Inventory Site Record

St John's Churchyard

St John's Churchyard (Southwark)

Brief Description

St John Horselydown was an early C18th church designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and John James, a prominent local landmark until it was bombed in WWII. It was replaced by a new building in 1976, now London City Mission, which rises out of the remains of the old walls. The churchyard was in use until 1853. Adjoining it was a paupers' burial ground of St Olave's, now part of Potters Fields Park. St John's churchyard was laid out as public gardens in 1882. The C18th Watch House is within the garden, and C18th Vicarage is just outside.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
St John Horselydown; St John's Park Gardens
Site location:
Fair Street/Tower Bridge Road/Druid Street
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
dogs on leads
Public transport:
Tube: Tower Hill (District, Circle) then bus. DLR: Tower Gateway then bus. Bus: 42, 78.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/07/2009
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

The garden is the former churchyard of St John Horselydown, a church designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and John James, and built in 1727-33. The stone-faced church had a 'silly but loveable spire in the shape of an oddly tapered column' according to Nikolaus Pevsner. Adjoining St John's churchyard was an older paupers' burial ground for those who died in St Olave's Workhouse, which closed in the 1850s, now part of Potters Fields Park (q.v.). When the new parish of St John Horselydown was created in 1733, it took over St Olave's parish and probably sharing the burial ground, which became the responsibility of St John's in the 1790s. St John's churchyard was in use until 1853 and was then laid out as public gardens in 1882, maintained by St Olave's Board of Works until 1900. A few gravestones remain against the walls to a raised asphalted area onto Fair Street, including that of Hetty Etherington (d.1842). Among notable people buried here were Sir Rowland Phillips-Langharne-Phillips (d.1832); and Richard Russell (d.1784), who left legacies to various charities but his request for a monument over his grave was never carried out. Within the public garden is a large circular basin, presumably the base of a fountain with twisted dolphins, which may have been installed when the gardens were laid out. Adjacent to the church to the north is a war memorial cross for WWI.

Although gutted, the base of the old church walls remain, within which a new brick building, Nasmith House, was erected in 1972-76, now London City Mission. A memorial tablet to Griffith Griffiths who died in 1829 is set into the old church wall. The C18th Vicarage remains adjacent to the public garden on Fair Street and within the churchyard nearby is the former late C18th Watch House, now railed off from the public space. The gardens are largely grass, with paths, some island flower beds; trees include mature planes as well as a number of evergreen and ornamental species. The railings surrounding the garden date from various periods, the oldest being those onto Fair Street, with mid C20th railings and chain link fencing elsewhere. Improvements were carried out in 2004, with additional planting, seating and play equipment, and further improvements are to take place as part of Bermondsey streetscape programme.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Ron Woollacott, 'Southwark's Burying Places, Past and Present', Magdala Terrace Nunhead Local History publication, 2001; Southwark Listed Buildings data

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Southwark
Site management:
Parks; Friends of Potter's Field Park, St John's Churchyard and Alfred Salter Playground
1727-33 ; 1882
Listed structures:
LBII: Watch House; No 10 Fair Street and attached railings (former vicarage)
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:
Tooley Street South?
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Zone
Other LA designation:
Churchyard, Tier Three. Strategic Views Backdrop Consultation Zone

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