HARRY JONES AND OPEN SPACES
London is far richer through the life of one who has just passed away than many Londoners realise. Prebendary Harry Jones, Chaplain-in-Ordinary to the Queen, was a man of such varied interests and such powerful influence that he leaves behind him countless humble mourners in the city and in the country, as well as among the intellectual and wealthy of the earth. And yet, by reason of the age he had attained, he must have lost many of those who were his companions in the more active years of his life.
Harry Jones, as he liked simply to be called, sat loose to certain points of doctrine or ritual closely cherished by his brother clergy; and among the numerous men who served under him as curates, some have o'er-leapt their master and become noted for more or less latitudinarian eccentricity; but he himself was sound in heart and mind and practice, and in connection with social, sanitary, and municipal questions he was eminently wise and successful. 'That which is good,' he wrote, 'is of God, though it be but the sweetening of a drain; and that which is anywise right has its inevitable relation to the Lord of Righteousness.' This was his creed; while his 'Christian tie' was 'the desire to do the will of God.' Such men are sorely missed.
It is not, however, with regard to his social activity or his parochial life that I wish to say something about Harry Jones. These, no doubt, will be dealt with by his friends and colleagues; while he has left behind him an unusually large number of books and papers relating his own experiences and describing his own work. It is solely upon his connection with the movement for providing open spaces that I venture to dwell-a connection so valuable that it should not be forgotten.
A RAGGED CHURCHYARD
During the years 1874 and 1875, while rector of St. George's-in-the East, he made up his mind that the 'ragged churchyard' attached to this church, disused for burials for twenty years, and the graveyard at the back of the adjacent Wesleyan Chapel, should be thrown into one and converted into a public garden. Having made up his mind he carried the scheme into effect. This was not actually the first churchyard to be thrown open, for St. Martin's little burial ground in Drury Lane, and that of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate, had been to a certain extent laid out for the public; but both of these grounds had to be closed again for some time before they were ready for the extensive use which was to be made of them. Prebendary Jones set to work in a business-like fashion, and after much labour and threatened failure, and after two whole days in the Consistory Court, he secured, on behalf of the Vestry, the required faculty. The Wesleyan ground was purchased for £2,700, the wall between it and the churchyard was pulled down, a new public pathway was made from Cable Street to Ratcliff Highway, and the garden was tastefully laid out with broad paths, stretches of grass, flower-beds, seats, and a fountain. As it has been open ever since, viz., twenty-five years, it may claim to have been the example for all the subsequent churchyard or burial-ground gardens laid out in London. Harry Jones describes the fight he had, and the difficulties he encountered in order to carry out this scheme in more than one of his books, but the result is shortly summed up in the following quotation from a letter I received in '95:-
'Ours was, indeed, the first Churchyard Open Space, with a thoroughfare provided, and the making of it caused an adaptation or fresh application from the Act which made the formation of the others easier. I well remember Lord Meath coming and talking the whole prospect of the matter over.
'We had a disused 'Non-con.' burial-ground adjacent to our churchyard joined to it so as to make one area, unbroken by any fence between 'consecrated' and 'unconsecrated' soil. A unique procedure, I believe, which has created a precedent.'
WHAT TO DO WITH BURIAL GROUNDS
Not only has St. George's Gardens proved one of the most useful in London, but the Vestry has cause to be proud of the very efficient manner in which it has been kept up. The part of the burial-ground immediately east of the church was laid out and added to the garden in 1885, with the assistance of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association. Now there are, in London alone, no less than ninety-nine public gardens which have been made from disused burial-grounds, and the example set in London is being followed in the provinces.
In the immediate proximity of St. Luke's, Berwick Street, and St. Philip's, Regent Street, Harry Jones had no opportunity of making a recreation-ground, but open-space movements in the neighbourhood always had his hearty co-operation. From the commencement of its existence he was a member of the Public Gardens Association, and very numerous are the letters and postcards the officers of that body have had from him on points connected with the history or formation of open spaces.
FROM ST. GEORGE'S TO THE CITY
Early in 1897, Harry Jones was appointed by the Bishop to the City living of St. Vedast, Foster Lane, vacant through the death of Dr. Sparrow Simpson. He immediately interested himself in the church, and published a small pamphlet upon the history of the building and of the patron saint. With the parish of St. Vedast are annexed those of St. Michael le Querne, St. Matthew, Friday Street, and St. Peter Cheap, Wood Street, none of the three churches being in existence. There is no churchyard left belonging to St. Michael le Querne, while those of St. Vedast and St. Matthew are entirely surrounded by buildings; they are little hemmed-in courts, not suitable for making into public resting-places. But that of St. Peter Cheap, the site of the burned church, is differently situated, the eastern side being bounded by the pavement of Wood Street, close to Cheapside. This space, small in itself, is well known to City men by reason of the fine old plane tree which grows in it, showing a welcome green and throwing a grateful shade in the midst of the busiest part of the busiest city in the world. Upon the subject of the improvement of this little churchyard, its preservation from encroachment, and the security of the tree, Harry Jones devoted considerable time and attention; and to his death, in connection with certain negotiations respecting adjoining property, he maintained a valuable defensive attitude. In May, 1897, he wrote:- 'Please tell him' (the Secretary of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association) 'that a picture of a nook in appropriately named 'Wood Street' has been growing in my mind's eye, and looks as if it might approach realisation.'
THE RULING PASSION IN DEATH
Twice during the last week of 1900-the week in which he was seized with fatal illness-did he write to the Secretary on the same matter, as well as to the churchwarden of St. Peter's. The widening of Wood Street had necessitated new railings being placed under the tree. The following is a quotation from one of those letters:- 'This morning I had a note from the churchwarden of St. Peter's, whom you have seen, and enclose it. In my reply I hope that 'the new railings won't injure the old tree, and that means will be found to avoid cutting roots in the way of them.' And I add, 'History as well as present feeling will appreciate special care in the preservation of what is a living London monument.''
It is satisfactory to be able to report that special care has been taken by the Corporation to avoid in any way injuring the roots of this tree, the 'living London monument,' which he so faithfully guarded, who loved the bustle of the city streets while he loved the peacefulness of his Suffolk home.
One word more with regard to the churchyard of St. George's-in-the-East. To fully appreciate what an incalculable boon its opening has proved it should be visited. On warm and sunny days every available seat in the garden will be occupied. The grass is green and refreshing, the trees are shady and the flowers are bright. Rough men are there, and coarse girls from 'the Highway,'-now called St. George's Street-but there is perfect order and good behaviour. There are also many quiet folk, poor folk, and little children. It is their own and their only park they not only love but respect it. And while most of them may be thoughtless, or engrossed with sordid cares of their narrow lives, some, perhaps are remembering, with a sense of deep-felt gratitude, the dauntless and large-hearted rector who won the garden for them. - 'Leisure Hour.'