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Including Holy Trinity Minories and the Tower Precinct
Key:   Current observations and notes    Holmes (1897)     Other sources    Maps


St. Mary’ s Churchyard. 
Church lost during WW2. Churchyard now a grassy open space.
Burial place of Richard Brandon, supposedly the executioner of Charles the First. 

¾ acre. This is a very old churchyard, and was much overcrowded. It is maintained by the rector as a garden, but a charge of 1d. is made for entrance. It is neatly laid out. (Holmes)

 WHITECHAPEL CHURCH. - The VAULTS underneath this church, have been suffered to fall into a very dilapidated state; the smell from them, owing to the exposed and decayed state of some of the coffins is very offensive.

The BURIAL GROUND, adjoining the church, abuts upon one of the greatest thoroughfares in London, and is placed in the centre of a densely populated neighbourhood; its appearance altogether is extremely disgusting, and I have no doubt whatever, that the putrefactive process which is here very rapidly going on, must, in a great measure, be the cause of producing, certainly of increasing, the numerous diseases by which the lower order of the inhabitants of this parish have so frequently been visited. The ground is so densely crowded as to present one entire mass of human bones and putrefaction. These remains of what once were gay, perhaps virtuous and eminent, are treated with ruthless indifference. They are exhumed by shovelfuls, and disgustingly exposed to the pensive observations of the passer-by - to the jeers or contempt of the profane or brutal. It appears almost impossible to dig a grave in this ground without coming into contact with some recent interment, and the grave digger's pick is often forced through the lid of a coffin when least expected, from which so dreadful an effluvium is emitted, as to occasion immediate annoyance; most of the graves are very shallow, - some entire coffins, indeed, are to be found within a foot and a half of the surface.

In digging a foundation for a new wall, on the eastern side of the church, the workmen penetrated through a mass of human bones eight or ten feet in thickness; these bones were thrown out, and for some time lay exposed to public view, scattered over the ground in a loathsome humid state; two or three pits were afterwards dug to the depth of eight or ten feet, as common repositories for these bones; and the pits were filled up to within a few inches of the top, with a slight covering of earth over them; family graves also were disturbed, and many coffins exposed,-some of them literally cut in two; in consequence of which much altercation arose between the churchwardens and parishioners. Coffin wood is plentifully strewed over the ground in a rotten and decomposed state. There is a mural monument in the church yard, to the memory of four " twin" children, born in the year 1813. Funerals frequently take place, and much sickness has latterly prevailed in the neighbourhood, especially among children.
(Walker 1839)

1830s view

Present day - a public park

Additional ground, Whitechapel Road, entrance in St. Mary's Street. (3 on map)
Now an open space of rather scruffy grass complete with tumble-down walls, old mattresses, etc. 
2008 update: the area has clearly had a makeover and is now tidy and cared for.

This was called the workhouse burial-ground, the workhouse having been built in 1768 upon a former graveyard, and this piece to the north of it having then been set aside for interments and consecrated in 1796. The workhouse site was built upon some years ago, and the burial-ground became the playground of the Davenant Schools, one of which, the one facing St. Mary's Street, was built in it; in the order for closing it, dated May 9, 1853, it is called the Whitechapel Workhouse and Schools Ground. It is difficult to say exactly how far east the burial-ground extended, but from the Ordnance map and some older plans it would appear that the recent addition to the school in Whitechapel Road has been built in the burial-ground. In 1833 the size was given as 2,776 square yards, but it was stated that in 1832 196 cholera cases were interred in an adjoining piece of ground. This is probably what is now used as a stone-yard, with carts in it.  (Holmes) 

The poor ground, a little distance from the church, is as thickly crowded with the remains of the dead as the burying ground adjoining to the church. (Walker 1839)


2008 (courtesy Robert Bard)

Friends Burial-ground, Baker's Row. (2 on map)
Closed in 1857. Recently revamped and named Vallance Gardens - includes a children's playground.

Very nearly an acre. This belonged to the Friends of the Devonshire House division, who acquired it in 1687. It is leased by the society to the Whitechapel District Board of Works, who maintain it as a public recreation ground. It is well laid out and well kept, being chiefly used by children.

