renowned for his progress from modest beginnings to great riches and for the notoriety of his children
* It is one of the largest and grandest tombs in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, a place where Nonconformist sensibilities have meant that most monuments are relatively humble, and has group value with the other listed tombs in the south enclosure.

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

Description


635-1/0/10259 BUNHILL FIELDS BURIAL GROUND
21-FEB-11 Monument to Joseph Denison, South encl
osure

GV II*
Funerary monument to Joseph and Elizabeth Denison and William Butler, c1806, restored late C20

LOCATION: 532676.7, 182234.9

DESCRIPTION: a Neo-Grecian pedestal tomb of Portland stone on a stepped stone and brick plinth with vermiculated rustication. It is a large cuboid on a moulded base with fluted corner pilasters and acroteria, the latter decorated with a Greek key pattern and palmettes. Between the acroteria, on the long sides, are pediments carved with a broad scallop shell, a symbol associated with Methodism. Paterae at the corners of the pilasters are missing. There are surviving fielded panels on three of the four sides, only that to the north bearing an inscription. This records that the tomb commemorates Joseph Denison and his wife Elizabeth, 'daughter of the aforesaid William Butler'. The inscription to Butler does not survive, however, but was presumably on the south side panel.

HISTORY: Joseph Denison (c.1726-1806) was a banker and plutocrat. Nineteenth-century accounts of his life, seeking to contrast his humble origins with his later wealth and the fine marriages of his daughters, went so far as to assert he was 'a parish boy, ignorant of reading and writing, who made his way from Yorkshire up to London on foot' (Taylor, 1865). While no evidence of Denison's baptism has been unearthed, a mercantile background seems more plausible: true rags-to-riches careers were rare in Georgian England.

By the 1780s Denison had made a very considerable fortune, the reward, according to Taylor, of 'unabated industry and the most rigid frugality'. In fact, little is known of Denison's banking activities, although his success was evident enough. In 1787 he purchased Denbies in Surrey, built by Jonathan Tyers, the celebrated proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens; five years later he acquired, for around £100,000, the east Yorkshire estates of the Duke of Leeds.

Denison's second wife Elizabeth is buried with him, along with her father William Butler. This marriage produced a son and two daughters before Elizabeth's early death in 1771. Their son William Joseph continued his father's banking business and was an MP for thirty-eight years; by the time of his death in 1849 his estate was reckoned to be worth a colossal £2.3 million, realising £80,000 a year. The elder daughter Elizabeth achieved notoriety as George IV's avaricious, overweight mistress. By the early C19, the name of Denison was a byword for wealth and social ascent. Both were founded on Joseph Denison's extraordinary assiduity as a banker.

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: RV Taylor, ed., The biographia Leodiensis, or, Biographical sketches of the worthies of Leeds (1865)
Corporation of London, A History of the Bunhill Fields Burial Ground (1902).
A W Light, Bunhill Fields (London, 1915).
R G Wilson, 'Denison, Joseph (c.1726-1806)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/49178, accessed 19 Jan 2010]

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: The monument to Joseph and Elizabeth Denison and William Butler is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* It is a well-preserved tomb of c1806 in an elegant Neo-Grecian design
* It commemorates an extraordinarily successful banker of the period, renowned for his progress from modest beginnings to great riches and for the notoriety of his children
* It is one of the largest and grandest tombs in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, a place where Nonconformist sensibilities have meant that most monuments are relatively humble, and has group value with the other listed tombs in the south enclosure.

Reasons for Listing

DCMS agree- list at Grade II*.

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