Our History

st johns wood church hardwicke shepherd 1828

During the Middle Ages, St John’s Wood really was a wood, which took its name from the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem who owned the land.  There was a small settlement on the bourne or river that flowed to the south, with a church dedicated to St Mary from about 1400.  This became known at St Mary on the Bourne – later shortened to St Marylebone.  London itself began to expand northwards from Westminster in the 17th century as far as the New Road – now known as Marylebone Road.

Marylebone Parish Vestry – a distant predecessor of what is now Westminster City Council – bought a plot of land north of the New Road in 1808, to use as a burial ground. They also built a chapel – the present St John’s Wood Church – to serve the burial ground.  The architect was Thomas Hardwick, who shortly afterwards was commissioned to build the present St Marylebone church. This happened at the same time that Thomas Lord moved his cricket ground to its present site, and when the Bishop of London came to consecrate St John’s Chapel on 24 May 1814, the congregation were invited to “Mr Lord’s new cricket ground” for refreshments after the service. The first cricket match on the new ground was played a few weeks later.

Flower beds in St John's Wood gardens

The burial ground proved popular, and by 1886 it was full. It was closed to new burials, handed over to the local authority, and laid out as a park (which it still is). St John’s Chapel meanwhile, which had for a long time been used for more than just funerals, and had developed a life of its own as a centre of worship and ministry for the local community, was incorporated into the parish of Christ Church Cosway Street. It finally become a parish church with its own parish in 1952.