Royal Borough of Greenwich
Greater London England
Postal Code: SE18 5AR
|Cemetery notes and/or description:|
In a list of what are believed to be pre-conquest churches, the so-called Textus Roffensis mentions one under the name of ‘Wleuuic', almost certainly Woolwich. It was probably a modest building on the same hill site as its successor, which lay just north-east of the bend in Church Hill, across today's grass plot behind the elevated viewing platform over the Thames, on the north side of the churchyard.
A stone church, first dedicated to St Lawrence but later to St Mary Magdalene, probably succeeded the original one shortly after the Norman Conquest. Its form and outline are known from engravings of 1698 and 1739, and from a full but muddling description written in 1736 when it was scheduled for demolition. The demise of this church followed from its exposed position near the edge of a precipitous sandy cliff eaten away by an increasingly busy road. As early as 1631 local residents petitioned the Admiralty that the road was in a poor state, 'so that the foundation of the parish church is thereby in danger'. It was 'in hazard speedily to fall', repeated the parishioners three years later when nothing had been done, 'and the bones of the dead are washed out of the churchyard into the river'. The consecration of the re-built church took place on 9 May 1740.
The churchyard has been completely cleared of grave markers, save for the monument on the grave of Tom Cribb, the noted English prize-fighter. As at March 2010, some headstones are to be found stacked against the east boundary wall, but hidden by vegetation. Inside the church's Lady Chapel is a simple memorial tablet to Henry Maudslay who was buried in the churchyard. He designed the Chapel, but is famous for his work in the engineering field. In one of the vestries can be found a stained glass window commemorating the deaths of some 600 souls who perished in the sinking of the Princess Alice in 1878 within sight of the church. (text by Geoffrey Gillon)