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Inventory Site Record

St Luke's Church and Gardens (Islington)

Brief Description

St Luke’s Church and Gardens are laid out on the former churchyard. The church was built in 1733 when it became a separate parish as the population in the area increased. Due to subsidence the church was largely dismantled in 1959/60 when the roof was removed and it became a picturesque ruin after initial plans to convert it fell through. It has now been restored to become the home of the London Symphony Orchestra’s community and music education programme, LSO Discovery. The railings, gates and piers around the church gardens date from c.1852, set on a low brick parapet wall, and the garden onto Old Street has a few tombs remaining including the railed chest tomb of Thomas Hanby (d.1786). The area to the north of the church was laid out as a public garden in 1878, maintained by the vestry. Once a rose garden, this area was re-landscaped in 2006 with lawns, paths and a central feature with seating and raised beds.

Practical Information
Site location:
Old Street/Helmet Row
Postcode:
EC1
What 3 Words:
impose.loud.sides
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Borough:
Islington
Open to public?
Yes
Opening times:
8am - dusk
Special conditions:
no dogs
Facilities:
Events:
Public transport:
Tube: Old Street (Northern). Rail: Old Street. Bus: 43, 55, 205, 214, 271
Research updated:
01/04/2012
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 parish was created in 1733 when the area became more populous, and was formerly within the parish of St Giles Cripplegate. St Luke's was built under the 50 New Churches Act in 1727-33, possibly designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and John James. Initially the area became residential on the edge of the City but industrial and commercial use increased in the C19th. After WWII it was largely rebuilt as a result of war damage and slum clearance. The churchyard around St Luke's Church was closed to burials in the mid-C19th, and the area to the north was laid out as a public garden in 1878, maintained by the vestry. Due to subsidence the church was largely dismantled in 1959/60 when the roof was removed and it became a picturesque ruin after initial plans to convert it fell through. The fittings were removed by 1994, its organ of 1754 taken to St Giles. It has now been redeveloped by UBS and London Symphony Orchestra as a Music Education Centre, with support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the building designed by architects Levitt Bernstein.

The railings, gates and piers around the churchyard date from c.1852, set on a low brick parapet wall. The churchyard garden that fronts onto Old Street has a few tombs including the railed chest tomb of Thomas Hanby (d.1786), and is laid out with paving, seating and fine plane trees. Others buried here include George Dance the Elder (d.1768), although the black granite slab erected by his children has now gone; William Caslon (d.1766) and his son, also William (d.1778), type founders; Thomas Allen, topographer; and Mark Catesby (d.1749), author and naturalist.

To the north of the church and its immediate churchyard, an ornamental garden was laid out with perimeter plane trees, grass and rose beds. It was re-landscaped in c.2006 as part of St Luke's Transformation Projects. LB Islington Greenspace and Scarlet Projects commissioned plant-based installations in the lawn by designer Peter Saville, artists Gary Hume and Georgie Hopton. The new layout led to lawns replacing the rose beds, a central garden feature with a broken circle of raised beds and a circular planter inscribed 'Cyan', 'Magenta', 'Yellow' and 'Black' and with appropriately coloured planting and a series of individual wooden benches. Improvement works to the entrances and boundary wall has now been completed.

Sources consulted:

Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Arthur Mee 'The King's England: London North of the Thames except the City and Westminster' (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1972); Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998); Mrs Basil Holmes, The London Burial Grounds, 1896

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ323824 (532300,182450)
Size in hectares:
1.13
Site ownership:
LB Islington (Church: Diocese of London)
Site management:
Greenspace; Friends of St Luke's Gardens
Date(s):
C18th; 1878
Designer(s):
2006: Peter Saville (Gardens)
Listed structures:
LBII: St Luke's Church; railings, gates and piers around churchyard. St Luke's Rectory, Helmet Row; 2 bollards at St Luke's Close entrance.
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:
St Luke's
Tree Preservation Order:
No
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance
Green Belt:
No
Metropolitan Open Land:
No
Special Policy Area:
No
Other LA designation:
Church: local landmark

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.