Home page
  Introduction   Introduction    Books     Links   City    North London   South London

Key:    Current observations and notes      Holmes notes of 1897    Other sources       Maps


Additional information taken from Southwark's Burial Places by kind permission of author Mr Ron Woollacott.

St. Mary’s Churchyard.  
Site of a Saxon church. Church rebuilt in 1720 and in 1793; demolished in 1876 to facilitate road widening.  At this time the churchyard was laid out as a garden. Burial ground enlarged in 1637 and 1665 as well as 1757 and 1834. Closed 1854. 
Some bodies moved to Nunhead in 1876 - at this time an unidentified corpse was found wearing a black suit and boots. 
 Now a bleak park offering little respite from what is probably the most architecturally hideous area of London - The Elephant and Castle. The shopping centre opposite was so appallingly dreadful that someone decided to paint it red, probably as an ironic joke. The red paint is now slowly washing away. 
  The graveyard has a row of mainly unreadable headstones laid flat, with one headstone (to Mrs Cross) still erect against the fence. 
Burial place of playwright Thomas Middleton (d. 1627) and George Powell, King of the Gipsies (d. 1704.) 
Bell's Weekly Messenger for June 20th 1830 describes a lively scene that took place on the previous Sunday.

On Sunday afternoon, about six o'clock, the neighbourhood of Newington Butts was in a considerable state of alarm in consequence of the violence of a large assemblage of Irish. It appears that the body of a man named Mahony was to have been interred in Newington Church-yard at three o'clock, at which hour the clergyman was in waiting to perform the ceremony. From some cause or other, however, the corpse and its numerous attendants did not arrive until six o'clock, and then there was no clergyman in attendance. The circumstance was explained by the sexton, but to little purpose. The friends of the deceased said that they could do as well without the parson and they were determined to bury the body; with this view they hastened to the grave, and the chief mourners seized the spades of the grave diggers, and commenced operations, threatening to annihilate anyone who interfered to prevent them. The church-yard and its vicinity soon became a scene of uproar and violence. At this time Mr. Dowling, the superintendent of police, arrived with a party of constables, and in a very short time peace was restored and the ringleader of the riot in confinement. The corpse was detained in the church, with the understanding that it would be buried in the morning at ten o'clock.

  acres. This was enlarged in 1757 and 1834, and is now maintained as a public garden by the burial board, the freehold being vested in the rector. It is well laid out. (Holmes)

St. Peter's Churchyard, Walworth.
John Soane church, built built 1823-25. Churchyard closed in 1853, crypt around 1860.  Crypt cleared in 1894. Became a garden in 1895.
Church bombed during the war; many people were killed or injured in the crypt. Church now restored.
Churchyard reportedly run down and vandalised in 1989. Now a dull park with gravestones around the edge. 

1¼ acres. This is also maintained as a public garden by the Newington Burial Board, having been laid out by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, at the sole cost of the Goldsmiths' Company, and opened in May 1895.

Sutherland Congregational  Chapel-ground, Walworth
In Liverpool Street, Now Liverpool Grove. Now lost. In use c 1842 -1856. Chapel closed in 1894 and became a cinema. On O.S. of 1871. 

This is close to St. Peter's, about 300 square' yards in size, and closed. It has been somewhat encroached on by the school, which was enlarged in 1889. A few tombstones exist in the passage on the north side of the chapel and in the ground at the back. It is fairly tidy. (Holmes)

York Street Chapel-ground, Walworth.  
Now Browning Street. South side, between King and Queen Street and Morcambe Street. Chapel built 1790 as Locks Field Chapel - Browning the poet was baptised here.  Burnt down 1978. Graveyard closed in the 1850s, laid out as a garden in 1887. 529 Bodies exhumed in 1994 to make way for a housing scheme, and moved to Nunhead. 
The only thing left is the tomb of Richard Holbert. Otherwise it is an uncared-for space.On Horwood and On O.S. of 1871.

About 300 square yards at the rear of the chapel-and not visible from the street.. It closed and full of tombstones, but is to be laid out. (Holmes)

East Street Baptist Chapel-ground, Walworth. 
Now Lost. Founded pre 1800. At the corner of Camden Street (now Morecambe Street) and East Street. Burial records cease in 1837. Known is some documents as the South London Burial Ground. In 1936 several coffins were unearthed by workmen in East Street. Shown on Horwood.  Chapel On O.S. of 1871.

