St Nicholas Church and gardens stands on the site of a Mediaeval church. The original church was built in the 10th century on a spur of chalky ground which lifted the building above the marshes. St Nicholas was the patron saint of various groups of people, and sailors, and the latter connection is perhaps the most appropriate here. Most recently I came across St Nicholas in Burgos in northern Spain.
A brief history
The church is quite a patchwork of building. Today’s south aisle was the original nave. The transcept was added in the 13th century but is partly destroyed, and the north aisle was added in the 15th century.
By the 1600s the church was in disrepair but John Gossage, a wealthy local farmer, stepped in and paid for the costs of rebuilding and the rather incongruous tower of 1662-64.
In 1867-68 C H Cooke restored the church and in 1907-08 Greenaway and Newberry enlarged the building on the north side. Damage in WWII and was most recently repaired in 1959. St Nicholas is a Grade II* listed building. There is an interesting drawing of the church, partly in ruins, and with a chest tomb in roughly the same place as the tomb below. This means the tomb dates from before 1760-90.
This was the parish church for Plumstead until 1853. The new church of St Margaret in Vicarage Road was consecrated in 1859 and became the parish church in 1865 but it too was demolished, in 1966. The current parish church is St Mark with St Margaret.
St Nicholas Gardens
Burials in the churchyard of St Nicholas stopped in 1855, but by the 1880s even the enlarged graveyard was full because the area was expanding so rapidly. The new Plumstead Cemetery opened in Wickham Lane in 1890. The extended graveyard is now St Nicholas Gardens.
The gardens are grass on a sloping site next to the high street. A few gravestones which remain were moved to the perimeter of the original graveyard.
St Nicholas Church and Gardens stands on the originals Plumstead High Street, not far from the hill of Bostall Woods. It is an interesting site but the gardens perhaps lack soul and the few gravestones around the perimeter seem like forgotten slabs of stone rather than memorials to people who were once alive. It is rather sad.