Barnet church to map churchyard in London first

St Mary-at-Finchley will be the first church in the Diocese of London to take part in an England-wide project 

A laser survey taking place in a church yard
Laser survey St Mary’s churchyard

St Mary-at-Finchley is the first church in the Diocese of London to map its churchyard as part of a National Lottery Heritage Fund funded project.

The National Grounds Survey (NCBS) is the first burial project of its kind anywhere in the world. St Mary-at-Finchley is the first church in the Diocese of London to begin surveying and mapping its churchyard as part of this exciting heritage project.

AG Intl Ltd has been commissioned by the Church of England to survey and map every churchyard in England. St Mary-at Finchley has been given permission to be the first church in the Diocese of London to go ahead with the work, following the award of a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Church of England, with support from Historic England and other partners, including Caring for Gods Acre, has already created a digital map and database of all burial grounds in England, which will be accessible through the Church Heritage Record. This next phase involves recording in detail the grave memorials and ecology of churchyards and linking these with other resources.

The general public will have free access to view the digital mapping and GDPR-permissible records, allowing users to search for records from anywhere in the world. The records can be used for cultural projects, and by educational and research establishments.

St Mary-at- Finchley is the oldest building in Finchley. Some people believe that this was a sacred site in Saxon times. Certainly a church was in existence by the 13th century, when it was known as “The Church of Our Ladye at Fynchesley”.

Throughout its life the church has been affected by historical events – ornaments and furnishings were destroyed during the Civil War in the 17th century, and in 1940 a bomb devastated the east end. The oldest visible parts are the tower and north wall. These are predominantly of 15th century date, but include some even older stonework. In the churchyard by the porch are early 18th century tombstones decorated with skulls and cherubs.

The churchyard was extended in 1722, and in 1812 there were major roof repairs after the lead covering was stolen. With the arrival of the railway in 1867, Finchley’s population increased rapidly. A new south aisle was built in 1872, and hot water heating and gas lighting were installed. Further extensions were made in 1932. The last major restoration took place in 1953, after the wartime bombing.

The church is listed Grade II* and the churchyard contains seven Grade II listed tombs and monuments, including an obelisk monument to Major John Cartwright (“Father of Reform”) and a Georgian sundial which features in a 1793 watercolour of St Mary’s by JMW Turner.

From Monday 11 March to Friday 15 March, St Mary-at Finchley will be opening its church and churchyard to the general public as part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Open House Week.

Tickets for heritage tours can be booked through Eventbrite.

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