Inventory Site Record

St Luke's Gardens * (Kensington & Chelsea)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Public gardens that were formerly the churchyard of St Luke's Church, built as the new Chelsea parish church in 1820-24. An area to the south had been used as a graveyard from 1813. After the burial ground was closed, the site was acquired from the Chelsea Vestry in 1887 and laid out as a public garden, designed by the Borough Surveyor with plants supplied by Messrs. Veitch. The garden had paths, lawns, island beds and fine trees, with gravestones along north and south walls. To the north of the church is a small recreation ground.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Chelsea Parish Church of St Luke; Chelsea Burial Ground
Site location:
Sydney Street/Cale Street/Britten Street
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Kensington & Chelsea
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am - dusk
Special conditions:
(Sports bookings: 020 7352 6985)
Toilets; children’s play area, hard play area for football, tennis and netball, dog run. Café in church.
Concerts in church
Public transport:
Tube: Sloane Square (District, Circle)
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.rbkc.gov.uk

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

St Luke's Church was built 1820-24 as the new parish church for Chelsea when the old parish church of All Saints, later called Chelsea Old Church (q.v.) had declined. St Luke's was designed by James Savage (1779-1852), the first Neo-Gothic church in London. Charles Dickens was married here to Catherine Hogarth on 2 April 1836, as was Jerome K Jerome author of 'Three Men in a Boat', and Charles Kingsley was clergyman. The 0.5-hectare area to the south had been used as a graveyard from 1813 onwards. High perimeter walls and railings were built to deter grave robbers, who are known to have been responsible for stealing bodies from the nearby Kings Road burial ground, now Dovehouse Green (q.v.). The churchyard was closed to burials in 1857. In early 1887, with a grant of £1,500 from the LCC to acquire the site, which was the responsibility of the Vestry of Chelsea, this was laid out as a public garden to designs by the Borough Surveyor, Mr Strachan, and planted by Messrs. Veitch; it was opened by the Countess Cadogan. However, prior to this, Fanny Wilkinson is known to have drawn up plans and estimates for laying out St Luke's burial ground in 1884, according to the minutes of a meeting of the MPGA on 5 February 1884. Wilkinson became honorary landscape gardener to the MPGA and was responsible for the design of many gardens, including disused churchyards that were converted into public gardens.

The layout of St Luke's Garden has paths along boundaries and in a curving X-shaped division of the central area; circular rose beds are set in the lawn to north and south of the centre, with lesser circular annual bedding schemes to east and west, three on each side. The walls to north and south are lined with gravestones. Fine mature trees along the boundaries and set into the lawn include plane, acacia, hawthorn, Tree of Heaven, lime, sorbus, catalpa, chestnut, holm oak, sycamore, weeping ash. With numerous seats and its unusual and attractive flower displays St Luke's Gardens is a popular relaxation area for both visitors to the King’s Road and local residents.

On the northern side of the church is a 0.5-hectare area of Recreation Ground with sports facilities. In 2007 a planning application for improvements was successful and new facilities were added including a playground, changing room and toilet block, which has a planted green wall, as well as works to the gardens. The perimeter beds are well planted. Immediately around the church, which is fenced off from the gardens to the south and recreation ground to the north, is grass and gravestones.

Sources consulted:

See EH Register. Chelsea Conservation Area Policy Statements; Elizabeth Crawford, 'Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle' (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2nd ed. 2009)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ271783 (527189,178343)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
RB Kensington & Chelsea (Church: Diocese of London) - burial ground
Site management:
Leisure Services, Parks and Open Spaces
1813; 1887
Mr Strachan, Borough Surveyor; Veitch Nursery
Listed structures:
LBI: St Luke's Church
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II
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:
Yes (8)
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Strategic View corridor

St Luke's Gardens *

St Luke's Gardens - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 18/09/20 10:17

Click a photo to enlarge.

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.