|All Saints Churchyard and St Thomas More Gardens||Kensington & Chelsea|
There has probably been a church on this site since Saxon times. The present All Saints Church has late C13th remnants and was parish church for Chelsea village until it declined in the C19th, becoming a chapel of ease when the new parish church of St Luke's was built and then referred to as Chelsea Old Church. It became a separate parish church once more in the 1950s. In the railed churchyard are a number of monuments including that of Sir Hans Sloane, who had purchased the Manor of Chelsea in 1710. Between the church and the Embankment is St Thomas More Gardens, an area of landscaping with a statue of Sir Thomas More, who lived in Chelsea.
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All Saints Church, February 2010. Photograph Sally Williams
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A Saxon church probably existed in Chelsea by 789 AD but little is known of early history. In 1157 Pope Adrian IV, Nicholas Breakspear, granted the church in Chelsea to the Abbot and Monastery of Westminster. The present church has some remnants from the late C13th building albeit it is much altered over the centuries, particularly in 1667-74. By the C16th numerous grand houses had been built by the riverside at Chelsea for the aristocracy and royalty and both Sir Thomas More and Henry VIII once had property here. Most of these houses are now demolished apart from Lindsey House and the Royal Hospital (q.v.).
The church's south and north chapels came into private ownership, the south was part of Sir Thomas More's estate which he altered in 1528, and in the late C16th the north chapel became the property of the Lawrence family, but both chapels were relatively unaltered until the C20th. By the early C19th the church had declined and a new parish church of St Luke's (q.v.) was built by 1824. All Saints became a chapel of ease, and was subsequently known as Chelsea Old Church. In 1941 the old church suffered serious bomb damage and was substantially rebuilt, the More Chapel re-opening in 1950 when it became a separate parish once more. Restoration of the church began in 1953 and was completed in 1958.
In the railed churchyard are flower beds and shrubs with a number of monuments including a chest tomb, obelisk and tablets set into the wall, and a monument to Sir Hans Sloane (d.1753) who had purchased the Manor of Chelsea in 1712. The memorials in the churchyard serve to illustrate Chelsea's history and include Lord and Lady Dacre (1594-95); Sir John Lawrence (1638); Lady Jane Cheyne (1698); Francis Thomas, 'director of the china porcelain manufactory'; and Thomas Shadwell, Poet Laureate (1692).
Between the church and the Embankment is an area of landscaping known as St Thomas More Gardens, with lawn and hedging, and a statue of a seated Sir Thomas More by Leslie Cubitt Bevis that was erected in 1969. On the adjacent pavement is a drinking fountain in memory of George Sparkes of the East India Company (d.1878), which was erected by his widow in 1880, and designed by the architect Charles Barry, Jr (1823-1900). Nearby is a Coalbrookdale lamp standard with boys and cornucopia commemorating the completion of Chelsea Embankment in 1874. Chelsea Embankment was officially opened in May 1874 by Lieutenant Col Sir James MacNaughton Hogg, Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works.
Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 ed); Thames Conservation Area Proposals Statement; Mervyn Blatch, 'A Guide to London's Churches' (Constable, London, 2nd ed. 1995) p349-354