Sitting next to Spitalfields dominant church is a small public park that’s a remnant of a much larger graveyard that used to sit to the south of the church.

The church itself was built in 1714-29 to a design by the prolific architect, Nicholas Hawksmoor, and as you would expect for a church, a large graveyard was laid out along the southern edge of the church.

You can see the church and its graveyard in this R Horwood map of 1799.

R Horwood map 1799

Today the former graveyard is clearly visible from the main road, but originally it was hidden behind a row of houses, and the church set back from the road. In the 1850s though, a large road was cut through the area, demolishing most of the houses, and that’s the Commercial Street that we have today.

Burials in the graveyard were suspended in 1859, and it was converted to a public garden by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association in 1892, laid out to a design by the landscape gardener Fanny Wilkinson.

However, what you see today is a tiny fragment of what used to be here.

The park used to run all the way along the length of the church, and beyond all the way to Brick Lane on the far side, but in 1869-74, a school, today the Christ Church Primary School, was built on the eastern end of the site as a free school at a time when most schools charged a fee.

While today a building on top of a graveyard would see the graves cleared, in this case, the school building was built on arches to avoid disturbing the graves underneath, which are presumably still down there.

The school was recently extended with a nursery building over the back of the remaining garden, but has been issued with a demolition order following a long-running legal dispute. The nursery building is still standing, for the time being.

The remainder of the park fills a small space beside the church, with a few open lawns divided by paths and plenty of seating.

A few gravestones and monuments still remain, mostly along the wall. What does stand out though is something added after the garden was created, and that’s a WW1 war memorial. In a style of a pile of stones with a cross above, the stones are all marked with the names of the dead from the parish commemorated here.

An obelisk and drinking fountain mounted in the railings by the main entrance was placed there in 1899, after being moved from a location opposite Hanbury Street just to the north of the church when Commercial Street was created.

The drinking fountain no longer works alas.

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