by Michael Gaunt
When one walks along Vauxhall Walk past Salamanca Street, Black Prince Road and Old Paradise Street it is difficult to realise that these silent streets were once the centre of a busy community. The old houses have mostly gone, to be replaced by flats and small factories. From Vauxhall Walk one crosses into what is still called Lambeth High Street; at the end of the street the green trees can be glimpsed, and through the trees the fourteenth century tower of St Mary at Lambeth., To the left is the Thames and almost opposite the Houses of Parliament.
A church has stood on this site for a thousand years. The Domesday Book tells us that a church dedicated to St Mary in Lambeth was in existence before the Norman Conquest, and that it belonged to the Countess Goda, sister to King Edward the Confessor. The church was granted to the see of Rochester by the early Norman kings, but from 1197 it has been within the gift of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The tower is all that remains of the mediaeval church and it was completed in 1378. By the middle of the nineteenth century, little of the original church remained, and in 1851, a "comprehensive restoration" costing � 7,000 was commenced. In the pro- cess, the church was virtually rebuilt. An attempt was made to preserve many of the architectural features, and the outline of the original fabric. The restoration took just over a year.
The church's history has been well recorded. Here in 1643 in the middle of the divine service, five soldiers came to murder the rector, Dr Daniel Featley, a noted controversialist. He had recently been arraigned for re- moving the communion table from the middle of the chancel to the east of the chancel. The contemporary report of the outrage reads:
"Foure or Five Soldiers rushed into the Church with Pistols and drawn swords, Affrighted the whole Congregation out, wounded one of the Inhabitants (whereof he soon after dyed), Shot another dead, as he hung by the hands on the Church- yard wall, looking over the Pa/ace court. ...these Murtherers were heard expressing their rancour against the Doctor, some said they would chop the rogue as small as hearbs to the pot. "
Fortunately the rector had been warned of their impending visit and had stayed away. When the church was restored, many of the monuments were lost and the location of certain graves are now unknown. Two very fine monuments remain; they are gothic tombs, and are both sixteenth century .One is to Sir Hugh Peyntwyn (an Archdeacon of Canterbury) who died in 1504; and the other is to John Mompesson who died in 1524. Six Archbishops are buried in the church; the slabs over their graves tell us that they are:
There is an account which tells that on opening the floor of the chancel for the internment of Archbishop Cornwallis, a leaden coffin was dis- covered which contained the remains of Bishop Thirleby (1506-1570). The gravedigger accidentally pierced it with his pickaxe and afterwards enlarged the opening. The body which was wrapped in fine linen was moist and evidently had been well preserved.
At the north end of the chancel is a small brass to the memory of Margaret Chute, the six-year old daughter of Sir George Chute, Lord of the Manor of Stockwell; she died in 1638. Another sad little memorial is let into the floor at the west end-it is to Georgina who lived to be three years old. Her father was Jonathan Tyers Barrett, and she was the great-grand-daughter of Jonathan Tyers, the great manager of the Vauxhall Gardens. There are several interesting memorial tablets including some in terracotta by George Tinworth of Doultons, pottery manufacturers of Lambeth. One to George Beckford who died in 1814 aged 69 is of interest. He had resided at 19 Hercules Buildings, and who knows, may have been a close neighbour of William Blake, the poet who lived at 23 Hercules Buildings from 1793 to 1800.
In the Pelham Chapel is a slab to Elias Ashmole, who died in 1692. He founded the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. One important grave which does not appear to be marked is that of Sir Noel de Caron. He was ambassador from the States of Holland in the reign of James I. He was a bene- factor of the church and community, and founded the almshouses which bear his name in Fentiman Road, London SW8. His helmet, sword and spurs at one time hung over John Mompesson's tomb, but have now disappeared as has the stone marking his grave in the chancel. An entry in the register for 1842 reads "July 31st, Arthur Seymour Sullivan son of Thomas (musician) and Mary Clementina Sullivan of Bolwell Terrace [now demolished] baptised by the Rev. A Peat. " In 1900 Sir Arthur Sullivan was buried is St Paul's Cathedral.
