St Alfege Church, Greenwich

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Coordinates: 51°28′49.7″N 00°00′34.8″W / 51.480472°N 0.009667°W / 51.480472; -0.009667

St. Alfege Church
St. Alfege Church, January 2005
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Administration
Diocese Southwark
Clergy
Vicar(s) Rev Chris Moody
Laity
Director of music Stephen Dagg

St Alfege Church is a Church of England place of worship in the town centre of Greenwich in the eponymous London Borough. Of medieval origin, the church was rebuilt in 1712–14 to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor

Interior view

Early history[edit]

The church is dedicated to Alfege (also spelt "Alphege"), Archbishop of Canterbury, and reputedly marks the place where was martyred on 19 April 1012, having been taken prisoner during the sack of Canterbury by Danish raiders the previous year. The Danes took him to their camp at Greenwich, and killed him when the large ransom they demanded was not forthcoming.[1]

The church was rebuilt in around 1290. It was in this building that Henry VIII was baptised in 1491.

The patronage of the church was given to the abbey at Ghent during the 13th century. Following the suppression of alien priories under Henry V, it was granted to the priory at Sheen with which it remained until transferred to the Crown by exchange under Henry VIII in 1530.[1]

During a storm in 1710 the medieval church collapsed, having had its foundation weakened by burials both inside and outside.

The present church[edit]

Following the collapse of the medieval church, the present building was constructed, funded by a grant from the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches, to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor, one of the commission's two surveyors. The first church to be built by the commissioners, it was begun in 1712, and basic construction was completed in 1714;[2] it was not, however, consecrated until 1718.[3]

The church is rectangular in plan with a flat ceiling, and a small apse serving as a chancel. The east front, towards the street, has a portico in the Tuscan order. A central arch cuts through the entablature and pediment – a motif used in Wren's "Great Model" for St Paul's Cathedral.[3] A giant order of pilasters runs around the rest of the church: a feature Kerry Downes suggests may have been added by Thomas Archer, who, according to the minutes of the commission, "improved" Hawksmoor's plans.[2] To the north and south are wide projecting vestibules the full height of the church, with steps leading up to the doors.[3]

Hawksmoor planned a west tower, in the position of the existing one, which had survived the collapse. However the commission was reluctant to fund it, and the medieval tower was retained. In 1730 John James refaced it, and added a spire. Hawksmoor's design, published in an engraving in 1714 had an octagonal lantern at the top, a motif he was later to use at St George in the East.[2]

An organ was provided in the mid eighteenth century by George England.

During the Blitz on 19 March 1941, incendiary bombs landed on the roof causing it to collapse, burning into the nave. The walls and the tower remained standing, but much of the interior was gutted. The church was restored by Sir Albert Richardson in 1953.

The Church is currently used to celebrate 'Founder's Day' of Addey and Stanhope School and The John Roan School.

Notable burials[edit]

Notable burials, in and around the church, include: Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis (d. 1585), General James Wolfe (d. 1759), English-born explorer of Canada Henry Kelsey (d. 1724), and actress Lavinia Fenton (1760).[4] Noted merchant, Lloyds underwriter and art collector John Julius Angerstein (d. 1823) was a churchwarden there during the early 19th century, and is also buried there.

Literary connection[edit]

In Charles Dickens's novel Our Mutual Friend, Bella Wilfer marries John Rokesmith in St Alfege Church.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Daniell, A.E. (1897). London's Riverside Churches. London: Constable. pp. 289–98. 
  2. ^ a b c Downes, Kerry (1987) [first published 1970]. Hawksmoor. World of Art. London: Thames and Hudson. pp. 110–11. 
  3. ^ a b c Cherry, Bridget; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1990) [1983]. London 2: South. The Buildings of England. London: Penguin Books. 
  4. ^ 'Greenwich: The parish church', Old and New London: Volume 6 (1878), pp. 190–205 accessed: 26 May 2007

External links[edit]