Churchyard

During the medieval period, there was an external cemetery under the eastern portion of the current 18th century building. 103 densely packed burials were found there, including children and adults. The date range for these burials is 1270-1350.  As the church was extended eastwards, the extent of the cemetery was reduced but it is probable that it was still in use until the early 1600s. In the medieval period, this churchyard was not only used for burials but also contained stocks and a whipping post. Vestry minutes from October 1735 show that a fire engine house and cage were set up in the churchyard.  In November 1735, the churchyard was enclosed east and north of the church and a watch house also erected.

The church also acquired an additional burial ground, consecrated in 1711. The land for this had originally been bought by the church in 1659, and used as general grazing land with the proceeds going to poor relief. Its official name was St. Andrew’s Burying Place, but it was known as the Lock Burial Ground due to its location near the Lock Hospital in Kent Street (near the present day St. Saviour’s and St. Olave’s School). It was extended in 1744. The vestry had plans to build a mortuary on the site, but this caused opposition from local residents due to public health concerns. A faculty for the mortuary was applied for in 1867, with a certificate from the parish medical officer stating there would be no negative public health effects, but it was denied and by 1868, the plan for the mortuary was abandoned. The site was still owned by the church in 1884, when a Mr. Goff was paid £10 per annum to be the caretaker there. In 1887, it was turned into a public garden space and named St. George’s Recreation Ground.

The 1806 survey by S.P Cockerell found that both the vaults and churchyard were nearly full and too small for the burial needs of the parish, whose population had risen rapidly. In 1816-1817, the churchyard was extended by an Act of Parliament. Houses and properties north of the church, as well as the old girls’ school and watchtower, were demolished to make room for the extension. Land was also bought off the Marshalsea prison, to the dimensions of 284 feet west to east and 42 feet in width. In 1817, a new wall was built to separate the churchyard from Marshalsea Prison (this wall was demolished with the enlargement of the public garden in 1903) and in 1835 the churchyard was enlarged again.

By the 1850’s the churchyard was closed for burials, and in 1882, the churchyard became a public garden. The mortuary envisioned in the Lock Burial ground was built in the eastern end of the gardens in 1914. However, there was an earlier mortuary available in the parish as recorded by the parish medical officer, who sent bodies there in 1884. In March 1896, the Vestry approached the Council about the necessity for allowing greater facilities for traffic passing from Long Lane to Borough High Street to relieve congestion. This ultimately led to Long Lane being widened in December 1903 (the work being carried out by Lieut-Col. Sexby of the Parks Department) destroying the southern portion of the public garden, which was the old churchyard. The area equivalent to the new street (7,330 square feet) as well as additional land (12,340 square feet in total) was added to the public garden, giving an increase in size by just more than 5000 square feet ‘a considerable increase has…been made in the amount of open space provided in one of the poorest and most crowded districts in London’ The small plots of land to the east, the current garden outside the crypt, and the north, current burial area, were also envisioned as gardens, with the northern one being closed to the public on Sundays and the eastern one being set apart for the ‘exclusive use of the rector’. The council paid for the windows of the church to be double glazed in order to reduce noise disturbing services.

In 1953, the scattering of ashes was approved in the eastern garden. A ground plan of the church grounds shows the area allocated for this; a rectangle next to the northern wall.  In 1974, the eastern garden was rebuilt. Prompted by the discovery of human remains during gas works in the north garden, the church applied for faculties to intern cremated remains in urns in the north garden. This was granted in 1985 and ashes are still interred in the northern garden.

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