St Olave Hart Street Churchyard

St Olave Hart Street Churchyard
(Photo: Sally Williams)
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St Olave, Hart Street, is a medieval church in the City of London dedicated to the patron saint of Norway, St Olaf. The church is documented from the late 12th century and was completely rebuilt in the 15th century. It is best known as the resting place of 17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys, who was buried in the church nave in 1703 next to his wife Elizabeth.

The church was one of several in the east spared by the Great Fire of London, but was heavily damaged during the Blitz in 1941 and restored in the mid-1950s. The church is grade I-listed, with the mid 17th-century entrance on Seething Lane and 18th-century wall and railings listed grade II*. Charles Dickens referred to the church as ‘St Ghastly Grim’ because of the macabre ornamentation above the gateway.

St Olave’s Churchyard is a quiet place of respite from busy City streets, located on the south side of the church off Seething Lane. The numerous tombs of the churchyard have been replaced by a garden which has recently undergone a refurbishment. The churchyard is the final resting place of 16th-century botanist, William Turner known as ‘the father of English botany’. The 400th anniversary of his death was in 2014.

The recent replanting of the garden includes plants associated with William Turner, including Artemisia abrotanum, Vinca minor, Anemone nemorosa, Cornus sanguinea, Camellia sinensis, Polygonum bistorta and Lavandula latifolia. The garden features a labyrinth formed from contrasting dark and light granite setts which has a Jerusalem cross as its centrepiece.

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