|St Anne's Churchyard||Westminster|
St Anne's Churchyard was delimited by Act of Parliament in 1678, and formed adjacent to the church of St Anne Soho, which was later destroyed by bombing so that only the early C19th tower remains. The churchyard was raised 6 ft above the pavement to accommodate over 13,000 parishioners who were buried here. Closed to burials in 1853, the churchyard was laid out as a public garden by the MPGA in 1892, responsibility for the garden passing to the City of Westminster in 1903. Among those buried here was essayist William Hazlitt whose tomb remains in the gardens. In addition to re-landscaping, the Wall of Light perimeter fencing was installed as an innovative security fence in 2003/4, and in 2007 the Toilet Pod or Artshed was constructed.
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St Anne's Church was built in 1677-86 to the designs of Christopher Wren or Talman and consecrated in 1686. The Soho area was largely developed from the late C17th onwards as London expanded following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The area east of Wardour Street lay in the parish of St Anne and was known as Soho Fields, a single estate then owned by the Earl of St Albans until 1734, and thereafter by the Earl of Portland. The streets of the estate were laid out by the mid C18th with Soho Square (q.v.) as the main focus and it remained a fashionable residential area well into the C18th, although the wealthier inhabitants then began to move away as the population diversified. Soho increasingly attracted less well-off residents and the change in social status brought a new population, including commercial trades. Immigrant communities such as the French Huguenots had begun settling here and it also became popular with the artistic community. The sites of the grand houses were redeveloped and by the mid-C19th Soho was one of the most densely populated areas of London and one of the poorest. The church gardens had to be raised six feet above the pavement to accommodate the over 13,000 corpses of parishioners who were buried there. Among those buried here were the renowned essayist William Hazlitt (d.1830), and Theodore, the adventurer-King of Corsica, who is commemorated by a plaque of 1757 on the tower.
In 1891 the churchyard was laid out as a garden by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association. The design was by Fanny Wilkinson, landscape gardener to the MPGA, and responsible for converting numerous disused burial grounds into public gardens. It was officially opened by Lady Hobhouse on 27 June 1892. Responsibility for the garden later passed to the City of Westminster in 1903. St Anne's Church was destroyed by bombing apart from its yellow brick tower of 1801-3 by S P Cockerell, which has been incorporated within a mixed-use scheme built in 1989-91 by the Westwood Partnership that houses a small parochial chapel, rectory, premises for the Soho Society and 20 flats for the Soho Housing Association. The gardens now possess eleven notable London plane trees and a handsome line of espaliered limes. The four vases on the wall to the north and south of the steeple are perhaps those that crowned the original late C17th church tower.
In 2003/4 the Wall of Light perimeter fencing was installed as an innovative security fence at the instigation of local residents who were keen to improve the gardens, which had become a meeting place for drug users. The fence has oak posts and a stainless steel mesh with fibre optic lights installed that shine onto the mesh. Six colours can be projected onto the screen in blocks of colour or programmed as a dynamic light display, the first time fibre optic lighting has been used with stainless steel mesh in this way in the UK. The Wall of Light received a commendation in the Community Benefit category of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors awards in 2004. Other projects undertaken with the Soho Green Society include the Toilet Pod installed in the garden in 2007, and also re-landscaping works. The Toilet Pod or Artshed was designed by architect Steve Johnson in collaboration with artist Elaine Duigenan and includes a museum-like display relating to the history of the site as a former burial ground, and the history of Soho. The Soho School have raised beds within the garden where the school children practice growing vegetables. St Anne's Churchyard has won a Green Flag Award in 2007 and subsequent years.
Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993), p.691; Survey of London xxxiii, p.274-5; Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 6: Westminster', (Yale University Press, 2003); WCC St Anne's Churchyard Management Plans 2007-2012; WCC, Soho & Chinatown Conservation Area Audit, 2006; Elizabeth Crawford, 'Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle' (Francis Boutle Publishers, 2nd ed. 2009)