St Mary Abbots Church
The small church St Mary Abbots has a long history of construction and deconstruction dating back to the C12th. The current church has stood since the 1870s and was consecrated in 1872 after the old structure was ruled unsafe.
Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott (who also worked on Dunblane Cathedral), the church as it stands combines early-English and Gothic elements including a huge 85 metre spire. The extravagant nature of the church was decided by the then-vicar, Archdeacon Sinclair, who determined that:
‘the house that is to be builded for the Lord must be “exceedingly magnifical” - the work is great - for the palace is not for man but for the Lord’. The church’s interior is described as ‘cathedral like’.
Being hidden in such a populous London location, St Mary Abbots has seen a diverse range of parishioners over the years. Theses include scientist Sir Isaac Newton, political figures Diana Princess of Wales and David Cameron, and authors P D James and William Thackeray. Beatrix Potter was married there in 1913 (much to the disapproval of her parents), before moving to the Lake District.
St Mary Abbots Gardens is nestled away off Kensington High Street where it encircles Saint Mary Abbots Church. The Gardens were a churchyard before being opened as a garden in 1953. They have remained a calm public oasis in the heart of a busy shopping district ever since
The gardens – much like the church itself – are small but beautiful, filled with interesting corners and easily-overlooked secrets. Visitors can find a number of stone sarcophagi and tombstones hidden amidst grass, as well as beautifully curated rose beds and lime trees. In Spring, the grass is speckled with flowers, and in summer the trees that surround the park create a perfectly secluded, tranquil little picnic area.
Alec Clifton Taylor Memorial Gardens
Next to St Mary Abbots Gardens are the Alec Clifton Taylor Memorial Gardens, a quiet little place dedicated to Alec Clifton-Taylor, president of the Kensington Society until 1985. The site was a wasteland until a friend requested a place where he might plant a rose garden in memorial for visitors to enjoy for years to come.
Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Treasure Hunts in London - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of London.
Or read more about London's strange and fascinating gardens in our posts on Highgate Cemetery, Mount Street Gardens and Greenwich Park.