Many of the tombstones in the yard have been removed; some appear to have been utilised for crazy paving in the region of the tower. Among those that remain are those of the Trades- cants, Blighs, Sealys, and Ducrows. William Bligh, Vice Admiral of the Blue, who died in 1817, will always be remembered for the mutiny on his ship Bounty. He is interred with his wife and one-day-old twin boys. Bligh's tomb is made of Coade's artificial stone (as is the South Bank Lion, now mounted at the east end of Westminster Bridge) and in the yard is the family vault of the Sealy family who were associated with the Coades in the production of the stone. The Ducrow family were proprietors of Astley's Amphitheatre. In 1804 Ducrow succeeded the Astleys and continued with the equestrian and cir- cus events that were associated with the Amphitheatre. Dickens describes it in Master Humphrey's Clock. It was pulled down in 1893 and part of the site is now covered by a block of flats.
The two John Tradescants were gardeners to Charles I and lived in a house called The Ark in South Lambeth Road, London. Both men travelled extensively and introduced many new trees and plants into this country. Their life and work is described more fully in a later section of this Guide (Now a separate web page). Their collection of curios, including a Dodo, formed the basis of the Ashmolean Museum. John the elder died in 1638 and his son in 1662. In 1852 their original tomb was replaced and a new one erected by public subscription. In 1972 after visiting the church, I wrote:
"It is very pleasant to sit quietly in the church admiring the white altar flowers, and reflecting on the past; impressions of men and women in the changing dress of the centuries come easily to mind. In this place Lambeth men have mixed their moments of SO"OW and happiness, recorded their births, marriages and deaths, and worshipped God. For until the appearance of the Stockwell Chapel in 1767, St Mary's was the only church in Lambeth. The future of the church is in the balance; it may be that the building has to be demolished; it has been suggested that it should be replaced by a multi-purpose hall. Costly repairs need to be carried out and the area has more churches that it needs. If the building ceases to be a church perhaps it has a future as Lambeth 's Museum? It seems a pity when so much of old Lambeth is lying in rubble and under concrete that the Mother Church cannot be preserved. It will not be easy to save the building; in these days of massive redevelopment it is for us to decide now whether we are going to leave our inheritors anything but concrete blocks. "
In 1972, the Parochial Church Council of St Mary's were led to the difficult decision to ask for the church building to be declared pastorally redundant. Experts had advised that restoration work costing � 100,000 was necessary, but that as much again might well be needed (at an equivalent, inflated, cost) after another twenty years. The burden that this would place on a parish with a population now only half what it had been in 1939, would have been in addition to heavy maintenance and heating costs. Alternative schemes, which would have allowed the continued use of the site and part of the church, were not permitted.
After a final Eucharist, the congregation processed along Lambeth Road to Lambeth Methodist Mission, where they now worship. Such furnishings of the church as did not go with them for continuing use were disposed of by gift, loan or sale, to what were judged to be their best homes. The bells now hang in the tower of St John's Church, Caterham in Surrey; the organ case is in Milton Abbey; the furniture of the St Nicholas Chapel was taken by the Redundant Churches Fund to be re-erected elsewhere. Some communion rails given by a former Archbishop have been returned to the Maidstone church from which they originally came. The seventeenth century plate included a silver paten and silver gilt chalice given by Mrs Featley, wife of the rector, in her will of 1603; there were also three silver flagons subscribed by the parishioners some years later, together with a second chalice inscribed:
"This belongeth to the Church of Lambeth in Surrey, anno 1639 in which year there was a voluntary contribution towards furnishing a communion table with this cup and two silver flagons. "
The plate which is not still in use has been lent to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it may be seen.
In February 1978 after negotiations with the Church Commissioners the Tradescant Trust Appeal was launched to " establish in the heart of London the Tradescant Centre, a Museum of Garden History - the first of its kind-and to create a garden of unique historic interest. ..." The museum to be housed in the church and the garden to be laid out in the old churchyard. An account of the aims and work of the Trust is given in the final section of this Guide (Now a separate web page).BIBLIOGRAPHY
Survey of London Vol XXVI-'Lambeth Part I, Southbank and Vauxhall' (LCC) 1951.
The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Lambeth - by A. G. Rawlings.
The History and Antiquities of the Archiepiscopal Palace of Lambeth - by Dr Ducarel, 1785.
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments - No. 3728 (London West).
