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St Leonard’s Priory Tower Hamlets


St Leonard’s Priory is part of the former churchyard of Bromley St Leonard Church, which originated with a C12th Benedictine nunnery dedicated to St Leonard. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the priory lands passed into private hands. The old priory chancel was rebuilt in 1843 as the parish church of St Mary with St Leonard but was bombed in WWII. Part of the churchyard had been lost to house building by the early C19th. All that remains is part of the boundary wall and the How Memorial Gateway erected in 1894, which forms the entrance to what remains of the churchyard. In the 1990s part of the site became a children's playground, the remainder managed for wildlife. The site has been cleared of undergrowth and laid out with paths in 2011.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Bromley St Leonard Churchyard; St Leonard’s Adventurous Playground

Site location:
Bromley High Street/St Leonard Street

E3 3EG

Type of site:
Public Open Land

C12th onwards


Listed structures:
LBII: How Memorial Gateway

Tower Hamlets

Site ownership:
Diocese of London

Site management:
Bromley by Bow Centre

Open to public?

Opening times:

Special conditions:



Public transport:
Tube: Bromley by Bow (District, Hammersmith & City)


The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/11/2011
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

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:
Yes (8 plane trees)

Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:

Other LA designation:

St Leonard’s Priory

How Memorial Gateway, St Leonard’s Priory, November 2011. Photo: S Williams

Click photo to enlarge.

Fuller information

The site is that of the now derelict former churchyard of Bromley St Leonard Church, which originated with a Benedictine nunnery dedicated to St Leonard in the C12th that was founded by William, Bishop of London. Following the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s, the priory land was first granted to Privy-Councillor Sir Ralph Sadler but reverted to the crown after 6 years. Elizabeth I and James I later granted the Priory property to various nobles. In 1635 the then Lord of the Manor Sir John Jacob demolished the old Priory buildings to build a new manor house, later used as Bromley School or Bromley Manor House Academy, but now demolished. The Priory buildings included the chancel of the Church of St Leonard's Convent and among the tombs in its churchyard were those of C17th and C18th Huguenot refugees. Part of the churchyard site ceased to be in ecclesiastical control by c.1819 and was built over for workers' housing. The old chancel was rebuilt in 1842/3 as the parish church of St Mary with St Leonard but it was destroyed in WWII bombing.

In 1969 the remains of the bombed church were demolished to create the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach. All that remains is part of the boundary wall and a stone arched gateway, inscribed the How Memorial Gateway, on the corner of St Leonard Street and Bromley High Street. The Gateway was erected in 1894 in memory of Revd George How, vicar for 20 years here and forms an imposing entrance to what is left of the churchyard, which has scattered headstones and tombs, and some notable plane trees. In the 1990s it was renamed 'St Leonard's Adventurous Playground' when some of the ground was enclosed to form a playground in the west of the site, the rest managed for nature conservation by the Bromley by Bow Centre. This became overgrown and much neglected, but in 2011the St Leonards Priory Transformation Project was set up under the auspices of the charity Trees for Cities. Following community consultation plans were made to address the problems and restore the site as a community garden. In addition to clearing the undergrowth and creating pathways between the gravestones, proposals includes planting of shrubs, trees, woodland bulbs and a wild flower meadow, improved security, new benches, raised beds and a natural play feature for children.

Sources consulted:

Horwood; Bacon; Bancroft Library, Clippings; Nature Conservation in Tower Hamlets. See Historical Locations in Bromley by Bow on

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