Inventory Site Record

St Peter's Churchyard, Walworth

St Peter's Churchyard, Walworth (Southwark)

Brief Description

St Peter's Church, designed by Sir John Soane, was built in 1823-25 and its churchyard was in use until 1853. In 1895 at the instigation of the parish priest, Father Horsley, it was cleared of graves and converted as a public garden for the parishioners. It was laid out by the MPGA with grass and seats, the headstones largely placed around the edge of the garden. Father Horsley also established a small zoo on the rectory garden, nicknamed the Monkey Park, which was landscaped as a community garden with the participation of the local community, a new bench sculpture unveiled in 2005.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Walworth Parish Church
Site location:
Liverpool Grove
SE17 2HE
Type of site:
Public Gardens
Open to public?
Opening times:
unrestricted (check opening times of community garden)
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail/Tube: Elephant & Castle (Northern, Bakerloo) then bus. Bus: 12, 35, 40, 45, 68, 171, 176, 468.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2017
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.;

Full Site Description

St Peter's Walworth was a Commissioners' church designed by Sir John Soane, built of yellow stock brick. The foundation stone was laid in June 1823 by the Archbishop of Canterbury and it was consecrated in February 1825. The church's peel of bells was used from 1824 to the 1920s and then in 1997 was purchased by St Anne's Limehouse (q.v.). The 8 bells at St Peter's today were from St Andrew's Waterloo. The churchyard was in use until 1853 and in 1895 was converted to a public garden at the cost of the Goldsmiths Company, maintained by the Newington Burial Board. It took place at the instigation of the parish priest, Father Horsley, who was concerned by the poverty of his parishioners and decided to clear the gravestones from the disused churchyard in order to provide a park for recreation. The lead-lined coffins were also cleared from the crypt, which was then used to serve free school lunches for local children, and a new school was established, now the older part of St Peter’s School to the east of the churchyard. In addition Father Horsley set up a small zoo in the rectory garden, which was nicknamed the 'Monkey Park'. The Metropolitan Public Gardens Association laid out the public garden with grass and seats, the headstones placed around the edge, except for one monument that remained, a pedestal with a draped urn on top. A drinking fountain was donated by the MPGA but now only the base remains. The original railings remain on the east boundary and the church retains fine entrance gates, with mature plane trees lining the boundary with Liverpool Grove. To the north and east of the church is Faraday Gardens (q.v.) on land once owned by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

During WWII the Walworth area, including the church, suffered bomb damage and 65 people sheltering in the crypt were killed by a direct hit on the church in 1940. The church was re-ordered in the 1970s and redecorated in the 1980s, and in 2003 the crypt was extensively refurbished as a community centre and formally opened by Archbishop Rowan Williams on 31 October. In the churchyard a new garden has been created on the former Monkey Park, the work undertaken by local volunteers with the support of Barclays Sitesavers and Groundwork Southwark. It consists of a patio area, raised beds, wildlife area and other features including a Totem Pole created by artists Claire Freer and Elin Solstad with children from Surrey Square Primary School. Its design was inspired by the architecture and ideas of Sir John Soane, and it was funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. An 8 ft. long bench in the form of a vast butterfly has also been created in the garden from a fallen tree trunk. It was undertaken by children from the Aylesbury Young People’s Project and was unveiled by the Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Lorraine Lauder in August 2005.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; 'The London County Council and what it does for London: London Parks and Open Spaces' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1924); Ron Woollacott, 'Southwark's Burying Places, Past and Present', Magdala Terrace Nunhead Local History publication, 2001

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Southwark
Site management:
1823-25; 1895
Listed structures:
LBI: St Peter's Church. LBII: Entrance gates and gate piers to west of church
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:
Liverpool Grove
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:
Local Park, Tier Two. Green Chain Walk

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