Home page
  Introduction     Books     Links   City    North London   South London

and Plumstead
Key:  Current observations and notes     Holmes notes of 1897     Other sources       Maps


St Mary’s Churchyard.  
Present church consecrated 1740 on the site of an older church. An attractive park with a variety of growth and varied vitas created out of  a broadly rectangular churchyard. It has been widened on the E to reach the road. Some stones around the walls as usual. A fine tree-shaded area to N with a belvedere overlooking the river.
Burial place of the celebrated boxer Tom Cribb, Champion of England (Died 1848)  
Over 3 acres. In a fine situation overlooking the river. Laid out as a public garden by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, at the cost of Mr. Passmore Edwards, and opened in May, 1895. It is maintained by Woolwich Local Board. (Holmes)

Tom Cribb's tomb

Enon Chapel-yard, High Street.
Gone- N of High St, between the roundabout and Glass yard. Now a grass area fronting the main road.
112 square yards. Tar-paved and closed yard, with some tombstones against the walls. (Holmes)

Union Chapel Graveyard, Sun Street. 
Now a children’s playground in Sunbury St .
 ⅓ acre. This is closed. There is a very bad fence round it, and it. looks uncared for. Negotiations are on foot to secure it for the public.

Salem Chapel-yard, Powis Street. 
Now a car park near the RACS building. What look like bits of old school wall survive
. (B.F.)
300 square yards. Eighteen or twenty years ago the London School Board took the chapel and adapted it as a school. It is now the infant school other buildings having been added, and the graveyard is a tar-paved passage used as a playground.

Wesleyan Chapel-yard, William Street. 
On the corner of John Wilson and Calderwood Streets. The late Georgian brick chapel survives  and the Victorian school. Both now part of a Gurdwara. The ground is totally paved
. (B.F.)
¼ acre. Here school building has evidently encroached upon the burial-ground There are several gravestones, and it is fairly tidy, the gate being often open.

Roman Catholic Ground, New Road. 
Now a tarmac space between Pugin church and school (now parish rooms).
This also has probably been encroached upon. What now exists is a yard, ¼ acre in size between the school and the Roman Catholic church, with the graves in one enclosure in the middle. The gate is open during school hours.

Bethlem Chapel Ground Charles Street,  

The Club House covers the site 

Convict burial ground, Woolwich Arsenal. 
An extent of marshland next to the river, including the embankment; earlier various sites on the eastern side of Woolwich Arsenal. Not mentioned by Holmes. 

Cholera, 1832
The Central Board soon took special precautions on the river, using the frigate HMS Dover as a cholera hospital.There was always trouble over where the bodies could be buried. Poplar was closest to where the Dover was first moored, but together with Limehouse, maintained that the bodies should be buried on open ground south of the river, by the convicts' cemetery at Woolwich. This the doctor in charge, Surgeon Inlay  was forced to do, after the first bodies had spent a week on the ship - despite orders sent down to Poplar from the Central Board. 

The 1832 cholera epidemic in East London
Published in the East London Record no.2 (1979) East London Historical Society.

From 1776 until around 1817, the convicts were buried in unmarked graves inside the Warren. Great quantities of human bone were unearthed when the new gun factories were built in the late 1850s. Col Pilkington RE had complained to the War Office before 1817 about the "noxious and distressing" practice of burying convicts in ground that was already full to overflowing. It has been suggested that after 1817 burials took place on the north side of the river; however, this is unlikely. Pilkington investigated the possibility, but the Arsenal's holding of 13 acres on the north bank, used for grazing the Artillery's horses, was sold at auction soon after. It is more likely that the burial site moved to the far end of the Arsenal's land on the south bank, where it continued until the closure of the hulks in 1856. The following contemporary account is taken from "The criminal prisons of London" (Mayhew / Binney):-

"We now turned from the busy Arsenal, crossed the canal bridge, and approached the little black wooden lodge of the policeman who guards the gate leading to the marshes. Right before us is a vast earth work, all, as we are told, raised by convict labour! We approached it, and found the prisoners, with their brown jackets thrown off, and some with their legs buried in water boots, reaching to their thighs, digging the heavy, black, clayey soil and carrying it away in barrows under the eyes of two guards, with their cutlasses at their sides, and two NCOs of the Sappers and Miners, who were directing the works. We turned away, and went further over the marshes, the ground giving way under our feet; and presently we passed behind the Butt, while the Minie balls were whistling through the air, and a solitary man was marking the hits. We approached a low piece of ground - in no way marked off from the rest of the marsh - in no way distinguishable from any section of the dreary expanse, save that the long rank grass had been turned in one place lately, and that there was an upset barrow lying not far off. We thought it was one of the dreariest spots we had ever seen. "This," said the governor, "is the convicts' burial ground". We could just trace the rough outline of disturbed ground at our feet. There was not even a number over the graves. The last, and it was only a month old, was disappearing. In a few months the rank grass will have closed over it, as over the story of its inmate. And it is, perhaps, well to leave the names of the unfortunate men, whose bones lie in the clay of this dreary marsh, unregistered and unknown. But the feeling with which we look upon its desolation is irrepressible. We followed the governor up the ridge that separates the marsh from the river and walked on, back towards the Arsenal. As we walked along we were told that under our feet dead men's bones lay closely packed; the ridge could no longer contain a body, and that was the reason why, during the last five or six years, the lower ground had been taken.

Those convicts who died were buried in cemeteries in the east part of the Warren. This was the practice from 1776 to 1817 (PRO W044/290, Thames 1817). The cemeteries were visible as rows of hillocks, but were otherwise unmarked and with no defined boundaries. One of them was on the site of the Royal Gun Factories, where great quantities of human bone were found during building work in 1859. Other skeletons were found at the site of the proof butts in 1912. Some were found buried in rough wooden boxes and others are alleged to have been found still wearing their leg-irons. lt has been suggested that these were cholera victims (Rigden 1976, 18-19).

In 1817 the practice of burying convicts within the Arsenal boundary was discontinued and a plot was set aside for the purpose in the Ordnance land on the north side of the river (PRO W044/290 Thames 1817). In 1850 convict burials were resumed in the Arsenal, and the plot of land immediately behind the proof butt was designated for the purpose (Hogg 1963, 717).
Information from

Woolwich Cemetery, Camdale Gardens. 
Opened 1856. Extension (The New Cemetery) opened to the east in 1885. 32 acres.

Plumstead Cemetery, Wickham Lane.
32¼ acres. First used 1890

t. Nicholas’s  Churchyard, Plumstead 
A sloping park N of the church with stones along a perimeter behind shrubbery. Many big trees scattered over the rectangle. Odd in having no seats. A railed footpath separates this from what must be the older ground  beside the church. The old ground is higher, and has been partly built over by church additions. A couple of surviving tombs. Park area to N partly enclosed by 19thc walls. (B.F.)
Still in use for burials, but under regulation. It is open daily, and measures about 4 acres.