Inventory Site Record

St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard (City of London)

Brief Description

The churchyard gardens are part of the precincts of St Paul's Cathedral and an important part of its setting. The first cathedral was erected in 604 and the present cathedral by Christopher Wren is the 5th on the site. His third design was accepted in 1675 and building took 35 years, completion marked by the statue of Queen Anne erected in 1712. By 1870 the cathedral precinct consisted of 5 sites comprised of former churchyards and the cathedral forecourt. The churchyards were closed for burial and negotiations to create recreational open space began in 1874, with agreement reached with the Dean and Chapter in 1878. The gardens were opened by the Lord Mayor on 22 September 1879. Trees in the area south of the nave include London plane, gingko, maple, lime, ash, mulberry and eucalyptus. In the north are some of the oldest plane trees in the City and a giant fir tree; at the south gate is a rose garden.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Includes burial grounds of St Gregory by St Paul's and St Faith the Virgin under St Paul's
Site location:
St Paul's Churchyard
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
City of London
Open to public?
Opening times:
part unrestricted; part open 6am - 4pm winter, - 8pm summer.
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 11 times, most recently in 2014.
Special conditions:
Has opened for OGSW
Public transport:
Tube: St Paul's (Central); Mansion House (District, Circle). Bus: 4, 11, 15, 17, 23, 26, 100, 172
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/openspaces

Full Site Description

The churchyard gardens are part of the precincts of St Paul's Cathedral and an important part of its setting as well as providing valuable open space for public use. The present cathedral is the fifth on the site, the first erected in 604 by St Ethelbert, King of Kent, the first Christian king in England. A Roman temple of Diana once stood on the site and there is evidence of Roman burials here. In the early Middle Ages a law school existed within the precincts but it was closed by Henry III in the C13th, who forbade law to be taught within the City in order to benefit the law schools he had founded in Oxford. The Precincts were enclosed by walls in 1285 to keep out robbers and marauders, and the site was defined by Creed Lane, Ave Maria Lane, Paternoster Row, Old Change and Carter Lane, with 6 gates, the main one at Ludgate Hill. Various buildings were erected within the walls including Chapter House and cloister, St Gregory's parish church, the Bishops Palace, the Pardon Churchyard, a College of Minor Canons, St Faith's Chapel, St Paul's School and the Jesus Bell Tower, which summoned Londoners thrice yearly to Paul's Cross. The Cross was a wooden, lead-covered pulpit from which Papal Bulls, royal proclamations and announcements of victories were made, and famous preachers preached from here. It was also the site where Tyndale's translation of the Bible was publicly burned in 1527 and where Luther's works were burned. It was destroyed in 1643, an elm reputedly planted to mark its site, but it was later rebuilt in 1913 by Sir Reginald Blomfield. The executions of martyrs and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators took place nearby. The remains of Chapter House cloister is still visible in the gardens to the south side of the cathedral nave.

In 1663, after the restoration of the monarchy, Sir Christopher Wren was asked to renovate the old cathedral; his first plan was accepted 6 days before the Great Fire of London of 1666 after which it was decided to rebuild the cathedral. It was his third design that was accepted in 1675 and building took 35 years. Completion was marked by a statue by Francis Bird erected in 1712 depicting Queen Anne surrounded by women representing England, Ireland, France and North America; the current statue is a marble copy of the original, made in 1886.

By 1870 the cathedral precincts consisted of 5 sites, to the north-east the churchyard of St Augustine Old Change with St Faith and St Paul; to the south-east that of St Gregory by St Paul united with St Mary Magdalene; to the north-west and south-west the cathedral churchyards, surrounded by cast iron railings, now restored. These are thought to be an early example of cast iron, made at Lamberhurst, Sussex in 1714. To the west is the forecourt of the cathedral marked by 40 stone posts.

