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Memorials at Bunhill Fields

History of City Gardens

The parks, gardens, churchyards and public realm contribute not only to the modern streetscape but also to the rich historic environment, with open spaces providing the setting for conservation areas, listed buildings, ancient monuments, above-ground archaeology and other historic assets. The City of London Corporation was responsible for the creation of many new open spaces and planting of trees throughout the City in the post-war period. The City Gardens team is responsible for the maintenance of three sites that feature on the Historic England ‘Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of specific historic interest in England’, which identifies sites of particular historic significance. The special historic interest of the churchyards is frequently recognised through listing, scheduling and other designations.

The City’s gardens are a living witness to London’s fascinating past – in fact many of them only exist as a result of the destruction caused by two key historical events - the Great Fire of London of 1666 and the Blitz of 1940-1.

Following the devastation of the Second World War, a decision was made by the City of London to create new gardens as well as rebuild offices and homes. The bombed-out remains of Wren churches, such as Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden and St Dunstan in the East Church Garden have been transformed into secret havens where people visiting the City can escape from the bustling crowds.

Many of the older gardens in the City have their own unique history. The rotunda garden at West Smithfield lies over an area which in ancient times was used for jousts, tournaments and executions. Finsbury Circus is the oldest public park in London, dating from 1606, and Postman's Park is home to the famous Watts Memorial, which celebrates Londoners who gave their lives saving others.

Further information on the history behind our gardens can often be found on the garden’s noticeboard – or you can find out more at the Museum of London or Guildhall Library.

Bunhill Fields has been afforded the highest level of recognition as a historic landscape with a Grade I entry on the National Register of Parks and Gardens. In addition, some 75 individual tombs were individually listed in 2011 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

13 March 2012
Last Modified:
05 September 2019