|St James's Churchyard, Piccadilly||Westminster|
St James's Church Piccadilly was consecrated in 1684 and is the only one of Sir Christopher Wren's churches to have been built on an entirely new site. Leasehold land was offered by the Earl of St Albans in 1676 and the freehold was granted in 1684, including land to the north and west for burial. In the winter of 1688-89 it became the first London churchyard to be lit by patent lights. The burial ground underwent various improvements during the C18th and C19th and was twice enlarged, in 1749 and 1764. Vaults had been created beneath the north end of the ground by the mid C18th. The church suffered severe bomb damage in WWII and was restored in 1947-54. After WWII Viscount Southwood provided money to convert the churchyard into a garden of remembrance, which opened in 1946. The garden was refurbished and replanted in early 2012.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/05/2012
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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.
The need for a new church arose when the area around St James's Square (q.v.) was increasingly populated and local people petitioned as early as 1664 for a new parish to be created out of the parish of St Martin in the Fields (q.v.). Eventually this was realised after the Earl of St Albans not only offered the site on leasehold land that he held but also paid for a large proportion of the costs to build the new church. The foundation stone was laid on 3 April 1676. The Earl's land was part of the Bailiwick of St James, and he applied to the Crown to grant the freehold in 1674, but this was only made in 1684 just prior to the consecration of the new Church of St James's Church. Sadly the Earl had died shortly before this and the grant of freehold was made to his nephew, Thomas, Lord Jermyn. It included the site of the church, land for a churchyard to the north and west, the house and site where the rectory was later built, and houses and land in Piccadilly and Jermyn Street for the endowment of the living. The plot of land to the west of the church became known as the 'green' churchyard. The plot to the north was long separated from Piccadilly by buildings that included the rectory, watch house, stables and buildings that formed part of the endowment as well as those not belonging to the parish. By the mid C18th the north churchyard appears to have been paved, when vaults were created for burials beneath this. The north churchyard was originally surrounded by a wall with a gateway opposite the church tower.
The memorial garden was opened by Queen Mary in 1946. It contains a number of sculptural works including the memorial fountain with bronze putti dedicated to Viscount Southwood (1873-1946) and bronze statue of a female figure on the terrace, the plinth inscribed with the word 'PEACE', both designed by Alfred F. Hardiman; stone urn with entwined serpent; statue of St Mary of Nazareth by Sir Charles Wheeler, presented in 1974 and the canopied external pulpit of 1902. A new work, 'Owl' by Thomas Houseago was installed in the garden in April 2012, part of the partnership with the church's neighbours, Hauser and Wirth Gallery. Both the north and south entrances to the churchyard contain good iron gates: the south gates date from c.1800, and those of the north were created by Bainbridge Reynolds to designs of Sir Reginald Blomfield. Adjacent is the Midland Bank by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
See the article in The London Gardener VI for additional historical information on Viscount Southwood's garden as a 'memorial to the fortitude of Londoners during the war'.
See church website for extensive history from the Survey of London, xxix, p 51-2; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993), pp.713-14; Dominic Echlin, 'The Garden at St James's Church, Piccadilly: 'Poignant Memorial from the first days of post-war reconstruction', in The London Gardener, 2000-01, vol. VI, pp42-50.