St Mary at Hill Monuments

St Mary at Hill Church lies just just east of London Bridge, going along Lower Thames St, then up the little cobbled side street which is called St Mary at Hill towards Eastcheap; an alternative entrance is from Lovat Lane. The only indication of the church, with its flat front to the street and tower set back, is the protruding clock; and far more conspicuous is the tower of St Margaret Pattens framed against the top of the street across Eastcheap.

St Mary at Hill, showing the clock.

St Mary at Hill is a work of Christopher Wren dating from 1676, and he incorporated part of the walls of the pre-Fire church on the site. The tower was also kept, but replaced later by the current brick structure by George Gwilt, surveyor for repairs from 1787 - it is not visible from the street, in the view above, but can be seen from the little churchyard. The significant 19th Century architect James Savage repaired and restored the Church in the 1820s and again in the 1840s. The mason for the Wren church, who was also a statuary, was the eminent Joshua Marshall, who carried out work for Wren on a variety of his churches.

We enter through a gate to the little square of what remains of the churchyard, wherein is the entrance to the church. The yard, the last remnant of the burial ground, was closed in 1846, as noted on a panel. A few broken monuments are against the church wall, with dates between 1701 and 1880.

Gravestones in the yard, 19th Century.

Inside, the Church is shaped as a Greek cross inside a square, with Corinthian columns holding up a central dome. Cleared of its pews, it looks somewhat bare, being effectively a large and largely empty hall, with stacked chairs for use in meetings, concerts etc, though it does make it easy to admire the architectural features. The arched ceiling is decorated with a variety of minor stylised flowers and leaf fronds and light patterning in a Frenchified manner. There is much dark woodwork around the vast altar which reaches to the ceiling, with carving including the Royal coat of arms with unicorn and lion above the clock, and panels of carved musical instruments etc. Over one side door is another version of the coat of arms in darkened wood - it came from the lost church of St George Botolph Lane. Some plainer panelling up to about 5ft runs around part of the rest of the interior. Some of the 17th Century woodwork needed replacement in the 19th Century, in a competent, sympathetic style that is hard to tell from the original – the wood carver, W. Gibbs Rogers, has been much admired for the quality of his work. The glass is mainly plain, with a bit of modern colour.

St Mary at Hill Church, interior.

And of primary interest to these pages, we have in the main body of the church and the entrance lobby a crop of wall monuments, including a bust, a serious cartouche or two, and some more minor things. Notable monuments, then, in date order from the 17th and 18th Century, and one from the 19th Century, include:

Principal monuments:

Other, plainer monuments:

There are another 16 panels in St Mary at Hill, plus a couple of damaged ones, with little or no sculptural decoration. After a couple of 18th Century plain memorials, the rest form a group with interest when seen altogether, as showing some of the popular types of less expensive Classical panels of the first part of the 19th Century. They form a variety of simple panels, cut with pediments above, some styled like the end of a tomb chest, and some like a casket tomb seen from the side, and appear either with no backing, or the increasingly popular white marble panel on a black backing. We note them briefly, in date order again:

  • Richard Assheton, d.1740, with a brief Latin inscription, on a thinly bordered white marble with dark streaks, cut with a wavy top.

  • Timothy Baxter and Ann Baxter, undated but likely end of the 18th Century by its style, or early 19th Century by the font, plain white panel cut with pediment on black shaped backing, with two prominent rivets.

  • Revd. John Brand, d.1806, Rector for 22 ½ years of St Mary at Hill and St Andrew Hubbard, and a Fellow and Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, erected by his aunt Ann Wheatley. Panel with extended shelf above and below, so that the black backing to the sides forms two receding pilasters, an effect heightened by the small drapes carved at the top and the supporting feet below with stylised flowers carved upon them. Between these supports is a curved section of marble – the apron – on which is a now-blank oval which doubtless once was painted with a shield of arms, likely those of the Church.

    Early 19th Century tomb-chest ends: panels to Brand, Watson and Hogarth.

  • Elizabeth Watson, d.1808, two children, and her husband, Benjamin Watson, d.1825, Citizen and Merchant Taylor. With fluted sides and small shelf above and below, and two block supports.

  • Mrs Elizabeth Megarey, d.1812, and offspring to 1829, and on a separate panel, another son, her husband Hamilton Megarey, d.1836, and the son’s wife Jane Megarey, d.1841. This is the first of several panels styled as casket tomb ends, with outward sloping sides, the top being more of a lid than a pediment, though here keeping the ‘ears’ or acroteria at the sides, and with little feet. There were too many names for the monument, and the second, lower part, with its own lid and taking the feet from the original panel, was added underneath, presumably in about 1834.

