Inventory Site Record

St John-at-Hampstead Churchyard (Camden)

Brief Description

There has been a church and burial ground here for around 1,000 years, although the present church dates from the C18th. St John-at-Hampstead Churchyard is enclosed by wrought iron railings, the fine C18th wrought-iron gates to the western entrance acquired at the sale of Canons, the Duke of Chandos' mansion in Edgware. There are many C18th and C19th tombs, including those of well-known people such as painter John Constable, inventor of the marine chronometer John Harrison, and architect Norman Shaw. Since 1978 Camden History Society has recorded the monuments and memorials in the Church, Churchyard and the Additional Burial Ground. The picturesque churchyard has long grass, shrubbery and mature trees including yew, holly, horse chestnut and Cedar.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Hampstead Parish Churchyard
Site location:
Church Row
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Open to public?
Opening times:
locked at night, otherwise unrestricted
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 3 times, most recently in 2018.
Special conditions:
Tomb trails available in church
Public transport:
Tube: Hampstead (Northern). Bus: 46, 268.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.hampsteadparishchurch.org.uk

Full Site Description

There has been a church and burial ground on the site for around 1,000 years, although the present church dates from the C18th. By that time the parish church, dedicated to St Mary, had become too small for the growing population of Hampstead and was also in a poor even dangerous state. Houses on Church Row in Hampstead were built between 1710-1728, and the new church of St John-at-Hampstead was built in 1745-47 by John Sanderson, an architect who lived locally. The new church was dedicated to St John in October 1747, a yellow stock brick building with stone dressings, its tower at the east end. Since that time the building has had various additions and alterations: the steeple rebuilt in 1759, the spire added in 1784, and in 1843 the transepts were added and the building was extended to the west. In 1878 F P Cockerell re-oriented the church to an altar at the west end, built the present chancel and added galleries; in 1912 Temple Moore created the north-western Chapel of St Mary and St John, and new clergy and choir vestries on the south side. The Crypt was converted for use as the Parish Room in 1964-5.

The churchyard is enclosed by C19th wrought iron railings and gate with ornate overthrow on dwarf brick wall; many C18th and C19th tombs, long grass and mature trees including yew, holly, horse chestnut, cedar, shrubs. The churchyard has C18th wrought-iron gates to the western entrance, probably by a pupil of Goujou, which were acquired at the sale in 1747 of the Duke of Chandos' mansion in Edgware, Canons (q.v.). The northern entrance has fine wrought and cast-iron railings on sleeper walls with stonecapped gate piers, urn finial standards and wrought-iron overthrow having an original Sugg 6-sided Westminster lantern. To left of this gateway is a lamp-holder with ladder bar incorporated in the railings. The brick churchyard walls date from the C18th, and have been rebuilt in places. When the churchyard was full, an additional plot of land was purchased on the other side of Church Row and this was opened in 1812, now known as St John's Churchyard Extension (q.v.).

The churchyard contains some fine monuments including the railed chest tomb, restored in 1976, of the painter John Constable, R.A. (d.1837), his wife and their 7 children, which dates from the death of his wife, Maria Elizabeth in 1828. Constable and his family took summer lodgings in Hampstead between 1819 and 1827, after which he moved here permanently until his death. Hampstead Heath was an important subject of Constable's work. Near the Constable monument is another fine railed chest tomb, that of Zachariah Darby (d.1832), and also that of Constable's friend William Purton (d.1841). Also buried here is the architect Norman Shaw, whose chest tomb c1913 is by Ernest Newton and Laurence Turner. Norman Shaw championed the Queen Anne architectural revival, and built a number of houses in the area, including No.6 Ellerdale Road for himself, visible from the churchyard. Among the other fine monuments is the railed tomb with elaborate metal cross of the Rev Thomas Ainger (d.1863) who was Prebendary of St Paul's and incumbent of St John's for 22 years; chest tomb of Nathanial Booth, Lord Delamer (d.1770) with fine carving, originally surmounted by an urn. Lord Delamer was a Whig politician, appointed in 1727 as Surveyor of the Greenwax Money. He lived at Burgh House (q.v.) until 1758 when he inherited Dunham Massey in Cheshire. Mid C18th pedestal memorial with cast-iron railings to Thomas Gardnor and family, which is the only tomb in the churchyard to mention a smallpox death. Thomas Gardnor built Gardnor House, Flask Walk and with his rich wife owned much property in central Hampstead; he was also a Trustee of the Mineral Waters. Chest tomb c.1776, originally railed, to John Harrison and his family. Harrison (d.1776) invented the marine chronometer, and the monument has details of his life and that of his son William, also buried here, who tested his chronometers on sea voyages and assisted his father in a long struggle to claim a £20,000 prize. This was the subject of the book 'Longitude', serialised on television. The tomb was restored in 1879 by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and was later renewed in 1934 when the railings were removed. Fine chest tomb c1717 to William and John Hart and R Carey and A Cary, with carved panels of swags with cherub heads, skulls and inscriptions, and panels depicting a tasselled skull and crossbones surmounted by a winged hour-glass hanging from a ribbon, and a tasselled skull with bones and cross trumpets surmounted by a winged and ribboned feature. William Hart, "late Citizen and Salter of London" is buried with his son, John, "Citizen and Mercer of London". Robert Carey, presumably his son in law, was interred in 1751 and described as "Tiramiet Merchant" which it appears was the mason's misinterpretation of the cursive lettering "Virginia Merchant". The name Carey is also spelt without an "e" for the females. Joanna Baillie, the major literary figure and friend of Walter Scott and who died in 1852 is also buried here. Table tomb to Lady Elizabeth Norton, (d.1715) daughter of the Earl of Gainsborough whose table tomb has the inscription: 'her virtues appeared in every part of her life, her humility in her grave, which she chose in this place'.

In 1978 Camden History Society began to record the monuments and memorials in St John-at-Hampstead Church, the churchyard and the Additional Burial Ground of Hampstead Parish Church. This resulted in a thorough record of each inscription and other information on a set of over 2500 forms, now lodged at Camden Local Studies and Archive Centre.

Sources consulted:

Michael Waite, Daniel Keech, Meg Game, 'Nature Conservation in Camden', Ecology Handbook 24 (London Ecology Unit), 1993; Christopher Wade, 'Buried in Hampstead' (Camden History Society, 1986); John Richardson, 'A History of Camden. Hampstead, Holborn, St Pancras' (Historical Publications Ltd, 1999)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ261856 (526211,185581)
Size in hectares:
0.9035 (with extension)
Site ownership:
Diocese of London
Site management:
St John's Parish Church Management Committee
C10th origins; C18th
Listed structures:
LBI: St John's Church. LBII*: Chest tomb of John Constable & family, Tomb of William & John Hart and R Carey & A Cary. LBII: Churchyard gates, wall and wall with railings; Tombs of: Norman Shaw & family, Zachariah Darby, Thomas Ainger, Lord Delamer, Robert Brooke, Thomas Gardnor & family, John Harrison and family, William Purton & family, Gillam Scott, Joanna Baillie and attached railings, Lady Elizabeth Norton, John Hodgson. Lampposts on Church Row including one outside east entrance.
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

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:
Hampstead Village
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance II
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Character: Hampstead & Highgate Ridge
Other LA designation:

St John-at-Hampstead Churchyard

St John-at-Hampstead Churchyard, Gardnor memorial on left, August 2002. Photo: S Williams

St John-at-Hampstead Churchyard, Detail of John Harrison tomb, August 2002. Photo: S Williams

Click a photo to enlarge.

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