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St Nicholas Churchyard, Plumstead Greenwich
Summary: Plumstead, so-named for being a good area for fruit growing, grew into a fishing village and later the growing population included workers from the nearby Royal Arsenal. The C12th St Nicholas Church was much added to and restored, having fallen into ruins on 2 occasions in the C17th and C19th. To serve the larger population further land for burial was purchased in 1860 and there were over 40,000 burials here, among them veterans of the Royal Artillery and Engineers. The churchyard was later closed for burials and gravestones cleared largely to the perimeter although one monuments remains near the church. Part of the churchyard was later laid out as the adjacent public garden.
Previous / Other name: Plumstead Parish Church
Site location: St Nicholas Road/Church Manorway, Plumstead
Postcode: SE18 > Google Map
Type of site: Churchyard
Date(s): medieval, 1860
Listed structures: LBII*: St Nicholas Church
Borough: Greenwich
Site ownership: St Nicholas Church PCC
Site management: LB Greenwich, Parks and Open Space Department
Open to public? Yes
Opening times: unrestricted
Special conditions:
Public transport: Rail: Plumstead then bus. Bus: 96, 99, 177, 180
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/12/2006
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Fuller information:

St Nicholas was a medieval church, and the parish may have dated from as early as 960 AD. The church was much added to and restored over the years, the west and south walls of the south aisle dating from C12th, the transept from the C13th, and the north aisle from the C15th. By 1662 the church had been in a bad state of repair for some 20 years and was rescued from ruin by a wealthy local farmer, John Gossage, who built the tower in 1664. By the beginning of the C19th it was again in ruins, roofless and with trees growing from the aisles. It was later restored in 1867 by Charles Cooke and in 1907 it was enlarged by Greenaway and Newberry. Damaged in WWII, St Nicholas was repaired in 1959. Plumstead had been a good area for fruit growing, and its name comes from 'plume stede', meaning plum tree place. It then grew into a fishing village and later workers from the nearby Royal Arsenal made up a large proportion of the growing population in the C19th.

Among those buried in the churchyard was Thomas Winn (d.1800), who owned land in the area and whose name is recalled in Winn's Common (q.v.), and Daniel Cambridge, VC, who died on 8 September 1855. To serve the larger population further land for burial was purchased in 1860 and by the time the churchyard was closed there had been over 40,000 burials, including veterans of the Royal Artillery and Engineers. When the churchyard was closed for burials the gravestones were largely cleared to the perimeter. The land around the church is largely grassed with a sinuous path sunk below the level of the grass with rose beds either side from the entrance gate. One lonely monument remains in the grass.

The main area of former churchyard is adjacent to the south, laid out as public gardens in 1955 and named St Nicholas Gardens (q.v.).

Sources consulted:

Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; LB Greenwich, 'St Nicholas Churchyard and Gardens Management Plan (draft)', 2008
Grid ref: TQ459785
Size in hectares:
On EH National Register : No
EH grade:
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: No
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order: Not known
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: No
Other LA designation: Community Open Space; Area of Archaeological Potential

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