|St John the Baptist Churchyard, Erith||Bexley|
The northern boundary of the parish of Erith is the Thames, and the riverside was once the site of one of Henry VIII's naval dockyards. St John the Baptist Church has existed here from Norman times, with some parts of the building, including the tower, dating from the C13th and the north aisle from the C19th. The Wheatley Chapel was the burial place of successive Lords of the Manor of Erith. The churchyard contains a number of interesting tombs and has a wooden lych-gate from where a path leads to the church porch.
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St John the Baptist Church has served as a place of worship for Erith from at least Norman times. The stone and flint building dates largely from the C12th, with some parts, such as the tower, dating from the C13th. The steeple has wooden shingles but the main part of the church roof is tiled. In the C19th the north aisle was added when the whole building was restored by Habershon and Pite architects.
The northern boundary of the parish of Erith is the Thames, and the riverside was once the site of one of Henry VIII's naval dockyards. Although Erith remained important for shipping even in the late C18th the town consisted of one small street. It did not develop significantly until the arrival of the railways in the mid C19th, with Erith station opening in July 1849. Much of the area was formerly the estate lands of the Manor of Erith, which had numerous illustrious owners over the centuries, many of whom were buried in St John's. In 1734 the Manor was bequeathed to John Wheatley and the family estate was located where the current town centre now lies. Avenue Road was laid out c.1769 to form the driveway to the newly built Manor House, which was eventually demolished in 1858 and the Wheatley Estate was sold in 1874. The Wheatley Chapel in St John's is the burial place of successive Lords of the Manor of that family. The church also has a number of fine brasses and a striking memorial to Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury (d.1567), who once held the manor.
The churchyard contains a number of interesting tombs and monuments, including memorials to John Harris (d.1752) and to George William Brown (d.1848). Enclosed within a stone wall, trees screen the churchyard from the nearby main road to the north. A picturesque wooden lych-gate leads to a tarmac path to the church porch. The atmosphere on a Sunday afternoon recalls a country church, reflecting the area before the advent of high density housing. The Green Chain Walk leading to Franks Park (q.v.) runs past the entrance to the churchyard.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Local Guide; Edward Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent volume 2, 1797 pp227-263