• on 22nd June 2023

Garden of reflection at St Thomas’

Garden of Reflection – a story of restoration and renewal at St Thomas’ Church Old Charlton


The west end of the church yard has been in need of restoration for many years. During the building of the vicarage (1980’s), gravestones were relocated from the Maryon Road end of the site and redistributed at the west end. Rubble, broken gravestones, and other items also found their way on to the graveyard. In time, vegetation grew over the area, including bramble bushes. Although this proved to be a wildlife haven, it was considered by members of the church and the community that the area should be reclaimed, and gravestones should be located and tidied.

In 2019 a substantial effort was made by members of the community working with the church warden and some other members of the church community to clear the west end area of weeds and uncover the existing stones. A committee was established to map out a vision for the future, a garden of reflection. Covid19 paused much of the original work. Working within government guidance for Covid, work was re-established, with the predominant portion being taken by members of the local community. In most part the volunteers were retired members of the community and worked organically to restore gravestones and reverently uncover and reuse broken stones. The broken pieces, mainly unidentifiable, were made into a dry-stone retaining wall of remembrance. A plan was made that would include planting sympathetically to encourage insects and other wildlife.

Anne Flinders and other graves

The gravestone of the wife of Matthew Flinders, the explorer who is credited with circumnavigating Australia, has been cleaned and the area around the grave has been remarked. Other gravestones that have been buried under vegetation for many years have been cleaned and their edges have been determined. Every effort was made to ensure that areas of known graves have been uncovered. There are, however, many unmarked graves in the churchyard and stones were removed in the last century when renovations took place. Informal investigations have happened and discoveries made regarding other people buried in the graveyard, some of which are of local and national historical interest.

Current plans

The restoration work has been carried out with much enthusiasm by local people connected to, but not necessarily members of, St Thomas’ church. This has been mainly driven by the church warden, James Kinsella, and Pat Mayhew, a local garden enthusiast. Their dedication and vision have driven the project; a dedicated team of local people have worked consistently to rebuild and renovate the area so that it can be a place of calm, reflection, and restoration for the community. The features include –

  • Raised flower beds and flower bins
  • Dry stone memorial wall
  • A double bench (donated by RGB)
  • A pergola
  • Smaller benches
  • A pathway

We are so grateful to the team of volunteers (some of whom are shown above) for their vision, dedication and hard work.

Picking up on the story of Matthew Flinders, Local author, Ruth Taylor, has written a children’s book. You can find out more about The Cat and the Captain: Trim the Cat & Matthew Flinders by visiting this link to her publishers

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