St. John’s Church Gardens is a small yet attractive open space surrounding the church of St. John the Evangelist in Waterloo, South London. A proactive partnership between Lambeth Council, the Friends of St. John’s Churchyard and others has resulted in ongoing and positive changes to the appearance, feel and safety of the churchyard and given residents and visitors a place they can be proud to have and use.
The site contains formal gardens, mosaic sculptures and murals as well as many heritage and biodiversity features: to protect these, sustainability and community involvement are at the very core of its management. The garden is co-managed by the Friends and Lambeth Council, which work through a paid garden supervisor to engage with and develop confidence/skills to homeless people who have become part of the churchyard's community. The churchyard contains mosaics in the form of a sculpture garden which adds variety and colour to a site steeped in history and growing community spirit, and complements the heritage character of the church walls and the church itself.
Significant funding secured from surrounding developments is now beginning to deliver important changes and improvements to the churchyard, such as restoring heritage gates and walls, providing new interpretative signage and adding both colour and diversity to the landscaping within the site for all to enjoy. A new project starting in 2020 involves repairs and restoration of the entrances to the church, which will address a wide range of safety and access issues, making the whole site even more welcoming to visit and use.
Once a place to avoid due to persistent past antisocial behaviour, it is a now a pleasant place to stay and relax, and a place to appreciate what can be done by the community to provide a place they can be proud of.