Mile End New Town Burial-ground, Hanbury Street.(1 on map) 
Blocks of flats now on this site.

This adjoined the chapel, and extended from Hanbury Street to Old Montague Street. A school and other buildings have been erected in it, and all that is left is a paved yard, about 250 square yards in size, on the west side of the chapel. 

Approximate location of Hanbury Street ground.

Map of Whitechapel area showing location of 3 grounds mentioned above.

Christ Church Churchyard, Spitalfields.
Vaults cleared during the 1980s as part of a detailed archaeological study.

    The burial
ground has little in common with most of the inoffensively dull patches of grass that most London churchyards have become. This area has been taken over and made full use of by the community. There are community buildings and a playground, and eccentric gardens. In one corner the Bangladeshi community have a vegetable plot overflowing with rampant squashes; I understand that they take the very sensible view that there's no point in growing anything you can't eat. Other gardens are looked after by volunteer gardener Charmaine.  Here fuschias and small olive trees fight for space with tomatoes and beetroot, all decorated by mosaics produced by the local homeless centre to commemorate the passing of a much loved dog. Charmaine did her best to save a luxuriant crop of deadly nightshade, regarded quite unreasonably by the authorities as a danger to children. It would only be such if they ate it.  Sadly she lost this battle. 

l¾ acres. Laid out as a public garden by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association in 1891, the association having undertaken to maintain it for 5 years. (Holmes)

 SPITALFIELDS GROUND adjoins the church, and is literally overcharged with dead. The vault underneath the body of the church is also very much crowded.
(Walker 1839)

The vegetable garden

A bit of everything

Last remaining tombstones

St. Peter ad Vincula Churchyard, in the Tower .
The White Tower is always described as the oldest building here, but the original St Peter ad Vincula may well have predated it,  and was swallowed up by the tower when that was expanded. 
The burial ground was the area to the south of the church. There is now no real trace of its extent, though a couple of large table tombs are next to the church wall.
There are/were extensive vaults under and, apparently, to the north of the church in the area between the church and the Tower Wall. The ground was partially built on when the Waterloo Barracks were built c 1851.
The church is the burying place of some of the most significant names in in English  history; Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, the Duke of Monmouth, and many others who died or were executed at the Tower. A brass plaque in the church records these names. Another plaque tells us that a quantity of human remains were transferred to the vault in 1877, when the church was restored.  

This, with the vaults under the church, was used for the interment of distinguished prisoners. It is a part of the great courtyard, and is about 525 square yards in extent. (Holmes)

St Peter ad Vincula showing burial ground and posing Beefeater.

Aldgate Burial-ground, Cartwright Street.
Exists as an open grassy area on the east side of Cartwright street.

This belongs to the parish of St. Botolph, Aldgate, and was consecrated in 1615. At the beginning of this century it was covered with small houses,
the Weigh House School being built on it in 1846. The rookery was cleared by the Metropolitan Board of Works, and Darby Street was made, gravestones and remains being then discovered. The Metropolitan Public Gardens Association informed the Board of the former existence of a burial-ground, with the result that what remained of the burial-ground was not built upon, but was made into an asphalted playground, about 1 acre in extent, for the children of the adjoining block of tenements. (Holmes)

Rocque. No trace on Horwood. Church Yard Alley became Cartwright Street.

The scene today

German Lutheran Church, Little Alie Street. 
The church is still in use. Rear not accessible, though Google Earth shows the area as an open yard accessed from Buckle Street. 

 A small yard exists at the back of the church. Closed.


