Origins of a New Jerusalem

World War II and the creation of the National Health Service

By Holly Robjohns

The industrial revolution of the 18th century made Britain the
richest and most powerful country in the world. However, William
Blake’s famous poem highlighted the miserable lives of so many
Britons forced to work in its ‘dark satanic mills.’ He hoped that
one day our nation’s riches would be used to build a heaven on
earth, a New Jerusalem.’

The establishment of the NHS, on July 5th, 1948, was a huge
step towards the realisation of Blake’s dream. It was an historic
decision whereby the state took responsibility for our health for
the first time. Surveys show that the NHS has become the most
valued institution in the UK.

Westminster Community Reminiscence and Archive Group and
Westminster Archives worked with pupils at local schools to help
them understand the background to the creation of this symbol of
the ‘New Jerusalem.’

Final verse of hymn “Jerusalem” set
to music by Hubert Parry 1916 from
William Blake’s preface to his epic
Milton: A Poem in Two Books (1808).

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant Land.

Photo:The preface to Milton, as it appeared in Blake's own illuminated version

The preface to Milton, as it appeared in Blake's own illuminated version

Preston Blake Collection Westminster Archives

This page was added by Peter Daniel on 09/01/2019.

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