Monumental Inscriptions of Lambeth and Carshalton -(Howard) 1879 (manuscript).
Monumental Inscriptions, Lambeth Churches and Churchyards - (manuscript).
Monumental Inscriptions of St Mary - by Jos. Jones, 1749 (manuscript).
All of the above books may be seen on request at the Surrey Collection, Minet Library , Knatchbull Road, London SE5.
with notes on features of architectural and historic interest,
compiled by Michael Gaunt.
This short itinerary of some of the surviving monuments, tablets and fittings is not intended to be exhaustive; but we hope it will serve as an introduction to St Mary's and some of her parishioners and their achievements, great and small.
At the east end of the churchyard is the large tomb, made of coadestone, belonging to William Bligh. Bligh was a Cornishman, born in 1754, who sailed with Captain James Cook on his voyages of exploration in the southern Pacific.
In the 1780s, he was appointed master of HMS Bounty and undertook an expedition to transplant the breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies for cultivation. On the voyage across the Pacific, the crew mutinied and cast Bligh with his officers, adrift in an open boat. He survived, by navigating 4,000 miles to the Portuguese island of Timor, and eventually returned to England. Bligh then repeated the expedition, this time successfully. He was later Governor of New South Wales (1805) and Vice Admiral (1811). He died in London, aged 63.
Bligh, his wife Elizabeth, and his twin sons lie under the monument, which is of Grecian form surmounted by an urn. The inscription reads:
2. TOMB OF THE TRADESCANTS:
Nearer the path stands the tomb of the Tradescants (see section 3 of this Guide for an account of the Trades- cants and their work). The tomb is of natural stone and has carved panels on the north and south faces. The east end has a shield with crest and mantling which bears the Tradescant arms.
To the west there is a carved seven-headed bird with skull beneath, and at the corner stunted trees with heavy foliation. The tomb is surrounded by iron posts and chains and has a moulded plinth and cornice. The tomb was erected in 1662, repaired in 1773 and entirely restored in 1853.3. TOMB OF JOHN BECKFORD:
John Beckford's slab stone lies close to the path and near to the east-end gate. He lived at 19 Hercules Buildings and so might have been a near neighbour of William Blake who lived at 23 Hercules Buildings from 1793 to 1800. Beckford died in 1814.4. TOMB OF JOHN STEVENSON:
If you return to the path and walk towards the porch you will see a damaged slab to the memory of the unfortunate John Stevenson who was killed by a stag at Astley's Amphitheatre in 1814.5. TOMB OF WILLIAM PHILLIPS:
On the other side of the path in front of the south wall you will notice a table tomb on your left to William Phillips the butcher and family. He died in 1839.6. DUCROW FAMILY TOMB:
If you now look towards the southern boundary of the churchyard you will see a large table tomb in the shadow of a tree. This tomb belongs to the Ducrow family who succeeded Mr Astley as proprietors of Astley's. Astley's Amphitheatre was founded in 1799 and the entertainment consisted mainly of equestrian feats, conjuring and fireworks. The theatre was burnt down on three occasions and the third fire caused Andrew Ducrow to lose his reason and die. Charles Dickens described the circus in Master Humphrey's Clock (1814): ". ...with its paint gilding and looking glass, the vague smell of horses suggestive of coming wonders, the curtain that hid such gorgeous mysteries, the clean white sawdust down in the circus. ..."7. TOMB OF THE SANGSTER FAMILY:
At the southwest corner is a slab to the Sangster family and you will read that Captain Thomas Sangster of the 37th Regiment died in Berbue in 1808 when he was 29.8. TOMB OF THE COOKES:
Now follow the wall past the west gate and you will see a slab to the Cookes; father and son were both surgeons and they both died in 1838.9. TOMB OF THE SEALYS:
In front of the tower is another large Coadestone family tomb and this belongs to the Sealys. Coadestone was artificially made and it was claimed with justification that it would resist the weathering of frost, rain, heat and smoke. The stone was either modelled, or cast in a mould, or cast and finished by a modeller and then fired in a muffle furnace. Mrs Eleanor Coade ran the factory for 25 years from 1769. Her nephew, John Sealy, was her partner and he died in 1813. His tomb is surmounted by a flaming urn entwined by a snake, and is square in plan with pediments at each face. There are acroteria at each corner about inset Greek Doric columns.10. TABLET TO BRIAN TURBEVILLE:
Above the Sealy tomb on the south wall of the tower you will see a tablet in memory of Brian Turbeville. He left � 100 with which two poor boys were to be apprenticed each year with the stipulation that they should not be chimney sweeps, watermen, fishermen, or Roman Catholics!
