EXCLUSIVE: Headstones reduced to rubble in St Alfege Park

September 23, 2011 by  

St AlfegeS

Gravestones that survived for hundreds of years have been reduced to rubble in St Alfege Park.

The headstones which had been positioned around the perimeter wall have been broken up and now sit in a large pile in the deconsecrated church yard.

Greenwich.co.uk understands that the Friends of St Alfege Park have been engaged in removing the headstones over a period of months, although this process was accelerated recently with the assistance of workers from the Community Payback probationary scheme.

The London Probation Trust confirmed to this website that a team from Community Payback has been working to clear the grounds at St Alfege Park. A spokesman commented:

"Part of this work has included the clearance of stone markers believed to be monumental and/or gravestones as requested by a representative of the Friends of St Alfege Park. This has now been completed and we are now working on another project within the grounds."

Local historian, Horatio Blood, was left appalled by the scene of broken headstones:

"The smashing to smithereens of these historic tombstones is wanton destruction and a terrible tragedy. All that remains are a few sorry stumps, like broken teeth, and the ghost impressions left behind on the brick wall. The Friends of St Alfege Park appear to have succeeded where the rioters failed."

But there is confusion as to who authorised the removal of the headstones in the park, with Greenwich Council legally obliged to ensure headstones remain safe in what is classed as a "closed church yard."

Additionally, the removal and destruction of gravestones is subject to controls under the 1977 Local Authorities Cemeteries Act.

Greenwich Council's cabinet member in charge of parks, Cllr John Fahy, told Greenwich.co.uk:

"There would seem to be some dispute as to what instructions were given to the Payback Team. As this is a Council responsibility I believe that the Friends should not have been involved. The memorial stones are an important legacy. Not all of the Headstones were damaged and I have asked Officers to look at creating a memorial garden where all of the tombstones can be brought together to create a large memorial plaque."

A request for information on why the work was carried out had not been answered by the Friends group at the time of publication, but a clue may be found in the Management Report of 2008.

It says the headstones around the perimeter wall are prone to vandalism or damage from plants behind because of the gap between the stone and the wall. The report recommended mortaring the stones in place to reduce the possibility of damage.

The authors of the Plan also commented "memorials within the park add an excellent ambience to the site.

"If they were removed, it would significantly decrease the site's visible heritage."

The Friends of St Alfege Park was formed in recent years and its volunteers have worked to improve the quality of the park. It has become a venue for live theatre events and the Friends are aiming to achieve Green Flag status by 2013/14.


Conservative Deputy Leader and shadow cabinet member for culture and the Olympics, Cllr Nigel Fletcher, commented:

"'I'm shocked that this appalling desecration of headstones could be allowed to take place in this way, and I'm glad Cllr. Fahy is taking the matter seriously. Whatever instructions were given should never have been allowed to be carried out, and I hope we will get some answers, fast, on just what happened. "


151 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE: Headstones reduced to rubble in St Alfege Park”

  1. Dazza on September 23rd, 2011 5:33 pm

    Absolutely disgusting!!

    Yet another example of the ‘normal’ history of Greenwich being bulldozed!!

    Does it not also give the Vandals of Greenwich Carte Blanche to destroy any that have survived to this point? I thought we, as a society, were supposed to be ‘anti-destruction for the sake of it’? Talk about mixed messages – it’s alright to destroy a Grave Marker but not to destroy a Pub…..I despair!!

    Then again, I suppose by marking the outline of St Mary’s Church with drains and then plonking King Bill in the middle should have been a warning…….Welcome to historic Greenwich!!!!!

  2. Sam on September 23rd, 2011 5:34 pm

    Oh now why on Earth would you do something like that?

    Some people are just depressing morons.

  3. @mudlarklives on September 23rd, 2011 7:26 pm

    With “Friends” like these…

  4. Mungojerrie on September 23rd, 2011 8:27 pm

    As a family historian, I really hope that they at least had the common decency to note the names, dates and epitaphs on these stones, but since no-one even seems to know (or will admit to knowing) who ordered this desecration I seriously doubt that they had the common sense to do so, let alone the decency. Vandalism of the highest order.

  5. Alain de Valois on September 23rd, 2011 9:03 pm

    Surely the perpetrators are guilty of criminal damage and should be brought to account.

    E Denning Reply:

    Deffinitely comes under damage to property.

  6. Joan Hewett on September 23rd, 2011 9:55 pm

    Being born and raised in Greenwich St Alfege church was important to me, as it was to my husbands family who lived were married there in the 1700, it survived the bombing with damage but nothing like this vandalism. We visit Greenwich frequently as we still have family there and have visited the park, so you can imagine how appalled we were to see this wanton destruction. Please do not allow any more of this so called legalized vandalism, its amazing how people in power have little or no knowledge about what is happening in their area and they still get paid.

