Friends of St Martin's Gardens

Saturday, June 03, 2006

History of St Martin's Gardens

In 1801 the site of St Martin’s Gardens was farmland, fields called Upper Meadow and Upper Brook Meadow. In 1802 an Act of Parliament was passed to turn the 4 acre site in to a burial ground. The area was handed over to St Martins in the Fields (Trafalgar Sq) for the burial of its parishioners. The Act included the building of a chapel and buildings for the clergy for the purposes of “to officiate in burying the dead”.

In 1817 an Act of Parliament was passed so that the trustees of the cemetery could give up some of the land to build Almshouses. This was complete in October 1818.

In 1854 an Act of Parliament was passed to grant leases on unused portions of the burial ground for building development. This included the demolition of the chapel and clergy buildings on the site. It is thought that the large mound in the centre of the gardens, being much larger than the original mound, is the site of a large pit containing these bodies.

In 1879 some additional rooms, an infirmary and a chapel were built, specifically for the residents of the Almshouses. In 1884 the Camden Town Cemetery was full and was no longer in use. The Vestry of St Pancras acquired the ground from St Martin’s in the Field, although the latter retained the freehold. In 1884 the ground was laid out as a garden for the cost of £1,717.10s.6d.

On 24 July 1889 the gardens were officially opened by Countess Rosebery commemorated by a plaque on the wall in the NE corner. Born Hannah Rothschild, she was one of England's greatest heiresses inheriting £2 million in 1874 upon the death of her father. She married Philip Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery on 20 March 1878, she was given away by Disraeli. The Earl was said to have had three ambitions; to marry the richest woman in London, win the Derby and become Prime Minister – he achieved all three.

In 2005 and 2006 the London Borough of Camden commissioned and completed a series of improvements and changes in planting in St Martin’s Gardens to enhance the community use of the Gardens. There was a ceremony on 10 June 2006 to re-dedicate the Gardens, carried out by the current Countess of Roseberry.


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