|All Saints Churchyard||Newham|
All Saints West Ham parish churchyard dates back to the early Middle Ages. Stratford Langthorne Abbey was founded here in 1135 and became one of the richest in the country, in time owning much of West Ham, including the parish church, until the Dissolution of the Monasteries of 1538. The churchyard is now largely grass, intersected by paths with avenues of London plane and lime trees. The gravestones and chest-tombs that remain are largely concentrated on mounds near the covered entranceway on the south side of the church.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2014
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There is evidence that there was a church here from the early Middle Ages, and traces of medieval timber-framed houses of the old village of West Ham were discovered near the church in 1973. The 1086 Domesday Survey recorded West Ham, a larger settlement than East Ham at that time due to its closer proximity to London, as having '48 villagers, 79 small holders and 3 slaves, with 16 ploughs, 9 cattle, 12 sheep, and 11 pigs, and woodland for 100 pigs and 60 acres of meadow'. In 1135 William de Montfichet, Lord of the Manor, provided some land here for Stratford Langthorne Abbey, which was founded as the daughter house of the Cistercian monastery of Savigney. In time the majority of West Ham, as well as land in Essex, was owned by the Abbey, one of the richest in the country but mostly destroyed soon after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538, at which time there were 9 Manors recorded in West Ham. The Abbey also owned West Ham Church and the present building has two minor relics of the Abbey, including part of a stone window in the south porch. The church had been rebuilt by the Lord of the Manor in 1180 and enlarged in the C13th. The nave walls of the present building are Norman, with C13th pillars in the nave and the 74 ft high tower is c.C14th. Other features were added later such as the C16th chapels, and restoration work was carried out in Victorian times. A row of old almshouses was built adjacent to the churchyard on Church Passage in 1745, but were demolished in 1944. West Ham Church was almost designated a cathedral when the diocese of Essex was created: West Ham was voted third after Chelmsford and Colchester.
Monuments in the church include that of Sir Thomas Foot, the first London Mayor in Cromwell's Commonwealth, while in the churchyard stands the monument to John Henniker (d.1749) and his wife Hannah of Stratford House, erected by their son John, later Lord Henniker, one of the many wealthy families of merchants and professional men who from the C16th began building houses in West Ham, particularly in Church Street, Stratford and Plaistow. By 1670 at least a third of its houses had '5 or more hearths' and by the C18th West Ham was at its height as a prosperous suburb, although very few of its fine houses remain today. A print of 1760 of West Ham village shows terraced houses and south east view of West Ham Abbey Church. In the late C18th West Ham was a favourite residence of merchants and wealthy citizens, and in the returns of the King's surveyor of houses and windows there were 700 house in the parish, of which 455 were mansions and 245 were cottages. It became a manufacturing and industrial base in the C19th, described as second to Birmingham, with large chemical and other works developed, largely because it was just beyond the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Buildings Act which prevented such trade in London. However, from 1900 the area began to deteriorate as a result of economic depression.
In his Handbook to The Environs of London in 1876, James Thorne describes the church: 'West Ham Church (All Saints) stands in the midst of the village, in a sort of broadway, two main streets running right and left of the wide churchyard. It is a large building, the basis ancient, but much of the fabric modern, and as a whole a poor patchwork-looking pile. It comprises an early nave, to which a common builder's brick aisle, with round-arched windows, has been added on the south, the Perpendicular north aisle remaining of stone; a modern chancel of red brick, and a good old Perpendicular west tower, 74 ft. high, in 3 stages, square, with a tall angle turret, and battlemented. The tower has a large west window of good Perpendicular details, and contains a peal of 10 bells.'
The churchyard is now largely grass, intersected by tarmac paths with avenues of London planes and lime trees. It is surrounded partly by brick walls and partly by railings, some of which are old and quite dilapidated in parts. The gravestones and chest-tombs that remain are largely concentrated on mounds near the covered entranceway on the south side of the church, although there area some headstones and chest-tombs in other parts of cemetery, including the Henniker obelisk, according to its plaque restored in 1926 but now in need of further restoration. Adjacent to the churchyard, on a landscaped area called Densham Road Open Space, is a plaque referring to Stratford Langthorne Abbey and its history.
John Archer/Ian Yarham, Nature Conservation in Newham, London Ecology Unit, 1991; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993).