|St George's Churchyard, Beckenham||Bromley|
The parish of St George Beckenham was previously in Kent. Although a church on the site was not recorded until 1070, there was probably a church here in some form in Saxon times. The current church dates from 1885-7, built when a larger church was needed for the growing parish. A good collection of monuments from the old church remains including those of the C16th; among C18th memorials are those for prominent local dignitaries. The tree-filled churchyard, which has a restored C13th lych gate, was extended to the east between 1871-1894.
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The parish of St George Beckenham was previously in Kent. Although a church on the site was not recorded until 1070, there was probably a church here in some form in Saxon times. A new church was built c.1340, enlarged in 1620. In 1790 'a terrific storm of thunder and lightning' badly damaged the building and repairs continued intermittently until 1868. By this time the population of Beckenham had increased, leading to a scheme for the enlargement of the mother church, and the faculty for this enlargement was obtained in 1884. As a result the old village church was replaced in 1885-7 by a new church by W Gibbs Bartleet of Beckenham, its tower completed in 1902/3. Built of Kentish rag stone with Bath stone finishing, the new church was described by Pevsner as 'a confident town church'. A good collection of monuments from the old church remains including a tomb-chest to Sir Humphrey Style (d.1552) and monument to Margaret Damsell (d.1563), and among C18th memorials are those of members of prominent families and local dignitaries. Robert Borrowman, solicitor, member of Beckenham UDC and church warden between 1901-10, made a thorough record of the memorials in the church, which included those of the Earls of Auckland, Lord Gwydir and members of the Cator and Burrell families. Borrowman died in 1910 and his monument is in the churchyard. The oldest grave remaining in the churchyard is that of Henry Batt, buried 13 August 1678, and another early memorials is that of Marey Randall (d.1694).
An etching of 1807 shows the earlier church with its tall spire, fencing to the front and its tree-filled churchyard. In 1869 sheep were kept in the churchyard to keep the grass short, and it was extended to the east between 1878 and 1884, although by 1892 regular burials ceased apart from certain vaults and reserved graves spaces. Kent Archaeological Society has a list of churchyard monumental inscriptions in the old churchyard, collected by Leland L. Duncan in June 1922 together with his pencil sketch of locations of the gravestones. The southern and western boundaries of the churchyard have flint-faced walls, with a chestnut paling fence at the north and lap-board wooden fencing to St George's Road. A short avenue of yew trees leads from the church entrance to the C13th lych gate, which was restored in 1924 and is reputedly the oldest surviving lych gate in England.
Trees found in the churchyard include London planes along the east boundary, with English oak, silver birch, yew, common lime and various conifers scattered throughout. In the south-east corner of the churchyard on Bromley Road are Rawlins Almshouses (q.v.), originally built in 1694 and reconstructed in 1881, described by Pevsner as 'of the humblest'. Adjacent to St George's Church is Beckenham Green (q.v.), created after two flying bombs devastated the area in July 1944 during WWII; it is now a popular setting for wedding photographs. The bombs also severely damaged St George's and temporary repairs were effected by a band of volunteers led by a local civil engineer, but permanent structural works were not completed until the 1950s and final repairs took until 1971. The churchyard's flagstone path in the north-east corner was mainly made with crazy paving from the bomb rubble.
An active Friends Group meets once a month and in March 2006 they planted a mixed hedge of beech, holly and hawthorn along the border with Beckenham Green to create a habitat for birds and insects.
B Cherry & N Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 2: South' (1983 reprint 1999 pp158/9; An A to Z of Bromley's Parks, Local Open Space & Woodlands, LB Bromley, 2007; Muriel V Searle, 'Beckenham & Penge in old picture postcards', 1989; Rachel L Notley, 'St George's Parish Church of Beckenham' (Beckenham Parish Church 1985, rev. 1995); Eric Inman & Nancy Tonkin, 'Beckenham' (Phillimore, 2002); Simon Finch 'Beckenham & West Wickham - images in London Series' (Tempus, 2003); R Borrowman, 'Beckenham Past & Present' (T W Thornton, 1910); Pat Manning, 'The Memorials of St George's Churchyard' (n.d.); Pat Manning, 'A Beckenham Trilogy of Roads, Rivers & Memorials' (Jenna Publishing), pp66-75. See www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Libr/Mis/Mislist.htm.
LPGT Volunteer Research by Peter Smith and Jeff Royce, 2009