Inventory Site Record

St Mary's Churchyard, Lewisham

St Mary's Churchyard, Lewisham (Lewisham)

Brief Description

A church has existed at Lewisham from at least the C10th, an earlier church replaced in the C15th, the current building dating from the late C18th. St Mary's Churchyard was the parish burial ground until 1856 when Lewisham Burial Board opened Ladywell Cemetery and part of the old churchyard is now laid out as a garden. The churchyard has various chest-tombs and monuments, including a number from the medieval church. There are numerous mature trees, including yew and holly and the churchyard is reputedly the best site in Lewisham for ferns.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Parish of St Mary the Virgin Lewisham
Site location:
Lewisham High Street/Ladywell Road
SE13 6LE
Type of site:
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail: Ladywell. Bus: 47, 54, 75, 136, 185, 199, 208, 284, P4, 122.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.;

Full Site Description

A church has existed at Lewisham from at least the C10th. In 918 AD Elfrida, daughter (niece?) of Alfred the Great reputedly gave her lands in Lewisham, Greenwich and Woolwich to the Abbey of St Peter at Ghent in return for which the monks built the earliest church on this site. Although there is no trace of this early building, the oldest part of the current building dating from the late C15th was incorporated into the rebuilding of 1774-77 by architect George Gibson. The church interior was restored in the C19th and it contains a number of fine monuments including those to Anne Petrie (d.1787), Margaret Petrie (d.1791) and Mary Lushington (d.1797), the latter by John Flaxman. The former vicarage on the corner of Ladywell Road was built in 1692-3 for Revd George Stanhope, Dean of Canterbury, who was visited there by Dean Swift. A spring discovered nearby in the C15th was named Our Lady's Well after the parish church, recalled in Ladywell Fields (q.v.). Lewisham became fashionable in the C17th and C18th, the area later changing as it was built up after the railway arrived in c.1849 when it became a middle-class suburb.

The churchyard has various good chest-tombs and monuments including that of John Howe (d.1736), a cutlery-maker who lived at the Lower Mill in Southend; he and his brother Ephraim's business was famous in the early C18th, the mill later becoming a corn mill that was in use until the early C20th and the millpond is now Peter Pan's Pool. The Stainton memorial was erected for Henry Tibbats Stainton, a famous entomologist who had lived in Mountsfield House, whose grounds became Mountsfield Park (q.v.). Another fine monument is that of Ebenezer and Elizabeth Blackwell, who were frequently visited by John and Charles Wesley. John Wesley preached in St Mary's in 1777 and Lewisham is referred to in his diaries as a place of refuge. Others buried here include the Irish poet Thomas Dermody (d.1802) and Captain Charles Weller of the East India Company. The inscriptions, now much eroded, were transcribed in 1889 by Herbert Kirby and Leland Duncan and further research was later carried out by Ken White in 1992.

The churchyard is reputedly the best site in Lewisham for ferns, with at least 7 species recorded, the back of the churchyard wall covered in hart's tongue and black spleenwort, the latter established nowhere else in the borough.

Sources consulted:

John Archer, Ian Yarham, 'Nature Conservation in Lewisham', Ecology Handbook 30, London Ecology Unit, 2000 and Lewisham Walk 2 leaflet; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993).

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ379748 (537950,174850)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Diocese of Southwark
Site management:
LB Lewisham Greenscene Department, Glendale Grounds Management
Listed structures:
LBII*: Church, churchyard wall
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:
St Mary's
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance II
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Archaelogical Priority
Other LA designation:
Green Corridor; Local Landmark

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