Just out of sight of the shops on Chelsea’s King’s Road, on Moravian Close, sits the Fetter Lane Moravian Church. Close by is God’s Acre, the burial grounds where members of the congregation from the 18th and 19th century were laid to rest.
The Moravian Church has its origins in the 15th century, in the lands of Bohemia and Moravia, both of which are in modern-day Czechia, and is one of the oldest evangelical Protestant churches. Renewed under leadership from the German Bishop, Count Zinzendorf in the 18th century, the Moravian Church arrived in Britain, establishing a chapel on Fetter Lane in London. In 1750, Bishop Zinzendorf purchased Lindsey House in Chelsea, turning it into the international headquarters of the Church; the burial ground was built nearby on the site of Beaufort House stables.
The square patch of grass is enclosed by well-maintained hedges and is divided into four quadrants, each with neat lines of flat rectangular gravestones, of which there are around 400. As per tradition, men and women are buried separately, further separated based on whether they were married or unmarried. Some of the congregation’s early leaders including Peter Böhler, John Cennick, and James Hutton were laid to rest there.
After Zinzendorf’s death in 1760, Lindsey House and much of the land was sold off—save for the burial ground, which was used for interments up until much later. The Moravian Church in London continued to minister from the Fetter Lane chapel, until it was destroyed in the Blitz.
The congregation moved to its current location next to the burial ground in the 1960s. In 1969, John Rendall and Anthony Bourke, the owners of the local antique shop Sophisticat, were granted permission by the vicar of the chapel to exercise their pet lion, Christian (purchased over the counter at Harrods), in the burial ground. Apparently Christian enjoyed playing football there; he was later released into the wild in Kenya.
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