This small garden on the site of a bombed-out church in the side streets of Southwark also has links to the origins of 1980s synthpop music.

The church, All Hallows was built in 1879-80 by George Gilbert Scott Junior (some records say the father, but it’s inconclusive), but was hit by a bomb during WW2, and while some fragments remain, most of the site was cleared in the mid-1950s for a small garden.

That makes it a slightly unusual church garden, as most are former graveyards, but this one is what would have been the interior of the church itself.

A review of the church in the Architectural Review of February 1899 by Mr Millard wrote: “It is the production of some years’ riper experience than St Agnes, somewhat sterner in aspect and more restrained, yet sealed no less plainly with a clear stamp of distinction.”

“On entrance one is impressed by a sense of stately spaciousness and breadth, which is lacking in the narrower St Agnes.”

The foundation stone was laid by Earl Beauchamp on 28th May 1879, but it wasn’t consecrated until 1892, and there was some controversy in its early years with anglo-catholic rites being performed, and even a debate in the House of Lords about the church having a “popery-teaching minister” imposed on the parishioners.

Although the church was large, with seats for 1,000 people, it seems to have been less popular than hoped for, and when it was destroyed in WW2, there wasn’t much call for a full repair.

In 1957, the remaining standing walls were torn down, and the surviving lady chapel converted into a small church that opened the following year, although it also closed in 1971.

In the 1980s the building got a new lease of life, as a recording studio, Blackwing Studios, and it was particularly notable for recording records by the likes of Depeche Mode (photos at the church) and Yazoo.

The recording studio closed in 2001, and the building is rented to a housing co-operative who are using the former studios for temporary accommodation. The site is now owned by Southwark Cathedral, who once had somewhat controversial plans to redevelop the site.

Today the garden is laid out with a simple lawn in the middle, and a lot of planting around the edges. A crucifix at the end of the garden behind some unsightly fencing stands on what was once the altar of the original church.

The garden has been managed voluntarily by a local group, the Copperfield Street Community Gardeners for over 40 years and is supported by Bankside Open Spaces Trust (BOST).

Do also pay attention to the row of terraced cottages next to the church, Winchester Cottages which were built by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1893-95, under the influence of the social housing campaigner, Octavia Hill.

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3 comments
  1. Chas says:

    I am always unnerved when I visit the most obscure locations only to find Ian publishes a detailed account a few days later. To be fair, I usually visit only to discover that Ian has previously published!

  2. Janet Maitland says:

    I love this. Such a treat to go to obscure places and read obscure stories. I would hate to see you go! Carry on the good work dear chap.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Fantastic photos of baby Depeche Mode when Vince Clarke was still in the band! So innocent, romping around the churchyard!

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