|St John's Wood Church Grounds||Westminster|
The burial ground was bought by St Marylebone Vestry in 1807 after Paddington Street burial grounds were closed. St John's Church was built in 1813, originally a chapel of ease for the developing Portman and Eyre Estates. Both church and burial ground were consecrated by the Bishop of London on 24 May 1814. The burial ground closed in 1855 when St Marylebone Cemetery in East Finchley opened. The former burial ground was converted into a public garden in 1886, opening as St John's Wood Church Grounds. There are thought to be 50,000 graves here. Among the many monuments is that of water colourist John Sell Cotman. The garden has fine trees, formal displays and now a wildlife area. In front of the church is a Neo-baroque war memorial with bronze sculpture of St George and the Dragon.
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St John's Wood was part of the Great Forest of Middlesex and remained wooded in the medieval period. It was within the Manor of Lilestone (Lisson), owned from 1238 by the Knights Templar and then from 1323 by the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, from where the name St John's Wood comes. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the land passed to the Crown, and trees here were felled for Henry VIII' ships and royal palaces. By the mid C17th it was largely open grassland, an important source of hay for London's horses, and it remained in agricultural use until the late C18th. The Crown had begun to sell its land at St John's Wood from the early C18th, a large part of which was purchased by Henry Samuel Eyre in 1732. To the west was a strip of land bequeathed to Harrow School by John Lyon who had acquired it in 1574. St John's Wood began to be gradually developed in the C19th, with the construction of main thoroughfares such as Abbey Road in 1824 and Wellington Road in 1826 acting as a spur to house building.
The site of the church was previously two fields known as Great Garden Field and Willow Tree Field. St John's Church, by Thomas Hardwick, was built in 1813, and both church and burial ground were consecrated by the Bishop of London on 24 May 1814. It was originally St John's Wood Chapel, a chapel of ease for the developing Portman and Eyre Estates in this area. Hardwick also built St John's House, 1813, as the curate's house for St John's Wood Chapel. The burial ground closed in 1855 when St Marylebone Cemetery in East Finchley (q.v.) was opened, and the former burial ground was converted into a public garden in 1886. There are thought to be 50,000 graves here, and it has many monuments, including a statue of St John the Baptist near the entrance.
Those buried here include the water colourist John Sell Cotman (d.1842), near whose grave is that of Private Samuel Godley (1781-1832) who fought in the Battle of Waterloo. Religious fanatic Joanna Southcott (d.1814) has a large marker stone next to the boundary wall erected in 1965 although her grave was c.25 ft east of this. East of the church is the reclining figure of a woman and a small copy of Maderno's St Cecilia in St Cecilia, Trastevere, Rome. There are a number of commemorative benches, including those for broadcaster Barry Took and actor Edward Cast.
Trees include London plane, lime, white horse chestnut, Turkey oak, English oak, notable yew and holly on the lawn, and among commemorative trees is a tulip tree in memory of cricket broadcaster Brian Johnston. A wildlife garden is now north-east of the church and a discreet modern play area with recent shelter, and also a drinking fountain. On the roundabout in front of the church is a Neo-baroque war memorial with a bronze sculpture of St George and the Dragon, 1925-30, by C.L. Hartwell RA, sculptor. The garden has regularly won the London Squares and Gardens Competition Large Square Category Award.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (1991, reprinted 1999); Thomas Smith History of Paddington, 1833; WCC St John's Wood Church Grounds Management Plan 2009-2014; WCC St John's Wood Conservation Area Audit, 2008