Inventory Site Record

St Peter's Churchyard (Tower Hamlets)

Brief Description

St Peter's Church, built in 1840-41 and designed by Lewis Vulliamy, was originally the centre of a square of terraced houses, now surrounded by modern flats. The church building was considerably refurbished from 1905 onwards under the then vicar Revd W H Maynard. The churchyard, closed to burial, was laid out as a public garden under the auspices of the Kyrle Society in 1883/84 and is surrounded by iron railings with hedging and has a number of mature plane trees.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
St Peter with St Thomas Churchyard, Bethnal Green
Site location:
St Peter's Square/St Peter's Close, Bethnal Green
E2 7AE
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Tower Hamlets
Open to public?
Opening times:
Open on Sundays (pop-up garden café - check website)
Has taken part in Open Garden Squares Weekend 4 times, most recently in 2022.
Special conditions:
Various events throughout the week (see website for details). Has opened for OGSW
Public transport:
Tube: Bethnal Green (Central) then walk
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

St Peter's Church was the first of 10 new churches to be built in Bethnal Green to serve the growing population. Originally the centre of a square of terraced houses, St Peter's Church is now surrounded by modern flats although the Vicarage, albeit enlarged in the early C20th, and a school contemporary with the church remain. The building is constructed of knapped flint and stock brick, with stucco and terracotta trim, and has a tall tower. The churchyard was laid out as a public garden under the auspices of the Kyrle Society in 1883/84, possibly the work of landscape gardener Miss Fanny Wilkinson. The Kyrle Society was founded in 1877 by Octavia and Miranda Hill, its main aim to improve the lives of the poor. This was to be achieved through a number of means, which included the provision of playgrounds for children and the creation of public gardens on unused spaces, with an emphasis on converting the numerous disused burial grounds that had closed as a result of the Burial Acts of 1852 and subsequent years. In 1896 Mrs Basil Holmes reported that the quarter acre churchyard of St Peter's was 'maintained as a public garden by the vicar, who opens it during the summer months', also commenting that there were 'not many tombstones'. The railed churchyard garden today has mature plane trees, a few gravestones by the flagstone paths and shrub planting on the north, west and south sides, with a small area of garden at the east of the church, although this area is partly concrete. In 2010 a new initiative was set up in partnership with St Paul Shadwell (q.v.) to bring new energy to the church's work in Bethnal Green. Work has been carried out in the garden in recent years, and in 2015 the railings on the south side of the churchyard were restored and new gates were created. They were officially opened by the Lady Mayoress of the City, the Chief Commoner, and the Prime Warden of the Ironmongers' Company, which had funded the project. In summer 2015 a pop-up garden café was run on Sunday afternoons.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry, Charles O'Brien, Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 5: East', Yale University Press, 2005; Elizabeth Crawford, 'Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle' (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2nd ed. 2009)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ343830 (534366,183033)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Diocese of London
Site management:
1840-41; 1883/4
Garden: Kyrle Society (possibly Fanny Wilkinson)
Listed structures:
LBII: St Peter's Church, railings and gate piers to north, west and south of churchyard
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:
Jesus Hospital Estate
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

St Peter's Churchyard

St Peter's Church, May 2009. Photo: S Williams

St Peter's Churchyard, September 2006. Photo: S Williams
St Peter's Church, September 2006. Photo: S Williams
Garden at rear of St Peter's Church, September 2006. Photo: S Williams

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.