St George's Gardens * (Camden)
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
St George's Gardens were previously two adjacent C18th burial grounds, St George Bloomsbury to the north and St George the Martyr. They were divided by a brick wall that originally ran along the whole length of the burial grounds, which survives in the western part of the gardens. Closed to burials c.1854, after a period of neglect they were re-opened as a single public garden by 1889, although that of St George Bloomsbury opened first, in 1884. A number of good tombs and monuments remain, and other surviving features include the Mortuary Chapel of c.1820, and a pair of Sextons' Cottages c.1810. Trees include London plane, lime, oak, catalpa and weeping ash. St George's Gardens have been refurbished in recent years and have meandering gravel paths and new planting.
- Previous / Other name:
- St George Bloomsbury Burial Ground and St George the Martyr Burial Ground
- Site location:
- Handel Street/Sidmouth Street
- WC1N 2NU
- Type of site:
- Public Gardens
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- 7.30am - dusk
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 15 times, most recently in 2018.
- Special conditions:
- Has opened for OGSW
- Public transport:
- Tube: Russell Square (Piccadilly); King's Cross (Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Circle). Bus: 17, 45, 46; 68, 91, 168, 188.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2014
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.friendsofstgeorgesgardens.org.uk; www.camden.gov.uk
Full Site Description
Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Bloomsbury was part of the parish of St Giles until 1730 when it became a separate parish when St George's Church was built. The name may derive from 'Blemondisberi', the manor or bury belonging to William de Blemond who is recorded as acquiring the land in 1201. Alternatively it could be a corruption of Lomesbury, a hamlet that was once here. By the late C14th the Blemond estate was owned by Edward III who passed it to Carthusian monks of the London Charterhouse, but it reverted to the Crown at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and was then granted to Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton.
St George's Gardens was previously two adjacent C18th burial grounds, St George Bloomsbury Burial Ground to the north and St George the Martyr Burial Ground. The 3-acre site was a meadow before it was acquired in 1713 to serve the new churches of St George, Bloomsbury Way, and St George the Martyr, Queen Square, both provided through the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711, the first London burial ground to be sited not next to its church. The two cemeteries were divided by a brick wall that originally ran along the whole length of the burial grounds, which survives in the western part of gardens. Although there was an entrance to each ground from the west there was no connection between them. The south-west corner is now separated and used as a playground. The first official record of body-snatching was from St George's burial ground in 1777. The wall is lined with tomb stones formerly located within the burial ground. Famous people buried here include Anne, grand-daughter of Oliver Cromwell (d.1727), Jonathan Richardson the younger (1694-1771), and the anti-slavery campaigner Zachary Macaulay (d.1838).
The burial grounds were closed in c.1854. The OS of 1871 shows the two disused burial grounds each having a single east-west path with scattered trees. After a period of neglect they were converted into a single public garden in 1889. That of St George's, Bloomsbury was the first to be converted into a public garden, which was opened by Princess Louise in 1884, with that of St George the Martyr laid out and added in 1888/9. The work was undertaken through the Kyrle Society, which had been founded in 1877 by Octavia and Miranda Hill, its main aim to improve the lives of the poor. This was to be achieved through a number of means, which included the provision of playgrounds for children and the creation of public gardens on unused spaces, with an emphasis on converting the numerous disused burial grounds that had closed as a result of the Burial Acts of 1852 and subsequent years. The newly formed Metropolitan Public Gardens Association (founded in 1882) contributed £100 to the conversion of St George's, Bloomsbury in 1884. Miss Fanny Wilkinson, who was landscape gardener for both the Kyrle Society and the MPGA, may have been involved in the garden design although there is a plan of its layout dated 1881 by William Holmes in Holborn Library. The Rector of St George Bloomsbury leased the land to Holborn Borough Council, and now LB Camden, for an annual rent of one shilling.
Monuments in the gardens include that to Robert Nelson, (d.1715), an urn on tall plinth set within partly surviving wrought-iron railings, on the south side of former St George the Martyr burial ground. Nelson was the first person to be buried in the new cemetery, choosing this place 'to overcome the aversion that has been discovered to its use'. Other monuments include that to Robert Wylie (d.1813), the chest tomb monument to Esther Offty of Great Russell Street, died aged nine, in the centre of the former St George's Bloomsbury burial ground, and one of the most prominent of the surviving tombs there. In the south side of the gardens, in the former burial ground of St George the Martyr is a tall anonymous C18th obelisk in Portland stone on a tapering sarcophagus; 'One of the largest and most imposing outdoor monuments in any London churchyard' (Listing). A terracotta statue depicting Euterpe, muse of music dated 1898 by C Fitzroy Doll was previously sited in the Apollo Inn on Tottenham Court Road.
There are some remnants of perimeter wall, gates and railings. Dating from c.1884 are the wrought-iron gates to the gardens to Heathcote Street, cast-iron railings to Wakefield Street, with wrought-iron railings at eastern end, with later brick infills between original piers along Henrietta Mews. The Mortuary Chapel dates from c.1820, a single storey yellow brick building with stucco dressings and a panelled door below the front pediment, side window set within battered surround beside fine slate tablet, signed W Wootton Kegworth, erected to the Taylor family, 1763. Also remaining are a pair of Sextons' Cottages c.1810. Trees in the gardens include London plane, lime, oak, catalpa and weeping ash. St George's Gardens have been recently refurbished by LB Camden with an HLF grant including improvements to the Chapel of Ease, gravel paths and new planting. A line of stones marks the former division between the two burial grounds.
The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.
NHLE Register: LCC Survey of London XXIV, 4, 1952; Country Life, 23 January 1986; D J Olsen 'Town Planning in London', 1982; N Pevsner, London except . . . Westminster, 1952. Michael Waite, Daniel Keech, Meg Game, 'Nature Conservation in Camden', Ecology Handbook 24 (London Ecology Unit), 1993; Elizabeth Crawford, 'Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle' (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2nd ed. 2009)
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ304824 (530448,182463)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- St George's Bloomsbury, leased to LB Camden
- Site management:
- LB Camden Parks & Open Spaces. Friends of St George's Gardens (c/o Marchmount Community Centre)
- 1713; 1880s
- William Holmes (1881); Kyrle Society (probably Fanny Wilkinson)
- Listed structures:
- LBII: Perimeter wall, gates and railings to St George's Gardens on Henrietta Mews, Heathcote Street and Wakefield Street; Mortuary Chapel, Sextons' Cottages; Tomb of Robert Nelson, Tomb of Robert Wylie, Tomb of Esther Offty, C18th Obelisk, Terracotta statue of Euterpe.
- On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:
- NHLE grade:
- Grade II*
- Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:
- Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:
Local Authority Data
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
- On Local List:
- In Conservation Area:
- Conservation Area name:
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Not known
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Yes - Local Importance
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Yes - Area of Special Character: Central London Area
- Other LA designation:
- Private Open Space
St George's Gardens, June 2008. Photo: S Williams
Click photo to enlarge.