Dagenham Church, St Peter & St Paul, London/Essex - Monuments

From the outside, the Church of St Peter & St Paul, Dagenham, is unpretentious: a low tower, in stone and brick, battlemented (the 'slated spire') is long gone, the body similarly battlemented but largely obscured by trees, and a cottage-like rendered extension at the back with thin Gothic windows, and the most distinctive feature being the canopy to the entrance, Classical and rounded. Inside, all is whitewashed and clean, with a relatively high exposed roof of not too dark timber, to increase the lightness and airiness of the interior space. The larger part of the Church is the rectangular block of the nave, and this is split off from the chancel by a wall pierced by a central arch, with one open and one closed arch to the sides. This leads to smaller second space, with low ceiling and broad arches separating a chapel on the northern side. This unusual arrangement is understood when we know that the eastern part - chancel and chapel - are from the medieval church put up in the 13th Century, and refurbished in the 15th Century. A disastrous collapse of the tower in 1800 took down everything else as it fell, and the nave and tower we see today were rebuilt by a certain William Mason, who reused the rubble from the old building and new brown brick. He signs his work on the porch arch, dating it 1800, though funding difficulties meant it was not completed until 1805. The organ gallery at the west end dates from this time, while much of the rest inside dates from a late Victorian makeover.

Dagenham Church, St Peter and St Paul, exterior, porch and interior views.

There are not so many monuments - about 16 in all, but these include the ancient and excellent Alibon and Urswyck monuments, and figural work by a local 19th Century sculptor-mason, Sturdy of Romford.


We start with the grandest monument, the magnificent tomb of Sir Richard Alibon and his wife, Dame Barbara Alibon, and then look at the rest in date order.

Sir Richard Alibon, d.1688, and his wife, Dame Barbara [Blakestone]

Well, the inscription in Latin and English is to him, and it was she who erected the monument, but there are full sized statues to both of them, so I think the monument was for both, with the intent that some note to her would eventually be added. The monument is in the grandest 17th Century manner, with the two full sized statues of the couple on either side of the inscribed Latin panel, and raised up on a large block of heavily veined marble so that the viewer has to look up to them. On top and in the centre is a tall urn, dragooned (corrugated) at top and base in the 17th Century fashion - this pot, in red and white marble, is the only departure from the monochrome. The figure of Sir Richard shows him in middle age, with calm, rather pleased expression around the mouth, wearing a full periwig, fully robed, with the only note of contemporary costume being his broad collar, a bit of ruffle round the wrists, and a squared-off shoe protruding from the drapery. Very excellent drapery it is - swept back cloak, broad sleeves, a twisted fabric hanging from the waist, caught up in one hand, then falling gracefully to one side. His other hand holds a scroll, and the position of the monument is such that a small hole has been gauged in the wall to allow for this.

Sir Richard Alibon, d.1688, and Dame Barbara Alibon.

The statue of Dame Barbara is slightly leaning to one side, so she can rest her head upon her arm in mourning - she would be about as tall as her husband were she to stand erect, perhaps equalling his height given he is in shoes and her feet are bare. She is in completely Classical dress, apart from the headpiece, which looks more like a shawl, and the twisted bit of fabric forming a collar which then crosses between her breasts and then loops round. Much graceful and cleverly conceived drapery below. Her face is not young, but her body well rounded under the drapery, with something of an emphasis to the line of stomach and hips and forward leg. And the most graceful turn to the wrist of her other hand, which holds a book.

For the rest, we have a central shield of arms between the figures above the inscribed panel, a skull and crossbones below asa a memento mori (as in 'remember, viewer, you too shall die'), and low relief panels at the base, with crossed branches and crossed swords to the left as we look at the monument, a balance to the right, both symbols of Justice, as Sir Richard was a Justice of the Court of the King's Bench (and, as the inscription notes, the first Roman Catholic to be so for 150 years).

Other pre-1800 monuments:

Obelisk monument with draped urn: Maria Massingberd, d.1777.

Post-1800 panels

Also in the Church:

Outside, the Church stands in its own churchyard, with a variety of the usual types of headstones and a few chest tombs; across the road is the War Memorial in the form of a small cross on a tall stone shaft of rocket design.

War memorial, and Deco stained glass cross.

With many thanks to the Revd. Joel Edwards for kind permission to use pictures from inside St Peter & St Paul, Dagenham; see the Church website at http://www.dagenhamparishchurch.org/tour/.

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Essex-in-London church monuments

St Andrew Hornchurch monuments (Eastward) // Barking Church // or west and north to Walthamstow Church

Monuments in some other London churches

Introduction to church monuments // Angel statues // Cherub sculpture


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