This particular pocket park is so pocket and so unparklike that it almost scorns the title — yet it could be so much better.
A cursory glance suggests this is a public open space, some planting, some paving, and set back a bit – but where’s the seating? It’s not obligatory to have seats in a park, but it seems odd to have an open space here in the City that is so determined to deter people from loitering.
At first glance a reasonable person might presume its a cover for a basement structure and needs to be kept clear. Despite its appearance, it’s actually a really ancient site — of the churchyard of St Augustine Papey, founded just over 900 years ago, in 1108.
The churchyard was recorded by 1348, and described as a ‘poor church’ in 1405, its parish was united with that of All Hallows on the Wall. The church and churchyard passed into the ownership of the Hospital of St Augustine Papey, founded in 1442 to house old and infirm priests. This was dissolved at the Reformation and the church was demolished during the reign of Edward VI.
In 1539 the nearby Bishopsgate church of St Martin Outwich (founded 1217) acquired the churchyard for use as a burial ground. The church was demolished in 1874, by which time the churchyard would have been closed for burials under the Burial Acts of the 1850s. The area was badly bombed during the Second World War. In 1990 the present building was constructed around the churchyard by Holford Associates.
The site of the former churchyard, now a pocket park is a rectangular area set within a recess on the Camomile Street frontage of the office building.
It comprises a raised section accessed by steps enclosed by a low Portland stone wall and black metal railing. There are modest amounts of planting with small shrubs bordering parts of the space, which is tiled. A solitary broken tombstone is laid flat into the paving near the steps.
The park is a rare haven of open space and planting in Camomile Street/Bevis Marks, and it’s a shame that while it is clearly being carefully looked after, the planting and amenities provided are so mean in character.
Its location on a busy road will never mean it’s a popular site for seating, but wouldn’t it look so much more appealing to walk past if turned into say a wildlife garden, with some display boards showing off the little known history of this small pocket of land in the city.