Sheen's Burial-ground, Church Lane.
Still open ground, and used as a private recreation area for local residents. The northern part is currently being redeveloped (2006). The Times of 1802 has an advertisement for a ground in Church Lane called 'Cain's Ground' , presumably the name of an early proprietor. 
A private ground, immensely used. It seems to have been at one time used by the congregation of the Baptists in Little Alie Street, and was then called "Mr. Brittain's burial-ground." If so it existed in 1763. After being closed for burial it was used as a cooperage, and now it is Messrs. Fairclough's yard, and full of carts and sheds, &c. A new stable was built in 1894, but the London County Council declined to prevent its erection. The size of the ground is about ½ acre.
SHEEN'S BURIAL GROUND, Commercial Road. -This also is a private burying place. The proprietor of this ground is an undertaker. He has planted it with trees and shrubs, which are sufficiently attractive, but the ground is saturated with human putrescence. 
(Walker 1839)

The London Hospital Burial-ground. 
Now covered by hospital building. See also the Mile End page for the area immediately to the south of the hospital.
In a plan of 1849 the whole of the southern part of the enclosure is marked as a burial-ground, which would be 1½ acres in extent. It was closed on November  25, 1853, but at the hospital it is stated that bodies were interred there after 1859, though not after 1864. Since then the medical school, the chaplain's house, and the nurses' home have been built in it. The remaining part of the ground is used as a garden and tennis lawn for the students and nurses. (Holmes)

Lost Grounds

Roman Cemetery  
Under Collingwood Estate. 
Goodman's Fields.

Burial-ground, Whitechapel Road  
Built on - Whitechapel workhouse. Now offices in Whitechapel Rd. 
See map above for site of workhouse. 

Holy Trinity Churchyard, Minories.

Originally within the city, (Portsoken Ward) now just outside the boundary. Church closed 1899, destroyed by bombing 1941.  Site of burial ground not shown on Rocque or Horwood but probably to the West and South of the church. 
The ground is under the forecourt of No 9 St. Clare Street. 
A burial-ground possibly dating back to 1348. It has been added to the roadway of Church Street, some posts showing its boundaries. It was about 302 square yards in extent. Part has been built upon. (Holmes)

St. Katharine, near the Tower. 
Additional Ground to St Katharine. 
Rocque and Horwood show three grounds - one to the south of the church, one to the east, and a detached ground to the north marked as 'Flemish burial ground' on Rocque. 'A churchyard for the poor Flemings who came over under Elizabeth 1st' (Strype)  The eastern ground was the original medieval burial ground of the St Katherine's Hospital.  All swept away when the docks were constructed in the 1820s.

Bone Yard, Gower's Walk  
No information available on the 'bone yard'. Holmes says replaced by houses.
Pest Field or Plague Pit in Gower's Walk 
Messrs. Kinloch's new buildings cover the site.  
Kinloch's buildings - large warehouses - are still there, to the south of Sheen's ground  between Gower's Walk and Backchurch Street. They are now converted to apartments. 
Despite the new building and residential conversions Gower's walk itself is still a run down, melancholy sort of place, as if brooding on the countless thousands who ended  up there. 


Gower's Walk 2006

Zoar Chapel, Great Alie St. 
Shown on O.S. as 'Baptist Chapel' and on Horwood as 'Dutch Church'. Not on Rocque. Now No. 1 Alie street, a huge soulless office block. 
Now warehouses, shops, and a forge.  


Pest Field, Spital Square 
St Mary Spital Square (1845) took over the building of the Wheeler Chapel opened c. 1670. Burial vaults possible but not recorded or likely. Dem. 1911
Covered by St. Mary's Church, &c.

Pest Field, east of the Mint, and Cemetery of the Convent of St. Mary of Grace  
The Royal Mint  covers the site. Excavated post-war.

Plague Pit, Petticoat Lane  
Built over. Site unidentified

Tower Burial-ground  
Shown on O.S. of 1872 but not on earlier maps. Tower Bridge approach road cut through this.
Outside the wall. Demolished for Tower Bridge.

Sketch map showing location 

St . Mary Spital Priory  
Under Spital Square and Spitalfields Market.   
Extensively excavated in recent years. See Excavations at the priory and hospital of St Mary Spital, London. MOLAS 1997. 

Mill Yard Sabbatarian Chapel 
German Church, Hooper Square
Site of German Church and ground in red; Mill Yard Chapel and ground (Approx.) in blue. Both still in situ. on O.S. of 1873, though a school appears to have been built on part of the German Church ground. Gone by O.S. of 1994; destroyed by railway line to new Midland Railway goods depot between Gowers Walk and Lambeth St. Now covered by modern development.