St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey and its Monuments

St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey.

St Mary Magdalene in Bermondsey contains about 30 wall panel monuments, with a few interesting things outside in the largely-cleared churchyard.

From the outside in the churchyard, St Mary Magdalene in Bermondsey presents a broad, low structure of pale stone and slate roofs, with a short tower. It is only from the other side, facing onto the street, that we see some symmetrical aspect to the frontage, with two high aisles, all battlemented, flanking the central short tower, which has a balustrade and four corner pinnacles, and a short central spire with cupola and weathervane. The shape is because while the tower is of medieval date, kept when the Church was rebuilt from 1680, the new building was on a larger scale; further additions took place in the latter 18th Century, and then the usual 19th Century revamp and alterations. The result is a low, pleasantly informal exterior rather than a building looking to dominate by its height.

Inside, the Church is bright and white with gilt, tall and broad, with arched ceilings, galleries dating from late in the 18th Century thus some time after the Church was rebuilt, and pillars separating off the tall aisles from the nave. Several of the monuments we have come to see are around the walls, including a few at gallery level, and more and larger ones cluster in the chancel.

St Mary, Bermondsey - interior views.

Monuments

There are just over 30 monuments in total, all wall panels. The earliest one is a grand panel of the 17th Century, then eight 18th Century monuments including three less grand but still imposing Classical pieces with coloured marble frames, a cartouche, and an obelisk monument. All the rest bar one are 19th Century, with the usual strong preponderance for the early part of that era. These 19th Century monuments are generally rather modest, white marble efforts, on white backgrounds some of which could be painted black marble. The very last panel dates from World War I. The sculptural adornment overall is small, but includes a few draped pots in relief, that staple of the early 19th Century statuary mason, various coats of arms and simple accoutrements, a single small carved figure of a girl, and a couple of cherubs. We take the monuments in date order.

William Casteilus, late 17th Century:

William Casteilus, d.1861.

17th Century monuments:

There are eight in all, including as well as the already-mentioned large, framed works, the cartouche and the obelisk, two panels which are oval in shape, a rather uncommon but widespread style.

20th Century panel and brass:

Casket tomb outside the Church.

Also in the Church:

Remnants from the cleared Churchyard.

Outside the Church:

Outside, the open space which forms the churchyard was once the site of the important Bermondsey Abbey, now perished entirely (a couple of bases to pillars survive in the Church). The churchyard closed as a burial ground in the mid 19th Century, and the area was largely cleared of gravestones after being given to the vestry of Bermondsey in the 1880s, as noted on an obelisk. There remain a few larger chest tombs left, and a table tomb with six legs supporting a great stone on top. There is one much larger tomb or mausoleum lurking in a corner under some trees, bearing carvings of crossed downward-pointing torches (an allegory for life being snuffed out), and there is a monument to several children consisting of a little stone crib on a base, rather touching; it has little bronze lion heads set into it. A few gravestones survive, partially buried, partially smashed, against one wall. Round the other side, on the Church wall is a panel to Susanna Wood, with her husband also commemorated; he died in 1837, aged 108 years, according to the inscription.

Colonel Bevington's fountain, 1902.

Finally, two pieces of Victorian park furniture. At the corner, inset into the wall, is a drinking fountain, gift of Henry Sterry, 1859. And in the open space is a very characteristic fountain, of the shrine type, with square base of Cornish granite, four pillars of Aberdeen granite, and a stone four sided roof, most decorative. It was given by a certain Colonel Bevington as late as 1902, so just post-Victorian, but the style is characteristic of the previous several decades.

The Church website is at http://stmarysbermondsey.org.uk/history/.

St Mary Magdalene, 1830 west front by George Porter.

Top of page

East side of Churchyard, walk north along London Bridge Rd to Tooley Street statues

West along Long Lane to St George the Martyr // or Borough High Street, // Trinity Square // or Red Cross Garden

Go South and West to Wells Way, Burgess Park // or East to Bermondsey Old Library and Town Hall // and thence Southerly to // Deptford Town Hall

Or further East to St Mary Rotherhithe and the Caryatids in Southwark Park

Borough to Bermondsey: churches and sculpture // Some other London Churches // Introduction to church monuments

London sculpture // Sculptors

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