    So called friends of St Alfege Park need a name change any ideas?

    We live in NZ and always look at this website

    Rob Powell Reply:

    Thanks for posting all the way from NZ, Joan – I’m just sorry it was on such a sad topic!

  7. adam pollock on September 24th, 2011 10:05 am

    Even if the headstones had to be moved (and not re-moved) what possible justification could there be for smashing them to bits ? How can vandals with sledgehammers be Friends of St Alfege Parks. Leave out the R and you have a more correct name for them.

    Stanley Kenner Reply:

    I agree with adam Pollock.
    My ancestry comes from Cornwall and I over the years seen damage to graveyards in canada the USA and here.
    You can painstakenly restore them, with the right team and painstaken work they can be reassembled, but they will never be the same.
    This is where all work in these areas has to be supervised. This is our history, Our people saying this is where I am now and I was here on Dates ?.
    This truly is sad to see.

  8. Lara on September 24th, 2011 2:47 pm

    Sam and I were quite upset when we read this last night, this is horrible! What an awful thing to do. :-(.

  9. Bill Ellson on September 24th, 2011 3:15 pm

    Criminal Damage, plain and simple.

    A local should make a formal complaint to the police.

  10. scared of chives on September 24th, 2011 5:03 pm

    Someone should, and will, get their arse mightily kicked for this. Who made the decision? I’ll be there first.

    And, if this has anything to do with ‘cleaning up Greenwich for 2012’, then I’ll take a rocket too.

  11. Dave SE10 on September 24th, 2011 5:15 pm

    Words fail me…somebody must be held accountable for this – as Bill said “Criminal Damage”.

  12. sonywolf on September 24th, 2011 6:12 pm

    I find this totally disgusting, my family have lived in Greenwich for generations and those head stones have always been sacred, to me this is just wanton destruction and those responsible MUST be held accountable! “friends of St Alfege park” no one needs friends like you.

  13. Peter Calver on September 25th, 2011 12:45 pm

    The people who were responsible (or rather irrespnsible) should be prosecuted, it’s as simple as that.

    Jo-Anne Gannon Reply:

    I agree with you Peter. Absolutely no excuse possible for this.

  14. Catherine Grove on September 25th, 2011 9:55 pm

    Some further information:

    The church, churchyard and the park (a former burial ground) lie partly in the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site and partly in the WHS buffer zone and are described as a “gateway” into the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.

    Friends of St Alfege Park:



    Mary Smith Reply:

    My great great grandmother died (and my grandmother was born) at the same address 3 Vicarage Terrace and may well have been buried in the precincts of the church. I searched amongst the headstones a couple of years ago but they were all unreadable. It sounds like a good idea to make the broken remnants into some sort of memorial plaque.
    I wonder whether you are aware of a brass plaque which is inside the church and bears the names of members of the Kent Volunteers who died in South Africa. One of them is Herbert Turpin who was my grandmother’s brother. He was a drummer boy.
    I shall be visiting Greenwich next month to attend a meeting of Flickr members at the Maritime Museum.
    Any information regarding the gravestones will be welcome.
    Sincerely, Mary Smith

  15. Vandalism | The Greenwich Phantom on September 26th, 2011 10:02 am

    […] – I cannot say how shocked I am by this. I will leave Rob at Greenwich.co.uk to tell the tale but basically, a large number of ancient headstones at St Alfege’s […]

  16. Ian on the Hill on September 26th, 2011 10:53 am

    How appalling. What kind of moron would even contemplate this, and what kind of f@ckwit would carry it out?

    Given the people who did the smashing are sentenced offenders maybe they were too stupid and vicious to realise care. Maybe they enjoyed it If so then their sentences need to me reviewed.

    If it was someone from the ‘Friends’ who ordered it then that’s obviously got too big for it’s boots.

  17. Daily Photo: 26/09/2011 – Smashed to smithereens | Greenwich.co.uk on September 26th, 2011 10:54 am

    […] shocking photo from St Alfege Park where some of the headstones have been reduced to rubble. Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and […]

  18. siobhan on September 26th, 2011 12:29 pm

    Are we any clearer on who authorised the smashing of the headstones?

    I can’t believe it would have happened without a signoff.

    I don’t want to demonise the ‘friends’ as they have done a lot of good things in the park. The picnic tables, flower beds and events are all very welcome and enjoyed by all residents. I live right next to the park and in the two years I have lived there I have liked seeing the little changes in the park.

    Obviously whoever authorised the smashing should be held to account. All I am saying is lets not all demonise a group which has worked hard to regenerate an area which we now all enjoy.

  19. Yimby on September 26th, 2011 1:09 pm

    I had a look yesterday, and was relieved to see that many headstones and memorials remain elsewhere in the park. It doesn’t diminish the crime, but I had the impression from the article that they had destroyed the lot.

