Inventory Site Record

St Nicholas Churchyard, Chislehurst

St Nicholas Churchyard, Chislehurst (Bromley)

Brief Description

The church of St Nicholas surrounded by its burial ground forms a picturesque group on the edge of the common. Its tall shingled spire has long been a local landmark. There has probably been a church here since Norman times; the present church is largely C15th with C19th alterations. The churchyard boundaries remained the same from at least 1680 to 1860s, with a lych gate to the south. A sign of the growing suburb was the extension of the churchyard in 1890 on a site previously occupied by 2 cottages, and in 1892 the lych gate was moved to the new boundary. Since then the layout of the churchyard has remained substantially unaltered. There are some good monuments in the church and churchyard, in part accounted for by the fact that the highly influential Walsingham family were Lords of the Manor of Scadbury; their Scadbury Chapel is in the church.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Chislehurst Parish Church
Site location:
Manor Park Road/Church Row/Church Lane, Chislehurst
Type of site:
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail: Chislehurst then bus. Bus: 162, 269, 61, 160

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2008
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

The church of St Nicholas surrounded by its burial ground formed a picturesque group on the edge of the common. Its tall shingled spire has long been a local landmark. It is probable that a church has existed on this site since Norman times, and when the church was rebuilt in the C15th it incorporated traces of the earlier fabric; a small Saxon window is visible above the west door, and the Norman font is still used. The C15th building largely remains today; it was restored in 1557, and enlarged with some rebuilding in 1849 by Benjamin Ferry when the south aisle and vestry were added, in 1858 by Wollaston, and in 1896 by Bodley and Garner when a new east end was added. The spire was rebuilt after a fire in 1857. An C18th view of St Nicholas's Church, at that time in Kent, shows the C15th church built mainly of rough flint, its church tower lying on the west side of the north aisle. The Scadbury Chapel at the east end of the north aisle was traditionally used by the Lords of the Manor of Scadbury, many of whom were buried in the vaults under the chapel from medieval times up until the late C19th. Thomas Walsingham purchased the manor in 1424, and the rebuilding of the church in 'Perpendicular' style has been attributed to his son, also Thomas. Sir Francis Walsingham was Spymaster to Elizabeth I. The Walsingham Memorial is in the north-east of the Chapel.

The boundaries of the churchyard remained the same according to a map of c1680 to the first 25 inch OS map of 1861, each showing a lych gate to the south. A new one was erected in 1866, its design based on that of St George's, Beckenham (q.v.). Fencing on the west side of the churchyard was provided under a will of 1459 and it is possible the fence today recalls that early design. A sign of the growing suburb was the extension of the churchyard in 1890. Two cottages had been pulled down by the trustees of the late Earl Sydney, probably with the intention of building new properties on the site, but as a result of a circular urging the extension of the churchyard, the trustees sold the land to the church for £450, which with legal fees came to £689 and was paid for by local subscription. In 1892 the lych gate was moved back to the new boundary, built on the lines of a Wealden house with imposing wooden supports and a tiled roof. In the following year the additional burial ground was consecrated by the Bishop of Dover. The layout of the churchyard has remained substantially unaltered to the present day. There are 2 pedestrian entrances with substantial timber gates at Church Row and Church Lane, and the path layout appears much as shown in 1861. The path from the lych gate leading to the south door of the church is bordered by rounded sculpted yew trees; yews also border some sections of the other main paths, and a mature yew is found to the east of the church. Elsewhere in the churchyard are scattered conifers and a number of oak trees. The western end of the northern boundary is a substantial brick wall, with lower close-boarded fencing at the eastern end. On the other sides the graveyard is enclosed by low wooden paling.

Abutting Church Lane is a small building, now probably used as a garden store, which was built in 1890 as a mortuary; prior to this corpses awaiting burial had to be kept at the Tigers Head opposite the lych gate. It is clad by segments of tree trunks with bark, with brick corner piers and a tiled roof. There are numerous graves and tombs in the churchyard, mainly of the C18th and C19th. The earliest existing church register of burials date from 1558, and the church has a record of the gravestone inscriptions and memorials inside the building. North of the west gate are two large sarcophagi to Col. George Lewis and family, dating from 1795, and to the south east is a plain cross to William Willett, 1915, who introduced daylight saving or Summer Time. Also buried here are Sir Malcolm Campbell who held the land and water speed record, and Fr Charles Lowder, first Vicar of St Peter's London Docks, whose grave is marked by a white cross north of the church. Set in the south-west corner of the boundary is a memorial in the form of a drinking fountain commemorating Rev. Charles Janson, 1882. A modern feature on the northern boundary has the names of those members of the parish who have been cremated inscribed on plates set onto the wall, in front of which is a burial area for children.

Sources consulted:

B Cherry & N Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 2: South' (1983, reprint 1999) p.176/7; Spurgeon D. with Hopper R., Discover Chislehurst and its Environs (Baron Buckingham for the Chislehurst Society, 2007); Webb E. A. et al, 'The History of Chislehurst, its Church, Manors and Parish' (George Allen 1899); Webb E. A., 'A Guide to the Ancient Parish Church of St. Nicholas Chislehurst' (George Allen 1901).

LPGT Volunteer Research by A J Allnutt & J M Rawcliffe, 2008

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ444699 (544408,169903)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Church of England, Diocese of Rochester
Site management:
Team of church volunteers maintains churchyard on first Saturday each month.
C15th onwards
Listed structures:
LBII*: St Nicholas Church
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:
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

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