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St Anne's Churchyard, Limehouse Tower Hamlets


St Anne's Church Limehouse was built to serve the new parish of Limehouse. Designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, it was built between 1714-24, but not consecrated until 1730. At that time the surrounding area was largely fields, with some industrial activity nearer the river. House-building developed particularly after the opening of the Limehouse Cut in 1769. The churchyard was the burial place for many people associated with seafaring. After it was closed to burial it was converted into public gardens in 1887.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Limehouse Churchyard; St Anne's Parish Church

Site location:
Commercial Road/Three Colt Street

E14 8GL ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Public Gardens

1724; 1887

1887: MPGA (Fanny Wilkinson)

Listed structures:
LBI: St Anne's Church. LBII: Churchyard walls, gates, railings, gate piers; war memorial; Nos. 2 and 11-23 Newell Street

Tower Hamlets

Site ownership:
Church/LB Tower Hamlets

Site management:
Leisure Services, Parks and Open Spaces

Open to public?

Opening times:
8am - dusk

Special conditions:


Events in church

Public transport:
DLR: Limehouse.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/07/2013
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.;

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:

In Conservation Area:

Conservation Area name:
St Anne's Church

Tree Preservation Order:

Nature Conservation Area:

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:

Other LA designation:

St Anne's Churchyard, Limehouse

St Anne's Churchyard, April 2010. Photo: W McDougall

Click photo to enlarge.

Fuller information

Limehouse was previously part of the large Stepney parish of St Dunstan's (q.v.), the new church one of those built following the 50 New Churches Act of 1712. The new parish covered some 150 acres and at that time much of the land was used for market gardens and pasture, with some industry such as Mrs Turner's manufacture of sailclothes, Mr Hall's of pot-ash, and three dockyards that were 'used principally for repairs' (Lysons). John Rocque's map of 1746 shows the immediate surroundings of the church to be fields and gardens, although the land nearer the river had ropemakers and buildings. In 1769 the Limehouse Cut was constructed to the west of the church in order to provide a navigable route from the River Lee at Bromley to the Thames, and this separated the church from St Anne's Rectory, now Rectory Gardens (q.v.). House-building evidently accelerated from this time on, and included Church Row, a terrace of houses with rear gardens built on open land to the west of the church, although the approach to the church, shown in 1746 as a tree-lined route, was maintained. Lysons lists some of the tombs in the churchyard in 1795, many of which commemorated Captains, reflecting the maritime history of the area and the church's long connection to the Royal Navy. The clock on the tower once chimed every 15 minutes to guide ships into the docks. The interior of the church was damaged by fire in 1850 and reconstructed by Philip Hardwick, with later restoration in the 1890s by his pupil Arthur, later Sir Arthur, Blomfield. Further restoration took place in 1983-93 when the roof was given support.

C18th plans show St Anne's Churchyard having a diagonal tree-lined walk, trees to the south of the church, and the apsidal line planted to the west, but this planting had changed by the early C19th. Following its closure for burials, the former churchyard was converted into public gardens in 1887 with assistance from the MPGA. The layout was undertaken by Fanny Wilkinson, the MPGA landscape gardener who was responsible for designing over 75 public gardens in London, many of them disused burial grounds. Lt Col. J J Sexby of the LCC Parks Department, described the new garden as 'entirely free from tombstones and is laid out in grass with gravelled walks and possesses a fountain and seats'. However, there remain a number of notable monuments in the churchyard, including the stone Pyramid designed by Hawksmoor that was originally set on a square plinth and has the inscription 'The Wisdom of Solomon' in Hebrew and English. The war memorial by Arthur G. Walker, which was unveiled in 1921, shows a bronze figure of Christ on a stone plinth with a bronze relief of no-man's land, which is on a raised platform approached by four flights of balustraded steps. The C19th railings to Commercial Road were restored in 1980s by English Heritage.

St Anne's was nominated by Admiral The Rt Hon Lord West of Spithead as his favourite church in a survey of 60 influential people conducted by the National Churches Trust as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations.

Sources consulted:

Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Elizabeth Williamson & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England: London Docklands', Penguin 1998; Daniel Lysons, 'The Environs of London: volume 3: County of Middlesex' 1795, pp236-41; Elizabeth Crawford, 'Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle' (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2nd ed. 2009). Postcard of the month no 31 December 2002 on

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