Despite being built atop of a disused burial ground, the Mount Street Gardens of today give away little of their sinister past. They feature a bronze-topped fountain from the 19th-century, gate piers made of Portland stone, trees from north and southeast China, and a host of nesting birds. The neighboring Carlos Place boasts one of Emilio Greco’s statues and a fountain designed by acclaimed Japanese architect, Tadao Ando. The Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception and the neighboring Grosvenor Chapel serve as the only reminders of its original purpose.
The land was first put to use as a burial ground in 1723. Two years later, a workhouse was added to the site, followed by Grosvenor Chapel in 1730. The eeriest thing about the location, however, is not the bodies buried beneath, but the lack of them and the reason for their disappearance.
In Victorian London, bodies were in high demand. Surgeons needed to test their new medical theories; what better subject for such experiments than the corpses of the recently deceased? Grave robbers or “resurrectionists” would loot graveyards and sell what they could find to medical schools.
In the 1850s, a series of Burial Acts ended the practice by closing any graveyard that was deemed guilty of health risks. The burial ground at Mount Street Gardens was one such victim of this legislation. Before these laws were brought in, however, the Church of the Immaculate Conception was built. Its gothic design calls back to a time of resurrectionists and experimental surgeries, the London of the past.
Know Before You Go
Grosvenor Chapel is open Monday-Wednesday, Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Grosvenor Chapel was made famous by the opening scenes of the Richard Curtis film, Love Actually. The Church of the Immaculate Conception is open every day from 7:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.