Inventory Site Record

St John's Garden (Hackney)

Brief Description

St John the Baptist Church is an early C19th church of classical design. The churchyard was laid out as a public garden in 1893 with grants from the MPGA, the MBW and the LCC. In the 1990s renovations to the church included addition of a children's play area. The garden has fine C19th ornamental gates and railings, shaped at one point around a drinking fountain. Mature plane trees surround the site and there is perimeter planting and seating; a few gravestones and chest tombs remain to the south of the church.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
St John the Baptist Churchyard, Hoxton Parish Church
Site location:
Pitfield Street/New North Road, Shoreditch
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
usually 5.30am-8.30pm; Church open 9am-5pm weekdays
Took part in Open Garden Squares Weekend in 2005.
Special conditions:
No dogs, no alcohol, no ball games, no chewing gum, no litter
play area
community activities
Public transport:
Tube/Rail: Old Street (Northern). Bus 55, 76, 141, 271
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.achurchnearyou.com/st-johns-hoxton/

Full Site Description

Hoxton is recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Hogeson, and was a rural area of despite its location close to the City walls, which became popular as a place of retreat from Tudor times. Hoxton Fields were used for archery, and there were a number of public gardens in the area, including Pimlico Pleasure Gardens near what is now Hoxton Street. By the early C17th a number of large houses had been built near Hoxton Street but these estates began to be sold off towards the end of the century and a number of them were converted for use as private asylums and almshouses, Hoxton becoming the home of the majority of London's privately housed lunatics. The largest was Hoxton House set in extensive grounds near Pitfield Street, which became a private lunatic asylum in 1695. It operated until 1902, and in 1819 was recorded as holding 348 private lunatics. Hoxton had become a densely populated working district in the C19th, the wealthy having moved to the more distant suburbs that were being built up. A number of the almshouses such as Robert Aske's, and Geffrye's remain today, although with different uses.

Hoxton remained part of the Shoreditch parish of St Leonard's Church (q.v.) until 1822 and St John the Baptist Church was then built in 1824-6. An early C19th church of classical design in stock brick with a stone cupola, St John's is the work of a pupil of Sir John Soane, Francis Edwards, the only church he designed. The west front has two massive Ionic columns, and it has been described as 'unusually monumental for a Commissioners' church' (Pevsner). The ceiling of the church by J A Reeve dates from 1902-1914 and shows Angels of the Apocalypse in square panels against a blue background; Reeve's designs also included the walls of the church but this work was never carried out.

After it closed for burials, the churchyard was later laid out as a public garden in 1893 by the Earl and Countess of Meath with grants from the MPGA, the Metropolitan Board of Works and the LCC. It was maintained by the Shoreditch Burial Board. In the 1990s the church was renovated under the auspices of the Community Regeneration Partnerships, with a children's play area provided, the work funded by the Foundation for Sports and Art. The church is now used for a number of social and community purposes, such as a Healthy Living Centre with café and gym in the crypt, which in 1997 had a new south entrance added. Other community organisations using the church have included Hoxton Newpin and Access (2000). The public garden is surrounded by fine C19th railings set on a granite plinth with ornamental gates, restored and painted maroon. A drinking fountain presented by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association is literally set in the railings, which are shaped around it to allow access from both street and gardens. There is some perimeter planting and seating; a few gravestones and chest tombs remain to the south of the church. Mature plane trees surround the site and also provide an avenue along the main path across lawns flanked by rose beds, which leads to the church from the Pitfield Street/New North Road junction gates. The area at the west front of the church is tarmac and used for car parking. A Garden of Remembrance is located at the east of the church.

Maintenance of the garden is carried out by the Hoxton Trust, which was founded in 1982 as a community charity whose aims are to protect the Hoxton community's past, to improve its present and to secure its future. Trust activities include a Horticultural Training Programme and also Parks Management Service; in 1993 it set up a free Legal Advice Service. The garden is maintained by volunteers and students under the supervision of the Hoxton Trust's NVQ Training Manager as part of its Horticultural Training Programme. Other gardens in the Hoxton area that are managed by the Trust include Hoxton Square (q.v.), the Hoxton Trust Community Garden (q.v.) and gardens on local housing estates.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ330830 (533020,183020)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Diocese of London
Site management:
Hoxton Trust
1824-26; 1893 (garden)
Church: F. Edwards.
Listed structures:
LBB: St John's Church. LBII: early/mid C19th cast iron railings and double gates to churchyard.
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:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Open Space

St John's Garden

St John the Baptist - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 28/08/05 11:04

Click a photo to enlarge.

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