Open House Festival

Tower and Churchyard of St Mary's Hornsey


Unknown, 1500

High Street Hornsey , N8 7NT

Grade II* listed tower with restored chapel remaining from Medieval parish church. Tour includes crypt, ringing chamber & main roof with excellent extensive views in all directions. Organised by Friends of Hornsey Church Tower.

Getting there


Turnpike Lane




41, 144, W3


Accessibility notes

The medieval tower spiral stair steps are worn and uneven. There is a continuous rope handrail in place. There is a short flight of external steps to the ground floor chapel.


The Tower

The Tower of St Mary's is the oldest building in Hornsey. Mostly built in the late middle ages, it was repaired and heightened when the church was re-built in 1832/3 to cater for Hornsey’s growing population.

A new, much larger, church was built on the site of the present infants school in 1889 to serve what was now the suburb of Hornsey. The Tower survived demolition of the rest of the old church in 1927 because the new church did not have any bells that could be rung. In 1950 the Tower became the centrepiece for a Garden of Remembrance dedicated to those residents of Hornsey who gave their lives in the Second World war. The Tower also outlived the demolition in 1969 of the Victorian church that had been built to replace it.

Prior to the formation of the Friends of Hornsey Church Tower (FoHCT) in 1989 the Tower had become in a very poor state of repair. It is owned by the Parish which has little money available to contribute to its upkeep. Grants, fundraising, and donations have enabled work to be done to restore the Tower, but much work remains necessary to ensure the Tower's long term future. Through 'The Intimate Space' set up by the Parish, the Tower Chapel of Ease is hired out for use by the community. This brings in much needed revenue to help with running costs.

The Churchyard

The Churchyard surrounding the Tower is a peaceful haven for wildlife and people. It contains many historical tombs and interesting trees. In the 19th C its image as an ancient and atmospheric place of burial was sufficiently well known to have a fictional mention in Charles Dickens' 'David Copperfield'. During the past two years its value as a much needed open space became very evident. Much use has been made for many outdoor activities, including musical events that could not take place indoors.

The Churchyard is owned by the Parish but is managed by Haringey Council. Their funding is limited and FoHCT carry out regular work to help maintain and improve the Churchyard and its Garden of Remembrance.

Because Hornsey parish was large and encompassed Highgate and Stoke Newington, some famous people are buried here.

Samuel Rogers was a famous poet (and a rich banker) but is now known for whom he knew – literary giants like Byron, Coleridge and Thomas Moore and the painter J M W Turner. Much of what we know about these comes through him.

Thomas Moore, Ireland's national poet, was in the early nineteenth century almost as popular in England as Byron. He lived at the foot of Muswell Hill in 1817 but while he was there his beloved daughter Barbara died. She was buried here but the exact site has been lost.

Also buried here are Harriet Long and Jacob Walker who both died in 1840. The latter was "in America the faithful slave, in England the faithful servant".

Part of the former churchyard is now covered by a Church primary school.

The Garden of Remembrance

The Garden of Remembrance was created in 1950 by the Borough of Hornsey and dedicated to those residents of Hornsey who gave their lives in the Second World war. It is located on the footprint of the demolished 1832 church, with the remaining Tower forming its centrepiece. The Garden has been completely replanted by the FoHCT and is looked after by them on a regular basis.

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