Inventory Site Record

St Mary's Newington

St Mary's Newington (Southwark)

Brief Description

Former site of the medieval parish church and burial ground of St Mary Newington, which was demolished in 1876 when Newington Butts was widened as the area became busier; a new church was built in Kennington Park Road. The site was transformed into a garden and opened to the public in 1879, with a clock tower erected in 1877 on the site of the old church. The clock tower was demolished in 1971, its position marked by a memorial stone. A number of gravestones remain along the Churchyard Row boundary. In 2007/8 the garden was re-landscaped to provide improved facilities including a new children's playground with many natural play features, a central grass area surrounded by mature London planes and a plaza area with seating and raised planters.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Newington Burial Ground; St Mary's Churchyard; Old St Mary's Burial Ground
Site location:
Newington Butts/Churchyard Row
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail/Tube: Elephant & Castle (Northern, Bakerloo). Bus: 133, 155, C10, P5

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

There is a reference in the Domesday Book of 1086 to the Manor of Walworth with 100 residents and a church. By late C13th the area was called Newington, probably due to the new houses built on the edge of Walworth hamlet, and later became known as Newington Butts referring to the earth mounds or butts used for target practice by medieval archers. The earliest reference to the parish church of St Mary Newington occurs in the C14th, a building that was enlarged in 1600 by Sir Hugh Brawne. Apart from its clock tower the church was demolished in the C18th following the discovery of decay in the pillars, walls and beams. The monument to Sir Hugh Brawne was transferred to the new church that was built in 1720 incorporating the original clock tower at its west end. It opened in 1721 and was later rebuilt in 1793, although the Brawne monument then disappeared.

St Mary's Churchyard was enlarged a number of times in 1637, 1665, 1757 and 1834 and burials took place until 1854. Among those buried here were the Elizabethan playwright Thomas Middleton (d.1627); George Powell, King of the Gypsies (d.1704) and Frederick Augustus Hartland (d.1852) who performed with Joseph Grimaldi at Sadlers Wells but was killed when a plank of wood landed on his head. The scientist Michael Faraday, who made important contributions to electromagnetism and electrochemistry, was born in Newington Butts and baptised at St Mary's Church in 1791. In 1874 St Gabriel's Church was erected at the north-west corner of the churchyard to take the overflow of worshippers from St Mary's, but was later demolished in 1936 having fallen into disrepair. Old St Mary's was demolished in 1876 by Act of Parliament when the main road was widened and a new church of St Mary Newington was built in Kennington Park Road further to the south, which was consecrated on 1 May 1876. At that time bodies were reinterred at Nunhead Cemetery (q.v.) and other burial grounds.

The disused burial ground was laid out as a public garden in 1876/7 by Southwark Vestry and the Metropolitan Board of Works, each of whom paid half of the cost of £1,650. It opened to the public in 1879. The railings, gates and piers on Newington Butts dated from when the churchyard was made into a public garden, and cast into the locks is the name of the foundry, Young & Co. of Pimlico. A granite plaque set into the grass near the boundary with Newington Butts records that a Clock Tower was erected in 1877 to mark the site of the church. It was erected by R S Faulconer, a former churchwarden, but was demolished by the 1971 having deteriorated and become unsafe. Various headstones were laid out along Churchyard Row including that of Elizabeth Cross (d.1806) and Henry Joseph Benjamin Callow (d.1826). In 1883 the MPGA survey reported that it was a 'benefit to the whole neighbourhood, which is densely populated; a pleasant sight, this well-kept garden, in a monotonous area of bricks and mortar'. Other features now lost include its ornamental Victorian bothy and a Memorial Wall, although the path layout remained, as well as some mature trees and the ornamental railings and gate piers to Newington Butts.

By late C20th it became a rather bleak site, although there were some shrub beds and roses, with a derelict section of old building wall on the north corner at Newington Butts. In 2007/8: re-landscaping of the garden was undertaken as part of the Elephant and Castle redevelopment programme, to designs by Martha Schwartz Partners. The work was undertaken through a grant of £1.35m from London Development Agency and supported by owners of the land, Diocese of Southwark. New facilities include a playground, seating, paved and planted areas and the listed railings were restored. A time capsule created by Year 6 pupils of Crampton Primary School working with Southwark Parks Community Outreach Officer was buried near the clock tower memorial stone on 6 May 2008 when the new park was officially opened, to remain there for at least 50 years. Next to the garden is the Field of Hope of the Marie Curie Centre, featuring an elephant laid out in daffodils on sloping grass.

Sources consulted:

Joyce Bellamy walk notes (1995); Ron Woollacott, 'Southwark's Burying Places, Past and Present', Magdala Terrace Nunhead Local History publication, 2001; 'The London County Council and what it does for London: London Parks and Open Spaces' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1924); Southwark Listed Buildings data; 'A History of St Mary's Churchyard', Quarter, Spring/Summer 2008

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Diocese of Southwark
Site management:
LB Southwark Parks
C14th onwards. 1876; 2007/8
2007/8: Martha Schwartz Partners
Listed structures:
LBII: Railings, gates and piers on Newington Butts
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:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeological Priority Zone
Other LA designation:
Churchyard, Tier Three. Regeneration Area. Green Chain Walk

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