Christ Church churchyard in Forest Hill is in some ways a rather sad sight. And the site is curious – half residential and half consecrated – I wonder what it feels like to live there?
History of the Chapel
Christ Church was built in 1854 as the parish church of Forest Hill, although its tower with tall spire, which is a local landmark, was not erected until 1885. The church has now been redeveloped as flats, with a small chapel created at the east end, and the former churchyard is only partially accessible.London Gardens Online (LGO) , April 2012
The Earl of Dartmouth donated land for a church because he wanted a significant centre piece for his new Dartmouth Park Estate. Ewan Christian designed the church which dates from 1852-85. He was a significant man in his time – architect and architectural advisor to the Church Commissioners. Christ Church was consecrated in 1855 but after 150 year, in 2003, the church was declared redundant.
Christ Church Chapel today
The tower end of the Chapel is now flats. Gates and security locks fence off this part of the Church, and its former graveyard, from the general public. The other end of the building has become today’s Chapel.
In the Churchyard
The churchyard had some fine tombs and gravestones, including a red granite obelisk marking the family grave of George and Mary Baxter. By the west wall was a memorial in the form of a pinnacle to members of the Tetley family of tea fame, dated 1872, and to the right of the main entrance was the gravestone to the Hennell family.London Gardens Online (LGO) , April 2012
As recently as 1967 the graveyard appears to have been in reasonable order, with numerous tombs. When I visited I couldn’t even identify the tombs mentioned by LGO as above, apart from the obelisk marking the grave of the Baxters. However, the obelisk is in a private garden. The remainder of the graveyard is a sad sight. There are very few tombstones and those which do exist are not in good order.
I am not quite sure what I feel about Christ Church Chapel in Sydenham. If people are no longer attending church services, then perhaps it is better to use the building for other purposes, although it must be curious to live in half a church. And it is sad to see the graveyard so neglected. Are the graves still there but just unmarked? Perhaps the same local people who rescued a War Memorial will also turn their attention to Christ Church churchyard in Forest Hill.
Further information: Old photographs of Christ Church;