11. TABLET TO LT.COL.MORRIS:
When you arrive in the porch you will see on the left wall a tablet in memory of Lieutenant Colonel Morris of His Majesty's Coldstream Regiment of Guards "who fell at Alkmaar bravely fighting in the cause of his country" on September 19th 1799, aged 35.12. TABLET TO LT. WILLIAM BUCKLEY:
Above is another tablet to Lieutenant William Buckley of the 15th Hussars, who was 18 when he was killed at the Battle of Waterloo, 1815.13. ROBERT SCOTT MONUMENT:
Above the entrance to the church are a bust and brass, all that remain of the vandalised monument to Robert Scott. He was descended from the Barons of Bawerie in Scotland and had been Quartermaster to the King of Sweden. He died in 1631.14. TABLET TO MRS JUDITH RALEGH:
On the right-hand side of the porch is a white marble tablet draped at the sides with folds forming the inscription surface. This is in memory of Mrs Judith Ralegh who was married to Captain George Ralegh, Deputy Governor of Jersey and a nephew of Sir Walter Raleigh. Mrs Ralegh died in 1701.15. TABLET TO WILLIAM BACON:
Nearby there is a wall tablet to another unfortunate, one William Bacon of the Salt Office, London, a Gentleman, who was killed by thunder and light- ning at his window July 12th 1787, aged 34 years.16. TABLET TO SIR PETER RICH:
Of all the tablets in the porch, the one to Sir Peter Rich, who died in 1692, is probably of the greatest interest. The inscription is on a convex surface, surrounded by winged cherubs' heads, flowers and scrolls. At the foot of the tablet, which is of marble, is a skull.17. THE TOWER:
On entering the church you will be aware of the tower on your left. The tower was built circa 1378 and is all that remains structurally of the medieval church. Repairs on the tower were carried out in 1522 and again in 1834- 35. In 1676 there were six bells, these were recast in 1732 and made into eight. Recasting took place in 1848 and 1922. The bells now hang in the tower of St John's Church, Caterham, Surrey.18. THE FONT:
The font for total immersion, one of only two found in Anglican churches, is situated under the tower and is approached by two flights of marble steps. It was installed by John Andrewes Reeve (rector 1894-1903) in memory of Archbishop Benson (died 1896).19. TOMB OF ARCHBISHOP SECKER:
When you walk forward from the font and leave the tower you will notice at your feet a floor slab and this marks the burial place of Archbishop Secker (died 1768).20. BRASS TO GEORGIANA TYERS:
Continue walking a few paces towards the north wall and in the floor you will see a small brass. This marks the grave of Georgiana Tyers who died in 181 S when she was three years old. Her grandfather was the great eighteenth century manager of the Vauxhall Gardens, Jonathan Tyers, friend of Handel and Hogarth.21. THE EAST WINOOW:
This is perhaps a convenient point also from which to view the windows, most of which are relatively recent in origin. Looking up the nave, you see the fine East window, the subject of which is Christ in Glory .Christ is depicted surrounded by the Heavenly Host, with St Mary and St John the Baptist. Below are five saints connected with the church; St Thomas a Becket, patron of St Thomas' Hospital nearby; St George, patron of England; St Nicholas, patron of seamen and ships, and St Christopher, patron of travellers (particularly those who use fords, such as the one which was approximately on the site of the present Lambeth Bridge.)22. THE WEST WINOOW:
Behind you is the West window, given by grateful churchmen of America in memory of two bishops consecrated for work in the United States after the War of Independence.
