Chelsea’s Secret Cemetery | The Moravian Burial Ground
So easy to miss off Kings Road in Chelsea is a wonderfully peaceful green space; The Moravian Burial Ground.
It’s been here since the 18th century but the land (and the church’s history) go back way further…
History of the Moravian Church
Established in the 15th century in Bohemia (today, the Czech Republic) this protestant denomination is one of the oldest in the world.
The name comes from Moravia, an historic region of the Czech Republic, from which the church and its followers fled persecution. They took on a missionary aim and spread worldwide, granted a license in England from the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1742. Their first home in London was in the City, on Fetter Lane.
Today you can find a plaque on Fetter Lane commemorating the first Church. The site was destroyed during the Second World War and so they moved the congregation to the Chelsea site in the 1960s.
In 1750 the (fabulously-named) Count Zinzendorf, Bishop of the Moravian Church, bought Lindsey House as well as the grounds of Beaufort House.
Lindsey House had been built in 1674 for the Earl of Lindsey but has since been extensively remodelled and is now split into separate, distinct, homes. Today it occupies 96-101 Cheyne Walk.
96-101 Cheyne Walk is the site of Lindsey House
In the grounds of Beaufort House the Count hired architect Sigismund Gersdorf to build a Chapel and Minister’s House, which dates from 1753 and can still be seen today.
Today the Moravian Burial Ground stands on the site of the stable yard of Beaufort House, once part of Thomas More’s Chelsea Estate where he live from 1520-1535.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons – Jan Kip 1708
At the edges you can still see Tudor brickwork, the last surviving remnants of his mansion.
There’s also a collection of restored shields at the back fo the burial grounds which chart the history of Beaufort House’s owners through time.
Moravian Burial Ground
Moravian cemeteries are known as God’s Acres and around 400 people are buried here. It’s laid out in traditional style, with flat grave stones symbolising equality in death and separated into 4 areas; for married and unmarried men and women.
However burials still stopped in 1888, today it’s still possible to bury ashes here.
An intriguing gravestone that caught my eye was this one;
In an article from Nunatsiaq News – the local newspaper for Eastern Artic Communities including the Nunavut and the Nunavik territory of Quebec – Kenn Harper sheds some light on the girl’s sad story.
Born Sarah Abraham Uvloriak on 19 December 1895, she was taken – aged 4 – to Europe by Ralph Taber. Taber was a promoter who persuaded people to travel with him to be exhibited in world fairs. Having successfully ‘showcased’ an Inuit at the Chicago World Fair he now wanted to exhibit throughout Europe.
In early November the family; Abraham and Juliane along with their five of their children, were part of an exhibition in Kensington Olympia. The Moravian Church records that sadly on 21 December an Eskimo child had died. She was buried two days later in Chelsea.
While in Europe the couple would lose two more of the children.
This isn’t the only Inuit child buried here. You can also find a tombstone dedicated to;
AN ESKIMO BOY
It’s in the South-West Corner of the site. Having not been baptised, he’s positioned outside the consecrated ground.
The Moravian Missionaries had established a settlement in Labrador, the most Easterly province of Newfoundland and around 1787 Captain James Fraser brought Nunak to England. Sadly I don’t know the circumstances of this voyage – whether Nunak had a say in travelling so far from home – but unfortunately he contracted smallpox and died shortly after his arrival.
Discover more local green spaces in my YouTube video
MORE LONDON INSPIRATION
Open House Festival 2023 is 6-17 September and there are hundreds of London’s unusual and inspiring buildings to visit (some of which are only open to the public for Open House). As ever, there’s so much to choose from and sift through so I’ve done......
In Rotherhithe, you can descend into part of the Thames Tunnel, a ground-breaking slice of engineering history. Here you can step down into the world’s first tunnel dug under a navigable river, built between 1824-1843. Today it’s part of the Brunel Museum and until 15......
Vauxhall Park was opened in 1890 by the then Prince of Wales (later, King Edward VII) but its origin story takes us back to a remarkable couple in the mid 1880s. In 1875 Millicent Garret Fawcett and Henry Fawcett rented 51 South Lambeth Road. The......
Last week I was invited to a preview of the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace. As you probably know, it’s the official London residence of the King and typically members of the public can book to see inside the State Rooms each summer. As this......
Along Vauxhall Bridge Road, look up and you can admire the lovely former frontage of Frederick E. Gillett Ltd, but what’s the history behind it? Built c.1827 the group of houses was originally called Belvoir Terrace. You can see the new block on the nicely......
Once one of the most magnificent Gothic revival churches in London, the Grade I listed St Michael and All Angels in Shoreditch is now set to become office space. It seems quite the juxtaposition, but there’s a lot more to the story… History of St......