Inventory Site Record

St Mary Abbots Gardens (Kensington & Chelsea)

Brief Description

The public gardens are on the former churchyard of St Mary Abbots, Kensington Parish Church. There has been a church here since Norman times. St Mary's Church was rebuilt in the early C18th and its churchyard extended in 1763, but the current church dates from 1868. The former churchyard opened as a public garden in 1953, when the brick pergolas were constructed; a number of tombstones remain. The garden has roses, floral displays, grass and mature trees.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Kensington Parish Church
Site location:
Kensington Church Walk off Kensington High Street
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Kensington & Chelsea
Open to public?
Opening times:
7.30am - dusk
Special conditions:
Events in church
Public transport:
Tube High Street Kensington (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

There was a small church on the site of the eastern part of the present church, which was granted to Abingdon Abbey in c.1100, hence its name St Mary Abbots. The church was rebuilt in 1683-1704, and its churchyard was extended to the west in 1763, and a tower added in 1770-2. By 1866 the church was deemed to be unsafe and a new church was commissioned by the Church Building Committee from Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1868. The old church was demolished in 1869, although memorials were transferred to the new church, the earliest dating from Cromwell's Commonwealth. The pulpit was a gift of William II and Mary II soon after they moved to Kensington Palace. It was built by Dove Brothers of Islington and consecrated on 14 May 1872, its fine 250ft spire completed in 1879. The arcaded entrance dates from 1889-93 and was designed by Scott's son John Oldrid Scott. St Mary Abbots was damaged in WWII and restored in 1955 by Romilly Craze.

The former churchyard opened as a public garden in 1953. Three brick pergolas were constructed at that date; there are also rose beds and mature lime trees. The boundary of mesh wire contrasts unfavourably with the splendid cast iron railings of the adjacent Alec Clifton Taylor Memorial Garden (q.v.). In the churchyard are several sarcophagi, including one of 1784 to the west of church that was designed by Sir John Soane and carved by John Hinchcliffe Senior. The churchyard has fine railings and gates to Church Street with bedding displays planted adjacent to the church. A number of tombs are set into lawns behind the church overlooked by fine mature trees. The gardens to the west have beds, a pergola, seating and a number of tombs.

Sources consulted:

The Kensington Society Annual Report 1992-93; RBKC Kensington Conservation Area Proposals Statement, 1995; Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ256797 (525570,179670)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
RB Kensington & Chelsea (Church : Diocese of London)
Site management:
Leisure Services, Parks and Open Spaces
1868-72; 1953
Listed structures:
LBII*: St Mary's Church and railings. LBII: Tomb of Elizabeth Johnstone, War Memorial
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:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Site of Archaeological Importance
Other LA designation:
Old Kensington Church, engraving by W Fellows, reproduced in Lloyd Sanders, 'Old Kew, Chiswick and Kensington', 1910
The New Parish Church, Kensington, photo-lithograph by James Douglas, reproduced from Isabella Burt, 'Historical Notices of Chelsea, Kensington, Fulham and Hammersmith', 1871

Click a photo to enlarge.

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