    Rob Powell Reply:

    Hi Yimby – it does say in the article, “Not all of the Headstones were damaged.”

  20. Neil on September 26th, 2011 2:31 pm

    Hard to imagine that *someone* involved woudn’t have said “hang on, are you sure this is right?” before going ahead.

  21. siobhan on September 26th, 2011 2:46 pm

    Well I walked through the park on the day it happened and saw someone taking pictures of the cleared area and doing what looked like weeding. I asked what had happened and was told it was a regeneration thing.

  22. Darryl on September 26th, 2011 2:51 pm

    Has anybody called the police yet? This is criminal damage, pure and simple.

    There’s some serious issues surrounding the “friends” groups that Greenwich Council seems to be hoping will do some big society work – in Charlton, the group for Maryon Wilson Park didn’t know about the funding cut for the animal park; but in Greenwich, we can see this lot thinking they have so much power they can smash up gravestones. Unbelievable, but symptomatic of so many things that are wrong with the way the area is run.

    laurelleSE3 Reply:

    I so agree with you Darryl about the serious issues surrounding the “friends” groups. It is as if local councils and other authorities are saying, well, we don’t want to be bothered with running this or that project, pass it on to the local community with no proper regulation and let them get on with it, and if they mess up well too bad, we don’t live there. If a councillor or MP lived in the St Alfege Park area, I doubt very much this would have happened. Does anyone know whether “Friends” groups operate within any sort of codes of conduct?

    Matthew Pennycook Reply:

    LaurelleSE3, with all due respect this has nothing to do with proximity of the homes of local representatives to the park. I am one of the three elected Councillors for Greenwich West. I am also a member of the St Alfege Neighbourhood Residents Association (SANRA) and live a short distance from the park. I share the feelings of anger and outrage expressed by residents about this appalling incident. I also recognise that the Friends have made valuable improvements to the park over recent months but the fact remains that they were given clear instructions not to interfere with the Headstones and it appears they still decided to do so.

    laurelleSE3 Reply:

    Thanks for your reply. Of course I agree that the hypothesis does not always work in every instance, but you must surely be aware of the worrying trend, due mainly to the dire financial circumstances that public bodies find themselves in, towards the handing over control of various groups to non-elected and/or non-regulated organisations. I am not saying that this is to be discouraged, as sometimes it is the only way to maintain a local resource. However, your last sentence underlines my point regarding codes of conduct for these voluntary groups – surely there have to be some sort of rules to be followed in order to avoid the type of catastrophe that happened at St Alfege’s Park?

  23. laurelleSE3 on September 26th, 2011 3:09 pm

    What next? Trainee chainsaw operators “accidentally” chop down the trees? Or maybe some Napalm gets mixed in with the fertiliser perhaps? How can mistakes of this magnitude happen, pretty easily, it seems. Alas.

  24. So Where From Here? | The Greenwich Phantom on September 26th, 2011 3:13 pm

    […] have been haunted all day by Rob at greenwich.co.uk’s story about the sanctioned vandalism of headstones at St Alfege’s church […]

  25. Extra, Extra | Londonist on September 26th, 2011 5:15 pm

    […] John Smith, published now for the first time.To Greenwich: friends of St. Alfege Park horrified by destruction of gravestones during recent ‘renovations’.Deer tourism, by KeithWD via the Londonist flickr […]

  26. John Fahy on September 26th, 2011 5:21 pm

    The Friends of St Alfege have a lot of explaining to do bearing in mind there was a specific instruction not to interfere with the Headstones. Payback Team’s role was to carry out some general tidying up and painting rails. I am horrified that this has happened. The Friends of Parks are a voluntary Group representing the interests of residents. This incident beggers belief.

  27. megad on September 26th, 2011 5:27 pm

    This is the most awful I have seen in years. These stones were an integral part of the history and charm of the yard. I hope the responsible individuals will be named, shamed and hopefully prosecuted.

  28. Paul on September 26th, 2011 6:28 pm

    Criminal charges have to be brought against the people responsible for this desecration. If this was in any way officially sanctioned, by ‘Friends’ or others, they should have the decency to fall on their sword and not only accept responsibility but also be prepared to pay the consequences.

    Utterly horrified.

    Bill Dalton Reply:

    Speaking from the other side of the pond I can only hope that the idiot (idiots) responsible for this are sat down with pots of glue and told that until they fix everything they are not going anywhere.

  29. Jo Taylor on September 26th, 2011 6:52 pm

    I am a member of the Friends of St Alfege Park. I can confirm that the Chair of the Friends group is currently away and we have been unable to make contact to clarify the facts and action being taken. In light of this I’m afraid we’re not yet in a position to respond. The Chair is due to return on Wednesday and we plan to issue a statement as soon as possible.

    Barbara Reply:

    Not in a position to respond? then perhaps you can answer the question: Did any member of your group or anyone associated to your group know about the planned destruction of these grave stones before it happened?

