Inventory Site Record

St Martin's Gardens (Camden)

Brief Description

The site was the former Camden Town Cemetery, the land acquired in 1802 for an additional burial ground for St Martin-in-the-Fields. Part of the land was used for St Martin's Almshouses built adjacent in 1818. The ground closed for burials in 1856 and was acquired by the Vestry of St Pancras in 1884 for public gardens, which were formally opened in July 1889. The many gravestones were cleared and removed to the perimeter, although a few remain in situ. The layout was informal with a central mound, and large plane trees on the boundaries all of which may date from 1889. A monument to composer Charles Dibdin (d.1814) and a granite drinking fountain were both erected in 1889. The gardens were restored and re-dedicated as a public garden on 10 June 2006 by the Countess of Rosebery.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Camden Town Cemetery
Site location:
Camden Street/Pratt Street
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
Public garden locked at dusk. Almshouse gardens are private although narrow strip on Bayham Street is accessible.
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 5 times, most recently in 2011.
Special conditions:
Children's play area
Has participated in OGSW
Public transport:
London Overground: Camden Road. Tube: Camden Town (Northern). Bus: 46, 24, 27, 29, 74, 134, 135, 168, 214, 253, E11
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.camden.gov.uk

Full Site Description

Formerly Camden Town Cemetery, acquired in 1802 when 3.75 acres were acquired under Act 44, Geo III cap 85 as an additional burial plot for St Martin-in-the-Fields, consecrated in 1805 by the Bishop of London. Prior to this it was undeveloped pastureland on the edge of Camden Town. In 1817 the contract for building the Almshouses was signed, and were completed in 1818. In 1843 additional land was purchased from the Cemetery Charity to enlarge the almshouses although this did not happen until 1854 when an Act was passed to enable granting of building leases on unused land in the burial ground. As a result St Martin's Close, houses on Camden Street and Pratt Street and additional almshouse buildings were erected, and in 1882 a new Infirmary and Chapel were to be constructed on unused land. The Almshouses have a small strip of garden with iron railings and gates to the street and had a row of pleached limes, now grown out, and a vine in the C19th.

The burial ground had closed for burials in 1856; in 1884 the Vestry of St Pancras acquired the disused burial ground although St Martin-in-the-Fields retained the freehold; the cost of acquisition of £1,175 was paid for by the London County Council. The grounds, now reduced to 1.75 acres, were laid out for £1717 10s.6d in 1884-1887 by the parish of St Pancras as public gardens. St Martin's Gardens were formally opened on 24 July 1889 by the Countess of Rosebery who also unveiled a monument to the composer Charles Dibdin (d.1814) in the form of a Celtic memorial cross, which was erected by the Kentish Town Musical Appreciation Society. The carving on the pedestal supporting the cross includes a lyre and anchor on a pile of rope which unfolds into Celtic patterning. Opposite the main gates is a late C19th granite drinking fountain, topped with a column and urn, set into cobbles and donated by Messrs Maples of Tottenham Court Road for the 'Use of the Public' in 1889. The garden is a roughly square area enclosed by railings and walls and has been encroached upon by St. Martin's Close and St. Martin's Almshouses. The many gravestones were cleared and removed to the perimeters and others are dilapidated; most of the tombstones along the north wall are illegible but unbroken and include that of Dr Swiney, geologist (d.1844). Box tombs of Woodburn, Moore, Willey families; crypt tomb of Harvey family; obelisk monument to Barrow family. Sir John Barrow, d.1814, was Secretary to the Admiralty; the monument also commemorates his son Lieut. Col John Barrow. Other noted people buried here include Robert Graves, engraver, George Stevens, dramatist and author, and Michael Angelo Rooker, ARA. It is possible that the bones of Nell Gwynne and Jack Sheppard are amongst those re-interred from old St Martin's churchyard near Charing Cross.

One corner of the gardens is fenced off with modern railings as a children's playground. Entrance to St Martin's Gardens on Camden Street has early C19th ornamental wrought iron gates with C20th additions, the overthrow having 'St Martin's Gardens' in wrought-iron lettering. The Pratt Street entrance originally had cast-iron gates with posts surmounted by Greek urns, removed post 1974. This was the site of the original main entrance and St Martin's Chapel. The garden layout had a central mound, and large plane trees on the boundaries, all of which may date from the 1889 layout, including on the boundary to the Almshouses where there was also a clipped privet hedge. A small area with graves is fenced off within railings. The gardens were restored and re-dedicated as a public garden on 10 June 2006 by The Countess of Rosebery.

Sources consulted:

Survey of London, Kings Cross, Parish of St Pancras, 1952, Xxiv, piv, 135-6.; Clive Berridge, The Almshouses of London (Southampton), 1987; Treasurer's Account Book for St Martin-in-the-Fields, 1810?-1820; F Miller, St Pancras Past and Present (Abel Heywood & Son), 1874; Charity Commissioners, Endowed Charities of London (HMSO) 1903 vol V; W Booth Scott, St Pancras 1890 Report (Vestry of St Pancras) 1890; Walter Brown, St Pancras Open Spaces & Burial Grounds (Town Hall St Pancras), 1911; London Almshouses (Housing Centre Suffolk Street), c1944; St Martin's Gardens Camden Town 'Which Way Now?' (St Martins Action Group), 1976; Streets of Camden Town (Camden History Society), 2003; Charles Dibdin's Grave, St Pancras Journal 1949 vol 3 no 2; J Cameron, Notes about Sir John Barrow & his gravestone, pamphlet 1993; J W Heal, Heal Family Archive at Camden Local Studies Centre, C19th scrapbook of prints, drawings, cuttings; H Hackman, Wates's Book of London Churchyards (Collins), 1981; Charles Dibdin Newspaper Cuttings file, 1883, in Camden Local Studies Centre; St Pancras through the Centuries (St Pancras Rotary Club. Le Playhouse Press), 1935. History on www.camden.gov.uk.

LPGT Volunteer Research by Fiona Ligonnet, 2005

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ291837 (529121,183843)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
St Martin-in-the-Fields Church leased to LB Camden
Site management:
LB Camden Parks & Open Spaces; Friends of St Martin's Gardens
1803; 1884-89
Listed structures:
LBII: Wrought-iron gates on Camden Street, Charles Dibdin Memorial, Drinking Fountain; Almshouses
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:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Private Open Space

St Martin's Gardens

St Martin's Gardens, February 2009. Photo: S Williams

St Martin's Gardens, Charles Dibdin monument in the distance, February 2009. Photo: S Williams
St Martin's Gardens, Drinking Fountain near entrance, February 2009. Photo: S Williams

Click a photo to enlarge.

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