Moravian Burial Ground (Kensington & Chelsea)
Burial ground for the Moravian Church established here by Count Zinzendorf, Bishop of the Moravians. In 1750 Zinzendorf had purchased Lindsey House and the grounds of Beaufort House, both once part of Sir Thomas More's Chelsea estate. The burial ground, on the stable yard of Beaufort House and having remnants of Tudor brick walls, was exempted from closure after the Burial Act of 1855 and around 400 people have been interred since 1751.
- Previous / Other name:
- God's Acre
- Site location:
- 381 Milman's Street, off King's Road
- SW10 0LP
- Type of site:
- Kensington & Chelsea
- Open to public?
- Opening times:
- Exhibition Centre open Wed afternoons or by appointment
- Special conditions:
- Has opened for Open House London
- Public transport:
- Tube: Fulham Broadway (District), Sloane Square (District, Circle) then bus. Bus: 11, 19, 22, 211
- Research updated:
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.moravian.org.uk
Full Site Description
The Moravian Church originated as the Unitas Fratrum or Unity of the Brethren, established in Bohemia in 1457. The subsequent name arose in the C18th when these dissenting Protestants were expelled from Moravia and found refuge in 1727 with Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf in Upper Lusitania, which became their centre. Count Zinzendorf visited England for the first time in 1737, soon after which he was ordained Bishop of the Moravians. In 1742 the Archbishop of Canterbury granted the Moravian church a license and the Fetter Lane Congregation of the Moravian Church was founded in the City. Members of the Church had come to London to seek passage to the British colonies in the Caribbean to pursue their missionary work. While they waited to sail they began worshipping with like-minded Christians, who included the Wesley brothers, originally meeting in private houses before moving to the chapel off Fetter Lane in 1740.
In 1750 Count Zinzendorf acquired Lindsey House and the grounds of Beaufort House, once the estate of Sir Thomas More, employing Sigismuad Gersdorf as architect for a Chapel and Minister's House, which were completed in 1753. The Chapel replaced stable buildings and the burial ground, known as God's Acre, is on the site of the stable yard of Beaufort House. Lindsey House was originally the main farmhouse on Sir Thomas More's estate and, albeit much changed, remains as a rare survivor of the C16th. The Burial Ground is enclosed on the east and south by Tudor brick walls.
Count Zinzendorf had originally intended to use Lindsey House as the headquarters of the Moravian community but this was not achieved due to lack of sufficient funds and most of the land was eventually sold off in 1774; Lindsey House was sold in 1770 and subsequently reconfigured into Lindsey Row. However, the burial ground continued to be used and was exempted from closure under the Burial Act of 1855. Around 400 people have been interred since 1751, including James Gillray, father of the caricaturist. In the mid-1890s, Mrs Basil Holmes writes: 'The part actually used for interments is fenced in and closed. It is neatly kept, the tombstones being very small flat ones. . . (it) was closed by order of the Council about 8 years ago.' Between 1914 and 1964 the site was leased two sculptors Ernest (d.1951)and Mary (d.1965) Gillick, whose additions to the garden included a stone pergola and a bench decorated with the heraldic shields of the owners of the estate, from Sir Thomas More, for whom what became Beaufort House was built in 152, to Sir Hans Sloane, who had the house demolished in 1740. After 1964, the Moravian Church moved back to Chelsea, its Fetter Lane Chapel having been bombed in World War II, and remain here today.
The burial ground is laid out in four squares, each reserved for a particular group: married women; married men; single women; single men. The headstones are all the same size, since all are equal in death, and are laid flat in the grass. The square plot is surrounded by hedging with 4 fig trees in the centre; at the south of the site is the Gillicks' columned pergola and restored bench with heraldic shields. The headstone to an Eskimo boy called Nunak (1770-88) is located in the south-west corner of the site, buried outside the consecrated ground since he was unbaptised. He had been brought to England in c.1787 by Captain James Fraser (1746-1808), returning from Labrador where the Moravian missionaries were established. Sadly Nunak contracted smallpox, having little resistance to European diseases. There are plane trees around the perimeter wall of the cemetery and in front of the range of buildings is paved with circular patterns.
Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); RBKC Cheyne Conservation Area Proposals Statement; Mrs Basil Holmes, The London Burial Grounds, London, 1896. See also https://baldwinhamey.wordpress.com/tag/nonconformists/.
Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
- Grid ref:
- TQ267776 (526750,177620)
- Size in hectares:
- Site ownership:
- Fetter Lane Moravian Church
- Site management:
- Fetter Lane Moravian Church
- Listed structures:
- LBII: Chapel and Minister's House; burial ground walls on north-east and south-west sides
- 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:
- Tree Preservation Order:
- Nature Conservation Area:
- Yes - Borough Importance II
- Green Belt:
- Metropolitan Open Land:
- Special Policy Area:
- Other LA designation:
Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and is subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.