On the north wall between the windows are six memorial tablets, three of which are made from Coadstone.24. DOULTON MEMORIAL:
Halfway along this wall is a beautifully modelled Crucifixion scene in terracotta by George Tinworth of Doulton's pottery. The terracotta is in memory of Mrs Henry Doulton and dates from 1887. It was originally part of a reredos presented by her husband, but was damaged during the 1939-45 war.25. THE VIRGIN'S STONE:
In front of the chancel is the Virgin's stone, an incomplete white marble stone to a young girl who died in 1672.26. THE NAVE ROOF:
This is a good point to pause and look up at the roof of the nave. The thrusts of the open timber construction rest on stone corbels carved with demi-angels holding shields. The coats of arms represented, and some remains of colouring, are those of the contributors to the fabric of the original church. The corbels mostly date from the rebuilding.27. BUST OF SIR THOMAS LETT:
At the east end of the north aisle there is a marble pedestal surmounted by a bust in white marble by Chantrey. This is in memory of Thomas Lett who was Sheriff in the County of Surrey, St Mary's being situated on the Surrey side of the river.28. HOWARDCHAPEL:
The Howard Chapel, which latterly housed the organ, was originally built in 1522.29. TABLET TO REV GEORGE D'OYLY:
The first wall tablet in the Howard Chapel is in memory of a past Rector of St Mary's, the Rev George D'Oyly D.D. who was appointed in 1820; he was a theologian and biographer, and Chaplain to Archbishop Manners Sutton. He was also founder of King's College, London.30. TABLET TO ARCHBISHOP CORNWALUS:
Erected in 1783.31. JAMES MORRIS MEMORIAL:
Above is a marble tablet in the style of a sarcophagus by Flaxman: an exhibition of his work was organised by the British Council in 1979 in Ham- burg and Copenhagen. The marble is in memory of James Morris who died in 1781 and has weeping female figures below the sarcophagus at each end.32. TABLET TO ARCHBISHOP HUTTON:
On the other side of the doorway is a white marble tablet in memory of Archbishop Mutton who died in 1758.33. TABLET TO PETER OOLWND:
Above the Archbishop's tablet is one to Peter Dollond, optician, son of John Dollond; the family name continues until the present day with the firm of Dollond and Aitchison.34. TABLET TO RALPH SNOWE:
Above the Dollond tablet high on the wall is a tablet to Ralph Snowe, registrar to four Archbishops, who died in 1707 at the age of 94. 'Raphe Snowe' was a benefactor to the church. In 1698 he presented St Mary's with a new pulpit, a reading desk and clerk's pew to be placed "against the piller joining to the Chancel on the South Side". Snowe also presented a large chandelier which remained suspended from the centre of the nave until the rebuilding in 1851. Snowe also contributed �100 which was used for the building of the west and south galleries in 1699 and 1708 respectively; these have now gone.35 BRASS TO MARGARET CHUTE:
Below Archbishop Hut ton's tablet is a brass to Margaret Chute who died in 1638 when she was six; her father, Sir George Chute, was Lord of the Manor of Stockwell.36. BRASS TO THOMAS CLERE:
To the right is a brass to Thomas Clere who died in 1545. He was a friend of the poet Earl of Surrey and is shown in plate armour with, above his head, the quartered arms of Clere and Uvedale.37. SLAB TO JOHN MIDDLETON:
If you now turn to the east wall you will see at your feet a partly obscured slab to John Middleton who died in 1833 at the age of 82; the exposed section of the inscription refers to his 'several literary works'.38. BRASS TO LADY KATHERINE HOWARD:
To your right on the east wall is a brass commemorating Lady Katherine Howard. She was the wife of Lord William Howard, son of the Duke of Norfolk who, as the Earl of Surrey, commanded the English army at the Battle of Flodden, 1513. She is shown wearing pedimental headdress and a long mantle which bears the arms of Howard with the Flodden augmentation. At her feet is a squirrel holding a nut. She died in 1583.
39. JOHN MASON MEMORIAL TABLET:
On the north wall of the Chancel is a tablet commemorating J ohn Mason, who died in 1768 aged 67; he was the King's Bargemaster. The tablet also commemorates Archbishop Bancroft (1544-1610) who founded the Library in Lambeth Palace as well as Bancroft's School at Woodford in Essex. Archbishop John Moore (1730-1805) is buried in the church but no slab or tablet remains.40. TOMB OF HUGH PEYNTWYN:
Set in the north wall is a Gothic Altar Tomb. Under the slab are three damaged sub-cusped square panels, each with a shield bearing the Peyntwyn arms: Gules; three thistles or, leaved and slipped vert. The lower range of panels which have blank shields and the slab are in purbeck marble.
