What's Real in Burning Bright?


• William and Catherine Blake, and Philip and John Astley all existed.

• Other characters who existed in name if not in personality: Blake’s mother and siblings, Rachael Pelham, John Roberts, John Fox, Hannah Smith

• The Blakes lived at 13 Hercules Buildings between 1790 and 1800.

• Blake owned a printing press and probably kept it in his front room.

• There was a grapevine and a fig tree in his back garden.

• Circus impresario Philip Astley ran a famous circus at the end of Westminster Bridge. He lived in a mansion in the field behind Blake’s house. His son John Astley lived in a house next to Blake’s.

• One day Blake saw a young boy dragging around a log attached to his leg. He confronted Philip Astley and the two had a shouting match, though ended up reconciled.

• Astley’s fireworks lab blew up on 1 June 1792, killing the carpenter John Honor.

• Blake’s mother died in September 1792 and was buried in Bunhill Fields.

• In December 1792 the newly formed Lambeth Association petitioned local residents to sign a loyalty pledge.