St. Mary's Church



St. Mary’s Church once stood just outside the St. Mary’s Gate at the north-west corner of Greenwich Park.

The church was built between 1823–1825 on land given by the Crown and the Royal Hospital as a chapel of ease for the nearby parish church of St Alfege to reduce overcrowding. It could accommodate 1,700 worshippers.

The architect was George Basevi, who had attended school in Greenwich and was a pupil of Soane. The church was constructed of brick with stone dressings and had a western portico and a two-tier tower of Bath stone, the latter often regarded as being top-heavy and out of proportion. However, the interior was rather elegant with a gallery, fluted Corinthian columns and a few memorial tablets, including one to Sarah Hoy ‘for her singular devotion…for nearly 30 years’.

The period between the two World Wars saw a decline in the numbers of worshippers, and there were complaints of sightseers coming solely to view the vaults. These had been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair, with hundreds of coffins piled on top of each other – broken open and bones exposed.

The church was therefore considered to be ‘no longer required for the purposes of divine services’, and one proposal was to use it as a parish hall. However, it was decided to demolish it, and this was done, brick by brick, between 1935 and 1936. The contents were reused, sold, or broken up. The vaults remained, however, and were filled with earth. There is no known record of them being deconsecrated. Today the site is marked by an area of grass and the statue of William IV, the Sailor King, who was once a park ranger. Few visitors suspect as they pass by that just below their feet lie some 355 coffins containing the bodies of former parishioners.