St Giles-in-the-Fields

Back to Projects
  • Winner of BALI award for Community and Schools.
  • Sensitive renovation of the historical churchyard of a Grade I listed church.
  • Encouraging use of churchyard as a public park.
  • Liaison with heritage groups and local community.

St Giles is a Grade I listed Georgian church in the heart of the West End of London, close to Centre Point and Tottenham Court Road tube station.The churchyard is owned by the Church of England but leased by the London Borough of Camden as a public park.

The churchyard had fallen into disrepair and although it was used by local residents, workers and tourists, it was increasingly attracting anti-social behaviour. There was also a 1960s playground on the site which did not meet current health and safety standards. Access to the churchyard from Shaftsbury Avenue was poor and meant that few of the many people passing by even knew it was there. Camden tendered a project to renovate the churchyard which we won with proposals for a programme of heritage research, public consultation and sensitive design appropriate to the setting.

An essential part of our work was to establish the kind of design that would be desirable and acceptable for a sensitive and historic site. We worked in consultation with English Heritage, The Georgian Group and the Diocesan Advisory Committee to understand the historical importance of the site and to achieve the necessary consents for our landscaping to take place. The Museum of London also had a watching brief on the project, because the site had been a plague burial ground, and they carried out regular checks when excavations were being undertaken.

We also organised public consultation on the project through meetings, workshops and publicity for the design: as well as being sensitive to heritage we had to create a space that would contribute to the life of the area and be valuable for local residents and workers.

Our landscape design for the site was superficially simple but created a beautiful and effective space. We maintained many features of the historical churchyard, reusing paving materials, rendering and pointing existing walls and repairing railings.We redesigned the play area with a focus on timber structures to give a softer feel more sympathetic to the setting.We also improved the entrance from Shaftsbury Avenue, lowering the walls to make the churchyard more visible and inviting.The walls were topped with railings which matched the original railings in other parts of the churchyard.

St Giles now hosts a twice-weekly world food market along with other regular events. It has become a more popular destination for everyone from office workers using the coffee stand and garden to children using the playground. The increased accessibility and use have overcome the problems of anti-social behaviour and this is a lovely quiet place in the heart of the city.

The scheme won the Community and Schools award from the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) in 2015.

View related Projects