Above the slab the monument is recessed. The recess has an architrave sur- round and is flanked at each side by semi-octagonal shafts. These stand on bases and support a foliated cornice with cresting of Tudor flowers. The cornice breaks forward for three shields bearing the Peyntwyn arms. Above the four-centred arch enclosing the recess are traceried spandrels. The splayed reveals and the back of the recess are treated similarly, the back being divided into three panels in the centre of which are indents of two figures with scrolls between them.
Hugh Peyntwyn, who died in 1504, described himself in his will as 'Doctor of Laws and Archdeacon of Canterbury'. He asked for his body to be buried in the Chancel of St Mary, Lambeth next to the right hand corner of the altar .He bequeathed five marks for the altar and five marks for the fabric of the church and made other charitable bequests.41. MOMPESSON TOMB:
The Gothic altar tomb on the south side of the chancel, although recessed and of similar character is less rich in detail. The slab is Purbeck marble and above; the centre panel of the recess is an indent of a kneeling man with two scrolls above his head. The inscription has been effaced but in Ducarel's History of Lambeth a Latin inscription, supposedly from the tomb, is given in full. John Mompesson was not in fact buried here and the only likely member of the family to have been is Henry Mompesson.42. BISHOP TUNSTALL MEMORIAL:
Also on the south side of the chancel is a memorial to Bishop Tunstall of London (1474-1559), a friend of Sir Thomas Moore. Floor slabs in front of the east window mark the graves of-43. ARCHBISHOP TENISON (1636-1715)
44. ARCHBISHOP HUTTON (1693-1758)
45. ARCHBISHOPCORNWALUS (1713-1783)
The choirstalls are in memory of the sixth Earl of Chichester.47. VESTRY DOOR AND FRAME:
If you now walk towards the south wall you will see on your left the only fittings to survive from the old church. The door frame has been renewed. The door is in quite a good state of preservation and dates from the early sixteenth century, although the backing is more modern. "The door be hollow chamfered ribs planted on forming a four centred head, and three panels and two strap hinges. "48. THE PELHAM CHAPEL:
Originally built as the Leigh Chapel in 1522. Renamed the Pelham Chapel in 1905-6 in memory of Francis Godolphin Pelham, Earl of Chichester and Rector of the parish 1884-94. The rector's fourth son, Herbert Lyttleton PeIham (killed at Aisne, September 1914), is commemorated by an alabaster memorial in the chapel. Sir John Leigh, son of Ralph Leigh Esq, Lord of the Manor of Stockwell, and his wife, are also buried here.49. SLAB TO ELIAS ASHMOLE:
On the floor of this chapel is the slab marking the grave of Elias Ashmole, friend of the Tradescants. He acquired their collection of 'natural rarities' from Hester Tradescant (second wife of John Tradescant the younger) and this collection formed the basis of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.
50. THE PEDLAR'S WINDOW:
The Pedlar and his dog. Practically all the stained glass was lost during the 1939-45 war, but happily this popular window has been renewed. It is said to commemorate a pedlar who on his death left an acre of land to the church in thanks for the friendship he had received from the incumbent of that time (early 16th century) and on condition that he and his dog should be remembered in the church. It is thought that this land is where County Hall now stands - sometimes referred to as 'Pedlar's Acre' even today. The Pedlar's Park, in Vauxhall Walk, not far from the church, is another reminder of the legendary bequest.51. JOHN HERNAMAN MEMORIAL:
Terracotta memorial by George Tinworth of Doulton's Pottery Manufacturers of Lambeth (their factory was a short distance from the church until about 1955). The subject is 'Jesus in the Temple' in memory of John Hernaman who died in 1899. He was headmaster of the Boys School in the parish for 25 years.52. ADAMS MEMORIAL:
Robert Adams was Archbishop of British Columbia.53. MERCY WALLER MEMORIAL:
Mercy Waller, died 1887. Her service as an infant school mistress is remembered in a terracotta memorial, again by Tinworth, showing Jesus with little children.54. BRASS TO PTE ALDRIDGE COPLESTONE:
A brass plate remembers Private Aldridge Coplestone who died in action with the 11th Royal Lancers in South Africa in 1902.