|St Mary Magdalene Churchyard, Richmond||Richmond|
St Mary Magdalene is the old parish church of Richmond. A chapel existed here by 1220 when the parish was known as Shene, later renamed Richmond. The churchyard was enlarged on the west side in 1745, and in 1790 a new burial ground was consecrated nearby at Vineyard Passage. Among the important tombs in the churchyard is that of Sir Matthew Decker and his grandson Viscount Fitzwilliam who founded the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge; and that of Sir Richard Levett of Kew whose estate became part of the Royal Gardens.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2009
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The parish of Shene was renamed Richmond in 1501 when Henry VII rebuilt the Royal Palace and called it after his lands in Yorkshire. The earliest part of the existing building is the C15th tower, which was refaced in flint in 1904. The north aisle dates from 1699, the classical south aisle and nave rebuilt in 1750, but altered and re-roofed in 1864-66. The east end of the church was rebuilt in neo-perpendicular gothic style in 1904, and the western end of the nave was restored in 1935-6. The churchyard was enlarged on the west side in 1745, and in 1790 a new burial ground was consecrated nearby at Vineyard Passage (q.v.).
Inside the church are numerous important monuments including a memorial to the famous Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean (d.1833) who performed at the old Theatre Royal on Richmond Green, since demolished, of which he became manager and lessee in 1831; and a bronze wall memorial to Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1837-1915) who is buried in Richmond Cemetery (q.v.). She was a prolific and popular novelist of the 'sensationalist' school, admired by Queen Victoria, whose best-known novel, 'Lady Audley's Secret' began serialisation in 1862 in the Robin Goodfellow Magazine and then the Sixpenny Magazine. She lived in Lichfield House, Sheen Road with John Maxwell, publisher, who she married in 1874; he invested in property in the King's Road area of Richmond and named certain streets after characters in her novels including Marchmont Road and Audley Road. On the exterior church wall is a tablet to the memory of another author, Barbara Hofland (d.1844) who wrote children's books and was married to the painter Thomas Christopher Hofland.
The pleasant well-kept churchyard is bordered by low retaining walls, with flagged footpaths either side of the church leading to Paradise Road; some gravestones are now placed along the wall, with tombs and monuments remaining among the grass, a number of mature trees and yews and a stone war memorial. Among the important tombs in the churchyard is a table tomb of Sir Matthew Decker, 1749 by Peter Scheemakers (west end, north aisle) and his grandson Viscount Fitzwilliam who founded the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge; Sir Richard Levett of Kew (d.1710), Lord Mayor of London 1699-1700, and his descendants whose estate became part of the Royal Gardens. An altar tomb to the west of the footpath commemorates William Hickey (d.1727) who was a great benefactor of the poor of the parish, whose Almshouses (q.v.) still stand in Sheen Road. Adjacent to Paradise Road is a memorial with urn and putti to Martha, Lady Bowyer, wife of Sir John Cropley (d.1697). In the north west corner is the tombstone of Sarah Kirby (d.1837) wife of John Joshua Kirby, Clerk of Works to the Royal Household and teacher in perspective to George IV when Prince of Wales, and mother of Mrs Trimmer, founder of the Sunday School Movement and writer of children's books.
The Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, Richmond: A Brief Guide (no date); Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999 p518; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993).