|St Margaret's Churchyard||Lewisham|
The ruined tower is all that remains of the medieval parish church of St Margaret of Antioch surrounded by its old churchyard. Although it was largely rebuilt in 1813-14 there were structural problems and it was decided to build a new church. This was built on other side of the road in 1839-41. Both sites have churchyards and contain a fine collection of large C18th and C19th monuments, including the Call monument with obelisk and coat of arms of 1794. Two Astronomers Royal, Sir Edmund Halley and John Pond, were buried here, and also John Cocking who died attempting to land in a parachute from a balloon.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.lewisham.gov.uk; www.stmargaretslee.co.uk
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.
In Old English 'Leah' means 'the clearing in the wood'; Lee was a separate parish, much smaller than its neighbour Lewisham, the two amalgamating in 1899. In 1086 the hamlet had about 70 inhabitants and lay along Lee High Road, with a side road (Brandram Road) leading to the parish church. Lee Green was a separate hamlet around the Tiger's Head public house where horses were changed and several large mansions were built, of the two that remain today. One is Manor House, now Lee Library and the grounds a public park, Manor House Gardens (q.v.). South of Lee Green was agricultural land, and in addition to farms there were plant nurseries in Lee, and watercress was grown along the banks of the River Quaggy. The area remained rural until the 1830s when speculative building began. The high street used to run through the village, its route now that of Old Road, but it was straightened in 1825 to form Lee High Road, which now bisects area.
The first reference to the church at Lee occurs in c.1120, and it may have been dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch in the reign of Edward the Confessor. The tower that remains dates from the early church of c.1275. During the C18th the church building appears to have deteriorated and by the early C19th a new church on the site was proposed. This was built in 1813/4 by the architect Joseph Gwilt who unfortunately used the old foundations, as a consequence of which the new building was never stable. By 1837 it was decided the church had to be replaced and a plot of land across the road was acquired from Thomas Brandram, who had been a church warden when Gwilt's church was built. The architect selected was John Brown of Norwich and the new building was built in 1839-41 and consecrated by the Bishop of Rochester in 1841. It was remodelled in 1875-1900 by James Brooks, with much gothic revival embellishment. It has a west tower with octagonal top stage and spire and contains C16th brasses from the old church, including those of Elizabeth Conhill (d.1513) and N Ansley (d.1593) and his wife.
The church and churchyard suffered bomb damage in 1940 and 1942 and by the mid-1980s the church was in great need of conservation. A significant restoration programme commenced in 1985, completed by 2010. In addition to major conservation work undertaken on the external and internal fabric of the church, its surrounding churchyard and access paths and roads were repaired and upgraded and the churchyard railings reinstated. In the old churchyard the base of the mediaeval church tower was stabilised and restored, and it has been developed as a public community garden and park. A new parish office and visitors centre has also been built in the Rectory garden. .
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993). History on St Margaret of Antioch Lee church website