Surveying the Churchyard Wall

Boundary Wall

The Master Plan aims to create a large new area of public space between Deptford Church Street and Deptford High Street, to the south of the churchyard. We are now in discussion with Tideway and Lewisham Council who have been awarded S106 funding. This funding will look at new ways to integrate this plan with the church and provide a sense of openness to the area.

The church is keen for these plans to be sensitive to the mission and aims of the church life and fundamentally to retain the primary purpose of the churchyard, which is a place of tranquility, contemplation and safe space for all to enjoy.

There has been little research carried out in the past on the churchyard wall and limited amount of records and archives to provide a concise historical account. This survey is arguably the most up to date and thorough analysis that will help provide a full assessment of the significance of this structure including; architectural interest, historic interest, group value, social value, former uses and local distinctiveness.

The historical value placed on the wall is its association with Thomas Archer, who was one of the foremost architects of his time and S. Paul’s is notably one of the finest Baroque churches in London. The wall has long been part of the communal life of the area and is a boundary between the public realm and the sacred burial ground.

The church is built of Portland Stone, whereas the churchyard wall is built of brick – the bricklayer employed at the time of construction was a Deptford man, Thomas Lucas. The Rectory that once existed, but was demolished in 1889, was also built of brick. The churchyard wall was a requirement stipulated upon the Church Commission, who laid down that all new churches built by the Commission must be provided with a burial ground, which in turn, must be enclosed by a stone wall with iron gates.

Churchyard Wall

The Rocque map of 1745 shows that the original burial ground was located at the east end of the Church, where the original church walls enclosed this site.

The 1835 painting shows the church from Deptford High Street, situated behind the entrance gates that once fronted the pavement. The boundary between the churchyard and Church Street was uneven due to the Baptist Chapel situated at the east end and described in the diary of John Evelyn as ‘a wonderful concourse of people at the Dissenter’s Meeting House in this parish [Deptford] and the parish church left exceedingly thin’. The Baptist Church which adjoined the east wall of the church was demolished in the late 1960s.

The wall suffered some bomb damage during the Second World War. However, although there were many repairs carried out to the wall over the past, much of the footprint is original.

Much of the wall would remain unaltered until the demolition of the Rectory and later with the 1910 Act of Parliament which permitted church grounds to become public open spaces. S.Paul’s was one of the first churches in the country to act in this initiative and the gravestones were cleared, and arranged around the churchyard walls and tree planting commenced in the 1890s. The churchyard was officially opened on 12th June 1913 by the Lord Mayor of Deptford, Alderman Schultz.

More recent changes include: demolition of two sections of churchyard wall in 1995; the formation of a temporary opening in the church wall in 1999; the creation of a new pedestrian and vehicular access to Crossfield Street; the erection of iron railings to the wall on the north in 2004 and the construction of two new buttresses to support a section of the south boundary wall in 2011.

The churchyard wall could certainly do with conserving and structurally securing areas of that have become fragile and decayed. While there are other areas that could do with improving for security measures. Further updates will be made in due course!

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