Inventory Site Record

St Mary's Churchyard, Plaistow

St Mary's Churchyard, Plaistow (Bromley)

Brief Description

Until the 1860s, the Plaistow area was rural, with three large houses to the north. Development began after the arrival of the railway and the need for a church arose to serve the population north of Bromley. A square site was procured in 1861 and a simple Chapel of Ease was built, consecrated in 1863; the church was enlarged in 1881-1900. A church primary school was built to the west, and a vicarage to the south. The churchyard, closed for burials in 1893, has gravestones mainly in the south and east, with a Garden of Remembrance to the west. The original eastern boundary was moved back in 1931 when the road was widened.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
St Mary Bromley
Site location:
63 College Road, Bromley
Type of site:
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail: Bromley North. Bus: 126, 261, 314, 336

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/11/2007
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

In the 1860s, the Plaistow area, then in Kent, was countryside, with three large houses to the north of the site of the church: Plaistow Lodge, Plaistow Hall and Springhill. With the arrival of the railway the area saw housing development and the need for a church arose to provide for the residents in the north of Bromley. A square site was established in October 1861 fronting Plaistow Lane, now called College Road, then surrounded by open fields. A simple rectangular building with nave designed by Waring and Blake was built as a Chapel of Ease to Bromley parish church. Two foundation stones on the east and the north walls were both laid by Lady Scott of Sundridge Park, later Lady Farquhar. She and her first husband, Sir Edward Scott, were great benefactors of the church and also provided land for Plaistow Cemetery (q.v.) in 1892. St Mary's was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt Rev Charles Longley on 15 September 1863. The church was added to between 1881-1900, with a chancel of 1881 and transept of 1891 both by W R Mallett, and north transept in 1899-1900 by Wadmore, Wadmore and Mallett. The south-west tower was never built as planned.

St Mary's Primary School was built on the western boundary in 1865 and at one time had a separate entrance onto College Road. Children used the north-west corner of the churchyard as an extended playground from pre-WWII until the school's closure in 1986. The former school buildings have since been converted into two small houses, 'School Cottages', fronting Fairfield Road.

By 1912 the church and its graveyard were surrounded by housing, including a large Vicarage with substantial rear garden on land to the south of the original site, which is now used as a church hall. A picture of the church in 1871 shows a flint wall with central wooden gate onto College Road, which at that time had no footpath, apparently 'inhibiting for pedestrians and traffic alike' (G Eames). In 1931 Bromley Council was permitted to move the churchyard wall some 6 feet back to create a new footpath, and studs, no longer in evidence, were set in the road to show the original boundary; a plaque in the churchyard wall refers to this. A cobbled flint wall was built to form this new eastern boundary, the work overseen by Morris Church who had built the original wall. The old wooden gates were replaced by two sets of ornamental wrought-iron gates 'of lovely design' (MacFarlane) made by a farrier in College Road.

The churchyard boundary to the north today is close-boarded fence and shrubs, with a tall hedge and some iron paling along the western boundary, the latter possibly once the playground railings moved back. The churchyard was used for burials until 1893 when Plaistow Cemetery opened; today most of the gravestones are found in the south-east area, the majority in the east, and fewer in the south; in the west is a Garden of Remembrance with small flowerbeds. Although G Eames comments that there are 'no memorials of note', many dating from the 1880s are in good condition. Straight paths link these three areas around the church. A short avenue of small-leaved lime trees leads from the main gate towards the church porch, probably planted in 1997 when the new extended porch was built. Elsewhere are sycamore, conifers and holly on the south, with sycamores and a horse chestnut tree on the west side and silver birch and lime in the east.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 2: South' (1983, reprint 1999), p166; E L S Horsburgh 'Bromley: from the earliest times to the present century' (1929); Dr Peter Boydon, 'A short guide to St Mary's Plaistow Bromley for 29th September 2007' (2007); Geoffrey Eames, ' A personal appreciation of the Church, its features and surrounds' (1998); W Angus MacFarlane, 'A History of Plaistow Parish Church' (1963).

LPGT Volunteer Research by Jeff Royce and Peter Smith, 2007

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ402701 (540220,170146)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Site management:
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

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