Inventory Site Record

Nelson Gardens, including St John the Divine Church

Nelson Gardens, including St John the Divine Church (Merton)

Brief Description

Nelson Gardens opened in 1906, created to honour the first centenary of Admiral Lord Nelson's death in 1805. Nelson had lived at Merton Place from 1801-1805, which had extensive estate lands within which was the plot that is now Nelson Gardens. When the adjacent road junction was constructed, the garden was used as builders' ground but it was recreated in c.1985 and replanted using plans from 1911, with lawns, a perimeter path and flower beds, hedged to the road. The entrance has the original gates with brick and stone gate piers. Two 12 pounder guns flank a block of stone with an inscription about the garden's dedication. The land for the adjacent St John the Divine Church was also donated to mark the anniversary Nelson's death and was built in 1914. It has a pleasant garden, which was re-designed in 1998 as a Quiet Garden and opened by the Bishop of Kingston and Mayor of Merton.

Practical Information
Site location:
High Path/ off Morden Road
SW19 2JY
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
8am - dusk (weekdays); 9am - dusk (weekends/bank holidays)
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Tube: South Wimbledon (Northern). Bus: 57, 93, 152, 493

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.;

Full Site Description

The site for Nelson Gardens and St John the Divine Church was gifted by J. Mackerell, the great nephew of Rear Admiral Isaac Smith (1752-1831), the first European to set foot in Australia in 1770. Smith was the cousin of Captain James Cook's wife Elizabeth and sailed with Cook a number of times between 1770 and 1775. Smith is buried in Merton parish churchyard of St Mary the Virgin (q.v.). In the gardens, flanked by 2 cannons that may once have adorned the lawn of Merton Place, is a block of stone within an area of shrub planting that has an inscription giving the following details of the garden's dedication: 'As a memorial of Lord Nelson and the splendid services which he rendered to his country this land (which formed part of his Merton estate) was given on the first centenary of his death to the Merton Parish Council for a public recreation ground by a great nephew of the late Rear Admiral, Isaac Smith of Merton Abbey'.

Nelson had made his home in Merton with Sir William and Lady Hamilton, and lived at Merton Place from 1801-1805 before he went to meet his death at Trafalgar. The estate lands were extensive, comprising around 65 hectares in Nelson's time, but most of it was built over from the C19th onwards, and the house itself was demolished and is now covered by Nelson Grove Road.

The Gothic style church of St John the Divine was designed by C H Gate, its altarpiece made from timber taken from Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory. In the Lady Chapel is stained glass dating from 1919 by Edward Burne- Jones, who was a partner in William Morris & Co., which had moved to Merton. The church garden is laid out with flower beds and flowering shrubs and has gravel paths, mosaic roundels and small pebble mosaic circles along the path and seating.

Sources consulted:

A Saunders, ‘The Art and Architecture of London’, Oxford, 1984; Peter Hopkins 'A History of Lord Nelson's Merton Place', Merton Historical Society, 1998; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; LB Merton 'Nelson Trail' (n.d.)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Nelson Gardens: LB Merton. St John the Divine: Church, Diocese of Southwark
Site management:
Nelson Gardens: Leisure and Culture Services. St John the Divine: Church
Nelson Gardens: 1906; 1985. Church: 1914
Listed structures:
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:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

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