  • Mary Ann Riddle, d.1813, and her eponymous child, who died in 1815, just four years old. Another casket, similar to the Megarey one, and likely by the same stone mason – see also the William Hillier panel noted below.

  • James Hogarth, d.1816, with nice script. A tomb chest end, thus with lid or pediment above an upper shelf, and cut to have feet below, and vertical sides. Less usually for this date, the upper portion is in different, darker marble to the once-white panel below.

    Early 19th Century casket-ends: Megary, Riddle and Savory.

  • Servington Savery, d.1818, a rector and vicar, with the inscription having a reference to the tomb itself: ‘Dear reminiscence needs nor bronze, nor stone;// While the heart beat, his tomb is there alone!’. Casket end, without any lid above the upper shelf, but having instead two little carved drapes to the sides, and small shaped feet.

  • John Ord, d.1819, son, also John Ord, d.1822, and three infants, and the wife of the elder Ord (called ‘Mr Deputy Ord’), Catherine Ord, d.1843. Flat panel with upper curved pediment with no entablature, lightly carved with scrolling, and two brackets below.

  • Harriett Wilson, d.1829, and her husband’s niece, Isabella Stevenson, d.1856, and the husband, Robert Wilson, d.1869. With upper pediment, and wavy base, and raised central plaque.

  • William Hillier, d.1833, tomb chest end with upper shelf, lid and side acroteria, and feet below cut in the same way as for the Megarey and Riddle monuments a score of years previously.

  • William Old, d.1833, and his wife Mary Old, d.1833. This and the later tablets are all of the white on black variety. Tomb chest end with upper and lower shelf, a high relief of a broad, draped pot above in place of lid or pediment, and the feet below carved as stylised leaves, quite elegantly. There is a shaped black backing, signed by the masons Garland and Field of Camberwell, among whose other work is a south London example at Battersea, to James Broadhurst, d. 1837.

    Garland and Field of Camberwell's tablet to William Old, and Samuel Wilson.

  • Samuel Wilson, d.1834. Another casket tomb, with outward sloping sides, and a flat top, on which is a nicely carved pot or urn with two handles. The feet, carved with stylised scrolls and leaves, rest on a separate shelf, which has its own blocky supports, and the whole is on a shaped black backing. This separate shelf composition is fairly common.

  • Sarah Phoebe Champnes, d.1837, simply cut tomb chest end with the thinnest of upper shelves, or lips, and the only carving being on the ‘ears’ or acroteria. On a rectangular black backing. This humble piece is signed by the stonemason, M.W. Johnson, whose fairly simple work is found fairly widely across the country.

  • Jane Dyson Heywood, d.1837, casket tomb in the style of the Samuel Wilson panel, presumably by the same mason, but with a different and unusually rotund pot or funereal urn on top.

  • William Henry Savory, d.1842, last of the casket tombs, again similar to the Samuel Wilson panel, but with carved lion-feet to the casket.

    M.W.Mason's modest tablet to Sarah Champnes.

    Also in the Church:

    Font, Coat of Arms, and carved wooden panel showing Music.

    Outside the Church:

    Outside in St Mary at Hill street, we may note that just up the road and opposite, on a wall is an old arch, decorated with vermiculation, and wide pillars showing rope and floral designs – it looks to be one segment from a line of arches.

    Skull and crossbones entrance to Church, and Watermen and Lightermen building.

    Just down the street from the Church is firstly a door with a pediment containing a much painted skull and crossbones, seemingly wearing a raised visor - this would have been the original entrance to the Churchyard. And near the bottom is a small building housing the Company Of Watermen and Lightermen, classical work of 1895, one bay wide with arched windows pilasters, and high relief designs of twin-tailed mermen or tritons, and dolphins, all in a medievalised style. A rather good pedimental bearded head is above the ground floor window.

    With thanks to the Church authorities for permission to use photos from inside; the Church website is at

    The carved arch.

    Top of page

    South and West along Lower Thames St to St Magnus the Martyr // East to St Dunstan in the East (ruin) // or to All Hallows Barking

    City Churches // Christopher Wren // London sculpture // Sculptors // Introduction to church monuments

    Angel statues // Cherub sculpture


    Visits to this page from 12 Feb 2012: 3135