St Mary Magdelen Bermondsey - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Mary Magdelen Bermondsey

• St Mary Magdalene Bermondsey is in the London Borough of Southwark. The present building is late 17th century and is a Grade II listed building.

• Its parish extends as far as the Thames (including the south tower of Tower Bridge, City Hall and part of London Bridge Station). The parishes of St Olave Tooley Street, St Luke Grange Road and St John Horsleydown have all been merged into it.

• A church of this dedication is first recorded on this site in 1290, serving lay workers at Bermondsey Abbey. The design of that building is not known, but in 1680 the church was demolished and rebuilt, retaining the late medieval tower with a gothic window and arches. This re-building was completed in about 1690, and was followed by the addition of a north gallery in 1705 and a south gallery in 1794. The south gallery retains the complete original boxed pews but sadly those in the north gallery have had the gates removed. More additions were made in 1829, removing the portico and school which extended into Bermondsey Street.

• The interior was redecorated in the Gothic Revival style in 1852 and is described in a document which can be dated to 1865 - 1879 by reference to the then rector. In 1883 the chancel was lengthened and a new stained glass window was installed, as well as other ‘beautification’. Surviving the Blitz, the west end interior was damaged by fire in 1971. The church was first rendered externally in 1829, and was most recently re-rendered in 1994. The church is now the oldest building in the locality, and the medieval arches are still visible inside the tower behind the organ (not normally accessible to the public).

• The original organ was installed in 1751 and was repaired (but more probably replaced by the current instrument) by J W Walker of Norwich in 1851; it has been subject to major repair at least three more times since then.

• Visible in the church are two fine carved stone capitals of medieval date, which were discovered locally in the early 20th C and passed to the church for safe-keeping. These notable items are almost certainly parts of the structure of Bermondsey Abbey. The church also owns an item of medieval silver plate, called the Bermondsey Mazer, which is held in the care of the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is said to be the only surviving silver from Bermondsey Abbey.

• The churchyard was closed for burials in 1854, in common with other London churchyards, being over-crowded and a thus health hazard. It contains a number of listed monuments, mostly tombs, and is now in the care of Southwark Council, title having been passed to the Vestry of Bermondsey in 1882. All the older church registers are held by the London Metropolitan Archives.


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