Inventory Site Record

St Mary the Virgin Churchyard, Woodford (Redbridge)

Brief Description

The churchyard of St Mary the Virgin was a post-mediaeval graveyard, now closed to burials. The red brick church was built in 1817, although the church tower dated from an earlier church of 1708. The building burnt down in 1969 and has been substantially rebuilt. There are monuments dating from Tudor times, with fine late C18th and early C19th memorials in the churchyard, which is planted with beech, Scots pine and yew. An unmarked tomb is the grave of Sir Thomas Roe (d .1644) who was one of England's foremost foreign ambassadors. A large draped urn marks the graves of the parents of William Morris, who lived nearby at Woodford Hall and at Water House, now in Lloyds Park.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Woodford Parish Church; St Mary's with St Philip and St James
Site location:
High Road, South Woodford, Essex
E18 2QS
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Tube: South Woodford (Central). Bus: 179, W13.
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.stmaryswoodford.org.uk

Full Site Description

The churchyard of St Mary the Virgin is a post-mediaeval graveyard; it is now closed to burials. The red brick church was built in 1817 by Charles Begon, although the church tower dated from an earlier church of 1708. In 1816 Parliament had passed an Act for 'enlarging, improving, and repairing the church' at a cost of £3000; after the Bishop of London dedicated the church, 1,209 poor persons were fed. In 1891 the church was enlarged to accommodate the expanding population of Woodford. The church burnt down in 1969 and was substantially rebuilt, the new building designed by John Phillips. It was re-dedicated by the Bishop of Barking on June 3 1972, and incorporated a chapel dedicated to St Philip and St James, commemorating the amalgamation of the two parishes the previous year. While the church was being rebuilt services were held in the Memorial Hall, which had been donated to the parish by Sir John Roberts in 1902 in memory of his brother.

There are monuments dating from Tudor times in the church such as that for Rowland Elrington and his wife. The churchyard is planted with notable beech, Scots pine and yew and contains many fine monuments, including Samuel Robinson's Neo-classical monument of 1784; the Raikes Mausoleum of c.1797 for Robert Raikes, a pioneer for the education of poor children; the tall column of the Godfrey family monument, c.1742 by Sir Robert Taylor; the Micklefield Monument, c.1826, and William Hunt, 1767. An unmarked tomb in the churchyard is the grave of Sir Thomas Roe (d.1644) who was one of England's foremost foreign ambassadors. A young courtier in Elizabeth I's reign, he was knighted by James I and explored South American rivers for the Prince of Wales. His first ambassadorial work was to successfully establish trade foundations in the Bombay region through visiting the Mogul Emperor of Hindustan. He subsequently travelled extensively and his achievements included negotiating peace treaties between Turkey and Poland, and between Sweden and Poland, and securing trade treaties with Danzig and Denmark. He was sent abroad as English Ambassador Extraordinary to a conference for settling general European Peace and James I had a gold medal struck in his honour. Manuscripts he collected on his travels are now in the Bodleian Library and the British Museum. A large draped urn in the churchyard marks the graves of the parents of William Morris, who lived nearby at Woodford Hall, which had been located behind the Memorial Hall, and at Water House, now in Lloyds Park (q.v.).

Next to the church and bordering the churchyard is an Arts and Crafts style Parish Hall dated 1902. A fine copper beech in front of the church has a tree plaque marking it as one of the Great Trees of London. Edward Walford, writing in 1883, describes the monuments in the churchyard in some detail as well as a tremendous yew: 'on the south side of the church is a yew-tree of enormous growth; the trunk, at three feet from the ground, is over fourteen feet in girth, whilst its boughs form a circle of nearly two hundred feet. The local tradition is that this tree is as old as the church but it is probably older even than the fabric which was pulled down in 1816.'

Sources consulted:

Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Edward Walford, 'Village London, the Story of Greater London, Part 2 - North and East', first published 1883/4 (1985 ed., The Alderman Press); Arthur Mee, 'The King's England: London North of the Thames, excluding the City and Westminster', (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1972); Peter Lawrence and Georgina Green, Woodford, A Pictorial History, (Phillimore, 1995); LB Redbridge, South Woodford Conservation Area Appraisal and Enhancement Scheme, April 2002

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ400907 (540015,190728)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Church of England
Site management:
Church, supported by grant from Westerleigh Group
C18th; early C19th
Listed structures:
LBII*: Raikes Mausoleum, Godfrey Monument. LBII: St Mary's Church, North monument, Keepe monument, monument outside south porch (Samuel Robinson & Micklefield Monuments)
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:
South Woodford
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Archaeology Priority Area
Other LA designation:

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