Christchurch Gardens

Civic pride restored
The fascinating history of Christchurch Gardens as a former burial ground dates back to the 13th Century. It has now been sensitively transformed into a community park for all, rich in storytelling and biodiversity.
"The Christchurch Gardens project is another example of Victoria BID and Westminster City Council working together to enhance the public realm. Christchurch Gardens is now a welcoming area of green space for everyone to enjoy and its reopening comes at a time when access to high-quality greenspace is even more important because of COVID-19."
Ruth Duston OBE, OC, Chief Executive, Victoria Business Improvement District

This site is a former burial ground of St Margaret’s, the church adjacent to Westminster Abbey, a chapel and then a church (Christ Church) stood on the site. Several notable figures are buried on the site including Ignatius Sancho (the first black Briton to vote).

Storytelling, accessibility and biodiversity are key components of the transformation of Christchurch Gardens which has created a welcoming new public realm that invites people to explore, enjoy and learn. All three existing statues were retained in the design including a bronze charter scroll of the Suffragette Movement (Caxton Hall, the movement’s meeting place, is opposite).

The design incorporates subtle design hints and storytelling that acknowledges its historical links to Christ Church and the burial ground, with improvements to its layout to provide a restful neighbourhood green space to aid health and wellbeing, especially relevant during Covid-19. Key improvements include; a planting design that promotes biodiversity and supports pollinators, new habitat incidentals, improved signage and a new history panel, and the introduction of SuDS treatments.

One of the greatest successes of the project is the balancing of the past with the present. Located within a conservation area the site is surrounded by a variety of architectural styles from red-brick Victorian mansion blocks, brown granite post-modern towers, to the white patterned facades of contemporary buildings.

The design balances this varied vernacular with a curated material palette reflective of the colours and materiality of its surroundings, to complement the setting and allow the new planting to become the focus.
A unique paving pattern references the existing burials beneath the garden, which transforms from dry to wet when it rains. Other details include skateboard deterrents in subtle ecclesiastical arch shapes and visible bracing to backs of benches to reference church doors.

Planting situated on the perimeter edges of the garden is inspired by the stained glass windows of the former chapel that stood on the site.
The site layout was rearranged to create new and improve existing paths to better connect the space with the adjacent Strutton Ground food market and to encourage people to walk through the gardens. The new layout also increases natural surveillance and provides a sense of openness.

Planting was positioned around the garden boundaries adjacent to walkways to create a colourful edge, to allow enjoyment of nature both inside the garden and from surrounding streets. The new inclusive design allows greater accessibility for all, with a near sevenfold increase in seating, with armrests and backs to several benches for the mobility impaired.

The garden is welcoming with places for all visitors, in both sun and shade. A new performance space enables communal activity, elsewhere there are places for contemplation. The central lawn allows for groups of friends to gather and flexible play for children or family picnics.
A composition of natural stone, hardwood timber and bronzed finishes instils a character of permanence and historical importance to the new space, with robust elements finessed with elegant lines and intricate details, akin to the materiality and presence of the former church and gravestones.

The presence of burials was carefully investigated by the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA). Research by the design team at the WCC Archives also uncovered an 1846 burial record book. The 136 hand-drawn plates were photographed and ‘stitched’ to form a map revealing Sancho’s burial place. This burial map also helped inform trial pit investigations.
To improve habitats that encourage biodiversity, the planting design selected over 50% of species from the RHS ‘Plants for Pollinators’ list, with 79 new species, totalling over 3,700 new plants within the proposals. Log piles to attract Stag Beetles and bird and bat boxes were included with the completed scheme. Delayed pruning of seed heads and grasses was proposed during winter to extend foraging for birds.

The SuDS strategy aims to retain 100% of water runoff onsite, through the introduction of permeable paving and subterranean diffusion units.
Christchurch Gardens is about creating a place informed by the changing ways in which people are living with emphasis on peoples’ health and wellbeing, encouraging awareness in sustainability, climate change and to become custodians of their city spaces.

Since opening the scheme has prompted positive feedback from businesses and residents and has won a series of awards and commendations. The prevalence of green public space in the city has never been as important as it is now for health and wellbeing.

“The work that has been undertaken at Christchurch Gardens has completely transformed the atmosphere of the area. We want Westminster to be full of parks and spaces where people can relax and enjoy peaceful surroundings. These gardens provide that space and more with a painstakingly designed scheme paying tribute to the site’s unique heritage.”

Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business and Planning, Westminster City Council


Christchurch Gardens, Victoria, London


Victoria Business Improvement District / City of Westminster


0.3 Hectares


Lead Designer, Landscape and Public Realm Design
Planning Approval, Concept to Tender, Construction monitoring


Landscape Institute Awards 2021 – Finalist ‘Excellence in Small Landscape and Garden Design’
New London Architecture Awards 2021 – Finalist ‘Placemaking’
New London Architecture Awards 2021 – Finalist ‘Wellbeing’
Society of Garden Designers Awards 2021 – Winner ‘International or UK Communal Landscape and Garden’
Society of Garden Designers Awards 2021 – Finalist ‘Hardscape Design’
The Pineapples Awards / Design Council 2021 - Finalist ‘Public Place’
London in Bloom Awards 2021 - Gold Winner
London in Bloom Awards 2021 - Category Winner ‘Small Park of the Year’
Green Flag Award 2021
Green Flag Heritage Accreditation 2021


Design Team: Environmental Protection Group (Drainage/SuDS), Tim O’Hare Associates (Soils), Light Bureau (Lighting), ToThePoint (Graphics), WSP (Engineering, WCC Highways Framework Contract).

Project Management/Coordination: Gardiner & Theobald.
Construction: FM Conway (WCC Highways Framework Contract).

Other Team Members: Continental Landscapes (Planting), The Ecology Consultancy (Ecology), MOLA (Archaeology), Soundings (Consultation), Leslie Clark (Principal Designer pre construction), Robinson Low Francis (Quantity Surveyor), ARA and Plowman Craven (Surveys), BDB Pitmans (Legal), Corrie-Bond French (Writer/Copyeditor), Gristwood and Toms (Trees), Street Tree Ltd (Trees), Barrell Tree Consultancy (Arboriculture).

Photo Credits:

Victoria BID, Mickey Lee, Jill Mead.