St Alfege Church, Greenwich

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St Alfege Church is a Church of England place of worship in the town centre of Greenwich in the eponymous London Borough. Of medieval origin, the church was rebuilt in 1712–14 to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor

Early history

The church is dedicated to, and reputedly marks the place where Alfege (also spelt 'Alphege'), Archbishop of Canterbury, was killed by Viking raiders on 19 April 1012.

The second church built on this site was constructed around 1290. It was here that Henry VIII was baptised in 1491.

During a storm in 1710 the medieval church collapsed, having had its foundation weakened by burials both inside and outside.

The present church

Its replacement was built with a grant from the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches, to the designs of Nicholas Hawksmoor, one of the commission's two surveyors. The first church to be built by the commissioners, it was begun in 1712, and basic construction was completed in 1714;<ref name=downes> Template:Cite book</ref> it was not, however, consecrated until 1718.<ref name=BoE/>

The church is rectangular in plan with a flat ceiling, and a small apse serving as a chancel. At the east end, towards the street, is a portico in the Tuscan order. A central arch cuts through the entablature and pediment – a motif used in Wren's "Great Model" for St Paul's Cathedral.<ref name=BoE/> A giant order of pilasters runs around the rest of the church: a feature Kerry Downes suggests may have been added by Thomas Archer, who, according to the minutes of the commission, "improved" Hawksmoor's plans.<ref name=downes/> To the north and south are wide projecting vestibules the full height of the church, with steps leading up to the doors.<ref name=BoE>Template:Cite book</ref>

Hawksmoor planned a west tower, in the position of the existing one. However the commission was reluctant to fund it, and the medieval tower was retained. In 1730 John James refaced it, and added a spire. Hawksmoor's design, published in an engraving in 1714 had an octagonal lantern at the top, a motif he was later to use at St George-in-the-East.<ref name=downes/>

An organ was provided in the mid eighteenth century by George England.

During the Blitz on 19 March 1941, incendiary bombs landed on the roof causing it to collapse, burning into the nave. The walls and the tower remained standing, but much of the interior was gutted. The church was restored by Sir Albert Richardson in 1953.

The Church is currently used to celebrate 'Founder's Day' of Addey and Stanhope School and The John Roan School.

Notable burials

Notable burials, in and around the church, include: Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis (d. 1585), General James Wolfe (d. 1759), English-born explorer of Canada Henry Kelsey (d. 1724), and actress Lavinia Fenton (1760).<ref name=Green>'Greenwich: The parish church', Old and New London: Volume 6 (1878), pp. 190–205 accessed: 26 May 2007</ref> Noted merchant, Lloyds underwriter and art collector John Julius Angerstein (d. 1823) was a churchwarden there during the early 19th century, and is also buried there.

Literary connection

In Charles Dickens's novel Our Mutual Friend, Bella Wilfer marries John Rokesmith in St Alfege Church.

See also

  • List of churches and cathedrals of London



External links

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Template:London churches