About 400 square yards, with one tombstone in it. It is closed and very untidy. (Holmes)
St. John’s Episcopal Chapel-ground, Walworth. 
In Penrose Street. Shown on Horwood, (Then Harford Lane) and on O.S. of 1871. To the west of the railway line, under the Manor Place Refuse Transfer Station, the modern name for the vestry depot for carts, manure and gravel. 

 In 1843 it was estimated at 6,400 square yards. The chapel is in Penrose Street, and is now the workshop of a scenic artist, the front wall having been heightened for the purpose of advertising the South London Press. The burial-ground is approached from  Occupation Road, Manor Place, the railway line going across it on arches, and is now the vestry depot for carts, manure, gravel &c. An
adjoining plot is the site for the baths and washhouses. This ground is in danger of being encroached upon, and new bays for dust and other erections of the sort are often built in it. (Holmes)
New Bunhill Fields, Deverell Street, New Kent Road 
  Shown on O.S. of 1871 as a timber yard next to a congregational chapel. Now  asphalted tennis courts south of the Joseph Lancaster Primary School. A curious wall surrounds the area, broad at the bottom and tapering to the top, built of ancient looking chunks of recycled brickwork and masonry, roughly bonded with cement. Whether this is a remnant of the wall mentioned by Walker it is hard to say. It is impossible to see over, so would certainly deter bodysnatchers (And photographers.)

Also called Hoole and Martin's.- ¾ acre. This was a private speculation, and was most indecently crowded. Between 1820 and 1838 10,000 bodies were buried here, the vault under the chapel containing 1 ,800 coffins. The ground was closed in 1853, and it then became a timber-yard. The chapel now belongs to the Salvation Army, but the burial-ground is still "Deverell's timber-yard," and is covered with high stacks of timber. There are many sheds in it, and iron bars, &c.

NEW BUNHILL FIELDS. - This burying ground is situate in the New Kent Road; it is a private speculation, and belongs to Mr. Martin, an undertaker .

It has many attractions for survivors; the fees are low, the grounds are walled round and well watched, and the superintendent of the place resides upon the spot. At the entrance of the ground a chapel has been erected; it belongs to the Wesleyan connexion; under this chapel, arched with strong brick-work, is a spacious vault, containing about eighteen hundred coffins. There are not more, I believe, than twelve bodies placed in lead out of the entire number.  Iron gratings are placed on each side of the vault, and its entrance is by steps, through rather an extensive doorway. It appears that the original proprietor of the place was named Hoole. Two coffins, one containing his remains, and the other, stated to contain the remains of his daughter, are placed in the bottom of the vault, at the upper end, on the left hand side of it, enclosed with iron railings. The other coffins are placed in rows, one above the other; some of them distinguished by small plates, placed upon the end or sides of the coffins, having particular inscriptions. The following struck me as deserving notice :-


" I have given the lovely to earth's embrace,
She has taken the fairest of Beauty's race."

A strong ammoniacal odour pervades this vault ; it is not so offensive as that which I have experienced in most other depositories of this description ; this I attribute, to the constant transmission of the noxious vapours,  (through open iron gratings ) to the circumambient atmosphere. The burial ground and vault, .it appears, have been employed, for the purposes of interment, about eighteen years, during which, not less than ten thousand bodies have been inhumed and deposited, within this " narrow spot of earth," and the vault connected with it. Yet, around this tainted atmosphere, many houses are erected and boards are placed offering ground to be let upon building leases! (Walker 1839)

 Valentine Haycock, a former grave-digger in Martin's ground, in the Kent Road, who gave important evidence before Parliament, has paid a terrible penalty in his health. Six years since, in a conversation I had with him, he told me that " the stench in digging graves In that ground was horrible; that he had frequently scrambled out of the hole he was making,—that his eyes struck fire,—his brain seemed in a whirl, and that he vomited large quantities of blood." This man deserved a better fate. (Walker, 1842)

Possible church or vault burials
Holy Trinity, Trinity Square
Built 1823-24
Click here for a note on church and vault burials.