|St Mary's Churchyard, Stoke Newington||Hackney|
Recorded in the Domesday Book, Stoke Newington was an important village by the C16th. The old medieval parish church of St Mary's, also called the Ancient Mother Church, survives today, the building dating from 1563 and sympathetically restored in 1826-29. In the mid 1850s the congregation had grown, and a new, larger parish church was built on the site of the rectory garden, but the old church was preserved. St Mary's Churchyard has many distinguished late C18th tombs, and some fine trees. It was closed to burials following the Burial Grounds Act of 1854. Initially maintained by the Burial Board, the borough council took over responsibility in 1896. Across Church Street St Mary New Church is surrounded by a grassed area, with a war memorial.
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The manor of Stoke Newington is recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086, the name meaning 'new town near/in the wood'; the earliest record of a rector here appears in documents of c.1313/14. Stoke Newington was an important village by the C16th and the current church building dates from 1563 when an older building was replaced by the Lord of the Manor, William Patten whose coat-of-arms remains over the south-east door. In 1565 he also repaired the old rectory of 1548, which was on the south side of Church Street and which had 'a delightful old garden' (VCH). The church's dedication to St Mary's is not mentioned prior to 1522. The old church, apparently 'leaning towards the north', was restored in 1826-29 by Sir Charles Barry who added a north aisle, galleries, clerestory and a timber spire, this latter restored in the 1920s. In the mid 1850s the size of the congregation had quite outgrown the church, largely due to crowds flocking from all over London to hear the rector, Revd Thomas Jackson, and a new church was proposed.
Due to pressure from parishioners, the old church was preserved from demolition but ceased to the parish church in 1858, when the new church of St Mary was consecrated. This was built on the site of the rectory garden and had capacity for 1300 people. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in Early English style and built of Kentish ragstone; its tall spire was added in the 1890s, designed by Scott's son John Oldrich Scott. Both churches suffered bomb damage and the old church was once again used for worship until the new church was restored in the 1950s, the repairs undertaken by Hackney church architect N F Cachemaille-Day, who was responsible for other rebuilding projects.
The quaint mediaeval churchyard is divided by a diagonal walk and has many distinguished late C18th chest tombs and head stones. Among those buried here is Mrs Anna Barbauld (d.1824), poetess and friend of Robert Southey, Walter Scott, Charles Lamb and William Wordsworth; she wrote 'Hymns in Prose for Children'. Her brother John Aikin is also buried here, a physician who was associated with the prison reformer John Howard, who lived in Clapton. The churchyard was closed to burials following the Metropolitan Burial Grounds Act of 1854. The Vestry Committee set up a burial board in 1862 one of whose duties was to maintain the churchyard and in 1881 they applied to build a mortuary house, which was later demolished in 1937. The borough council took over responsibility for the churchyard in 1896. The churchyard has notable mature trees including plane and ash, a row of 8 lime trees in front of the church, a more recent tulip tree near entrance, hollies, winter-flowering jasmine, and wild Hart's-tongue ferns. Holm oaks in the neighbouring Clissold Park (q.v.) add to the character of churchyard, which is separated from the park by iron railings and shrubbery. A railed path runs through the churchyard from the park to Church Street, where there is an arched iron gateway with central lantern.
Across Church Street is the New St Mary's Church surrounded by a grassed area, with a war memorial.
Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); 'Clissold Park' Abney Park Cemetery Trust booklet 1997; John Wittich 'London Villages' (Shire Publications) 3rd ed. 1987; Victoria County History; Mervyn Blatch, 'A Guide to London's Churches' (Constable, London, 2nd ed. 1995); The Buildings of Hackney; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 4: North (Penguin, 1998).