St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury is well known for its elegant squares and green spaces, but St George’s Gardens is a little less explored…

Nestled behind The Foundling Museum, this former burial ground is packed with history.

Moravian Burial Ground | Look Up London

When considering a sharp rise in London’s population growth, we tend to think of the 19th century, but overcrowding has been a problem for London as far back as the 17th century.

The Great Fire of London – which destroyed 80% of the City in 1666 – pushed development beyond the City walls onwards and in 1713 this oddly shaped patch of land was purchased.

St George’s Gardens

It was planed as an off-site, joint burial ground for St George-the-Martyr, Holborn and St George’s Bloomsbury.

Originally the land was divided in two, one side for each of the churches. This can be seen clearly in the map below;

Image credit: / John Rocque 1746

Today a path of stones suggests the former wall through the middle of the gardens.

St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury | Look Up London

Like many London burial grounds it was closed due to overcrowding in 1885. As there were laws about building on consecrated burial grounds, it was transformed into a public garden.

It opened as one larger garden sometime between 1884 and 1889.

St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury | Look Up London

The wonderful statue above is from 1898 by John Broad. It depicts Euterpe, one of the nine muses from Classical Greece who specialised in lyric poetry. This was formerly on the facade of the Apollo Inn at Tottenham Court Road but, when demolished in 1961, it was moved here.

Notable Burials

The first person buried here was a man called Robert Nelson who died in 1715. A Royal Society fellow, Nelson later became a nonjuror – someone who refused to swear an oath in support of the new monarchs King William III and Queen Mary II.

St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury | Look Up London

As a member of these non-conformist Christians he made a deliberate choice to be buried in this more unusual location. Initially the public weren’t keen on being buried so far from churches, really on the edge of London at that point.

Hoping that it would help others ‘to overcome the aversion that has been discovered to its use’. As an influential church figure his plan worked and more burials arrived. The grounds became known locally as Nelson’s Burial Ground – a fine legacy!

Another large memorial is this chest tomb towards the centre of the garden.

St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury | Look Up London

It commemorates Anna Gibson (1659-1727), the sixth and – supposedly – favourite daughter of Richard Cromwell and granddaughter to Oliver Cromwell.

But not all the burials here are marked so lavishly.

Eliza Fenning (1792–1815) was a cook, charged with murdering her employer’s son and daughter-in-law. The dumpling’s she’d provided were found to contain arsenic. This sounds damning, but arsenic was used across Georgian Society and Eliza claimed she had also become sick from eating the same dumplings.

Image Credit: where you can also read more about her story.

Despite continually professing her innocence, and overwhelming public support, she was found guilty and hanged on 26 July 1815. After her funeral in St George the Martyr, a procession of 10,000 supposedly accompanied her coffin to the gardens. Unfortunately there is no memorial that I could find to her in the gardens.

Lastly, you can find a memorial plaque to Zachary Macaulay;

St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury | Look Up London

Macaulay is buried in the gardens but his exact whereabouts are unknown. Aged 16, Macaulay went to live in Jamaica, working on a sugar plantation and was shocked by the treatment of enslaved workers, eventually leaving aged 24.

He became a staunch anti-slavery activist and in 1790 helped set up a home for emancipated slaves in Sierra Leone. Although well-meaning, the experimental colony was a disaster. The colony included former African slaves who were loyal to the British during the American Revolutionary War and poor Black Londoners whom the authorities wanted to removed from England’s streets.

No one was familiar with the land and unreliable supplies, revolts, poor agriculture and plain ignorance lead to many deaths and some even throwing in their lot and joining slave traders.

So look out for St George’s Gardens when you’re next in Bloomsbury, it’s a wonderful – and historic spot – to enjoy in the sunshine.

St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury | Look Up London

Get the latest London secrets to your email
See the city from a new angle, discovering little things you miss everyday and get the latest news about upcoming tours.
Once a week. No spam, just inspiration.
Your details will never be shared with any 3rd parties


  • St Mary Moorfields | Look Up London

    City Churches | St Mary Moorfields

    Having visited most of them, I thought it would be a fun long-term project to write about every City Church. There are 43 within the Square Mile (give or take a couple, depending on which you include) and in this post we’re visiting the only......

  • Fulham Road Jewish Cemetery | Look Up London

    The Hidden Jewish Cemetery on Fulham Road

    Recently I’ve been spending a bit of time researching private walks in Kensington and Chelsea. As such, one of the wonderful little historic gems I’ve stumbled across is the hidden Jewish Cemetery on Fulham Road. While taking a picture of Sokol Books (more on that......

  • Whitehall Historic House | Look Up London

    Whitehall Historic House | Cheam’s 500 year old house

    In Sutton you can find an amazing historic gem, a surviving house – built c.1500 – that’s now a brilliant local history museum. Here’s why you should visit Whitehall Historic House… Under an hour from Waterloo Station, Whitehall Historic sits in Cheam, a village dating......

  • Hole in the Wall, Kensington | Look Up London

    The Odd History Behind The Hole in the Wall in Kensington 

    While planning a bespoke private tour in the back streets of Kensington I noticed an odd marking on google maps; “The Hole in the Wall”. When I saw it in person it’s rather more substantial than a hole and a little plaque gives a hint......

  • History Behind The Eastcheap Camels on Peek House

    Have you ever noticed the Eastcheap camels on Peek House? Looking up along Eastcheap provides plenty of interesting things to spot. From the juxtaposition of old (St Margaret Patterns) and the new Walkie Talkie, to one of London’s most intriguing (and tiny!) sculptures But the......

  • Oldest Map of London | Look Up London

    Visit The Oldest Map of London

    Until 26 October 2022 The London Metropolitan Archives have a free exhibition of epic London maps. As if that wasn’t enough to pique my interest, they have on display the oldest surviving map of London. This is Civitas Londonium, a print dating from c.1633 but......


  • Douglas Millan


    Another little bit of London, close to work, that I didn’t know about! Thank you for another interesting post.

    May 19, 2021 at 11:28 am
  • Interesting! I wish I’d know when I visited the Foundling Museum. I’ll have to visit again one day.

    July 6, 2021 at 1:23 am

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.