The churchyard was closed for burial and negotiations to create recreational open space began in 1874. In 1878 the Dean and Chapter agreed to open the north-east and south-east areas, and from this date onwards the site has been managed by the Corporation of London. In 1880 the north-west and south-west sites were opened. The map accompanying the agreement of 1878 shows the proposed new layout for the north-east and south-east sites with winding footpaths and graves still in place. In the north-east, the largest site, winding footpaths were combined with a central straight path. In 1879 Edward Milner, who was an important figure in the design of private gardens and public parks, including in London Crystal Palace Park (q.v.), proposed alterations to the north-east and south-east sites, that in the north-east having a main straight path from the north-east entrance and winding paths around the periphery with shrubs planted in the corners. Works were begun in 1879 and the gardens were opened by the Lord Mayor on 22 September the same year. Among the features were a fountain by D C Penrose, a wooden structure for the gardener (1881), which was later replaced in 1895 and then enlarged in 1908. In 1882 4 garden seats and 36 single seats were installed and in 1883 50 additional chairs were made available for the summer. In 1885 an honorarium was paid to D C Penrose for the design of a fountain and laying out the grounds. In 1893 electricity was installed and by 1912 lavish carpet bedding was planted, which included the Corporation's crest and the text 'Except the Lord keep the City the watchman watcheth in vain'. In 1910 a new Paul's Cross designed by architect Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculptor Bertram MacKennal was erected in the north-east site; nearly 16m in height the monument has a gilt figure of St Paul on top of a tall column on an ornamental plinth with a drinking fountain basin.

The garden was extended when the eastern side of the churchyard was closed in 1916 and later enlarged on the south-east side in 1966 as a legacy of war damage when St Paul's Choir School was built. The tower of St Augustine Watling Street was restored and incorporated into the Choir School; this was an C11th church rebuilt by Wren in 1680-87 and again in the C19th, but which was destroyed in 1941, although services continued until 1954. A statue of John Wesley was erected in the paved courtyard garden on the north side in 1988, a bronze replica of an original marble statue of 1825-49 sculpted by father and son, Samuel Manning, Elder and Younger. In 1999 a Memorial to the Londoners killed in World War II Bombardments by sculptor Richard Kindersley, a low memorial in a single block of Irish limestone inscribed with words by Sir Edward Marsh, was installed by the north portico of the Cathedral. It was unveiled by HM The Queen Mother on 11 May 1999. Another sculpture in the garden depicts Thomas a-Becket by sculptor Bainbridge Copnall, acquired by the Corporation of London in 1973.

Trees in the gardens include mature plane, gingko, maple, lime, ash, mulberry and eucalyptus, and the churchyard is important for nature conservation. In 2011 the eastern shrub border was re-planted to encourage biodiversity and plants with nectar-rich flowers for insects, berries providing year-round food for birds, and shrubs for nesting cover were chosen.

Sources consulted:

Candidate for Register: CLRO Box no 13a, Faculty of St Paul's Churchyard, Guildhall Library; B Plummer and D Shewan, 'City Gardens', London 1992; B Weinreb and C Hibbert 'The London Encyclopaedia', London 1983. B. Cherry and N. Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London Vol. l: The Cities of London and Westminster', London, 1985; London Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches data

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ320811 (532060,181150)
Size in hectares:
c.0.9 (check)
Site ownership:
Diocese of London
Site management:
City of London Corporation Open Spaces Department
604, C12, C13, 1675-1711; 1879; 1966
1879: E. Milner
Listed structures:
LBI: St Paul's Cathedral; railings to St Paul's Churchyard; Tower of former St Augustine's Church. LBII*: Chapter House, footings of destroyed cloister and chapter house. LBII: Paul's Cross; statue of Queen Anne; 40 stone boundary posts in cathedral forecourt
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:
St Paul's Cathedral
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - St Paul's Heights Policy Area
Other LA designation:
Strategic Viewing Corridor; Monument Views and Setting

St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard

St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard, South side, November 2002. Photo: S Williams

St Paul's Churchyard with St Paul's Cathedral School behind, November 2002. Photo: S Williams
St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard, World War II Memorial by North Portico, November 2002. Photo: S Williams
Paul's Cross, St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard, November 2002. Photo: S Williams
After a drawing of Paul's Cross reproduced in Mrs Basil Holmes, 'The London Burial Grounds', 1896
Engraving of St Augustine's, Watling Street, c1838 reproduced from Godwin, 'The Churches of London' Vol I, 1838
Engraving of St Paul's Cathedral, View of the East End, 1837 reproduced from Godwin, 'The Churches of London' Vol I, 1838
Engraving of St Paul's Cathedral S.W. View, 1837 reproduced from Godwin, 'The Churches of London' Vol I, 1838

Click a photo to enlarge.

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