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Inventory Site Record

St John's Churchyard (Islington)

Brief Description

St John’s Churchyard was once within the Priory of St John of Jerusalem founded in 1144 by the Knights Hospitallers. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in c.1540, the Priory and its church were used for other purposes including a private chapel and library, a tavern, and later became a parish church of St John's Clerkenwell. Jerusalem Passage was the site of the Priory's postern gate, demolished in 1780. In 1931 the church was acquired by the modern Order of St John as their Priory Church. After it closed to burial, St John's Churchyard was laid out by the MPGA as a small enclosed public garden with a few headstones remaining and a fine plane tree.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Priory of St John of Jerusalem Burial Ground
Site location:
Jerusalem Passage/St John Street, Clerkenwell
Postcode:
EC1
What 3 Words:
topic.scuba.bravo
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Borough:
Islington
Open to public?
Yes
Opening times:
8am - dusk
Special conditions:
Facilities:
none
Events:
Public transport:
Tube: Farringdon (Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Circle). Rail: Farringdon. Bus: 55, 243
Research updated:
01/10/2012
Last minor changes:
19/07/2023

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.islington.gov.uk/services/parks-environment/parks/your_parks/greenspace_az

Full Site Description

The Priory of St John of Jerusalem was founded in 1144 by the Knights Hospitallers, on land given by a Suffolk man who had property in Clerkenwell. The Priory Church was consecrated in 1185. The Priory once covered a 10-acre site within which there was an inner precinct reached through a gatehouse. St John's Gate, now the Museum of the Order of St John, was the southern entrance to the Priory. Jerusalem Passage was the site of the Priory's postern gate, which was demolished in 1780. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII, the Priory was used for other purposes including a private chapel and library for the Earls of Aylesbury. It was restored in the early C18th and became a new parish church of St John serving Clerkenwell from 1722/3. In the C20th when the parish had diminished and was absorbed into that of St James's Clerkenwell (q.v.), in 1931 St John's was acquired by the modern Order of St John as their Priory Church. The English Order had been refounded in 1831 and given a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria in 1888. It had established St John's Ambulance in 1871 and in 1874 had acquired St John's Gate as its headquarters.

During WWII in 1941 the Priory Church was damaged by bombing and was restored in 1955-58 by Lord Mottistone. Adjacent to the church he also created a new Cloister Garden with memorials to St John Ambulance members from London District. The Priory Church and its Cloister Garden (q.v.) are now opened as part of the Museum of the Order of St John.

Sources consulted:

Mary Cosh, An historical walk through Clerkenwell, (London,1987); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Mervyn Blatch, 'A Guide to London's Churches' (Constable, London 2nd ed. 1995); Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); Mrs Basil Holmes, The London Burial Grounds, 1896, p288

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ317822 (531725,182184)
Size in hectares:
0.02
Site ownership:
Order of St John/LB Islington
Site management:
Greenspace
Date(s):
C18th; 1890s
Designer(s):
Listed structures:
None
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

No
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

No
Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

No

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:
No
In Conservation Area:
Yes
Conservation Area name:
Clerkenwell Green
Tree Preservation Order:
No
Nature Conservation Area:
No
Green Belt:
No
Metropolitan Open Land:
No
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Area
Other LA designation:
Local /Strategic View. Shopping Policy Area

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.