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, 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 architect in his time, designing the National Portrait Gallery, and many houses and churches. He was also the architectural advisor to the Church Commissioners. Christ Church was consecrated in 1855 but closed in 1988 because of structure problems, and after 150 years, in 2003, the church was declared redundant.
Christ Church Chapel today
The tower end of the Chapel is now flats. Gates and security locks close 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, known as ‘The Chapel on the Hill’.
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, 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 London Gardens Online as above, apart from the obelisk marking the grave of the Baxters. However, the obelisk is in a private garden. Yes, it has been preserved, but somehow it looks more like a garden ornament than a memorial. 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 Forest Hill. 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
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