    Rob Powell Reply:

    Thank you, Jo. Look forward to the statement as soon as it becomes available.

    Dianah Baker Reply:

    Without wishing to sound churlish, given modern communications – email, mobile phones and the like – not being able to make contact seems unlikely, unless the Chair is in the middle of nowhere. Given the upset this has caused, not to mention the suggestion that i could be a criminal matter, I am surprised at the lack of a prompt response.

  30. Pedro on September 26th, 2011 7:08 pm

    Jo, what mealy-mouthed comment is this?

    You are saying you can’t respond until your Chair returns? So you have to wait for his/her OK before you can decide whether this is a good thing or not? Even a politician would add a statement of regret amid the pseudo-legalese about not being “in a position to respond.”

    One can only presume, by your response, that this destruction isn’t a surprise to you?

    Jo Taylor Reply:

    Hi Pedro,
    Please accept my apologies for the delay. The Friends are extremely concerned about recent events and it’s our number one priority to get the facts straight and communicate with you and other local residents. We will respond in full as soon as we can.

  31. hakinboy on September 26th, 2011 11:05 pm

    Are there any legible inscriptions on the damaged headstones or have they all been corroded by years of acid rain?

  32. Council “appalled” at St Alfege headstone gaffe | Greenwich.co.uk on September 27th, 2011 10:42 am

    […] decision to remove and smash to pieces some of the headstones in the park, first reported by Greenwich.co.uk last Friday, has caused local outrage and even been reported on in today’s Daily Mirror and Evening […]

  33. Church Headstones Smashed To Rubble In Greenwich | Londonist on September 27th, 2011 11:03 am

    […] of the perimeter headstones in St Alfege Park Greenwich have been removed and reduced to rubble, reports Greenwich.co.uk. Alarmingly, the destruction of the historic memorials was not an act of random vandalism, but […]

  34. Hakinboy on September 27th, 2011 11:03 am

    But what is the status of gravestones which have been weathered to the extent that the original inscriptions have gone and which long ago have been cleared to the edges of the park so that there is no relation to the graves which they once marked? What historical value do they have other than to show that this was once a graveyard? What have we really lost as a result of these stones being moved and broken up?

    Rob Powell Reply:

    I’m not sure they’ve all been weathered as much as you might have imagine. The picture linked to in this tweet clearly shows the name Elizabeth on a smashed stone.

    siobhan Reply:

    It’s hard to say how weathered they are. A lot of the headstones were clearly very weathered. I took some rubbings last summer and was still able to get names off them however. Some were a bit more broken up than others, with trees growing through them. But I think you’re missing the point, Hakinboy, these are markers for people’s graves and should be treated with respect. Clearly, historical value is important, but the desecration of gravestones stands for something a lot darker than just removing faded flagstones.
    There is someone posting on here whose family married in the church and are buried there, for example. I met a couple this summer who were visiting the graveyard as they had traced their family tree and found they had relatives there. Ok, so the newest grave there was 200 years old or therabouts (am guessing) but it’s still enormously wanton and disrespectful.

    Maureen Burton Reply:

    It doesn’t matter if they were weathered and illegible. Someone had taken the time and trouble and expense to lay a memorial to a loved one. The stones should be left alone and not desecrated like this. This is typical of this Country today, absolutely no respect given to the living or indeed the dead!

    Bill Dalton Reply:

    So, using that logic I would guess that the bones should be dug up and chucked into the pile of the smashed stones since they are not identifiable.

    Aine Nic Ghabhann Reply:

    Have these so-called “Friends” bothered to record the names of those buried in the cemetery? I spent hours going around Tower Hamlets graveyard hoping to find a headstone for my great-grandfather who I cannot find on any census! Some groups are doing great work recording the burials in the cemeteries which is a great help to those of us trying to find lost relatives.

    Skipper Reply:

    You must be kidding !! Do you honestly believe headstones are worth keeping only if they are legible?? And we Americans thought the English were civilized.

  35. John Fahy on September 27th, 2011 11:06 am

    The Friends of Parks Forum is a consultative body. They are a valuable community body providing arange of voluntary support across the Borough . They are valued and appreciated. The Parks in the Borough remain within the Council. Control has not been handed to anybody.

    Darryl Reply:

    So, John, someone’s failed in controlling those “friends”, surely?

    The council can’t have it both ways here – if the “friends” are acting on the council’s behalf on council land, who’s keeping an eye on them?

  36. RogerW on September 27th, 2011 11:23 am

    Just seen this (I’m not currently in England) and to say that I was utterly appalled would be a massive understatement.
    Can anyone say if the story been passed to the press, and other news media, as yet? It damned well should be.

    Rob Powell Reply:

    Hi RogerW – the story is in today’s Mirror, Standard and other news outlets are interested. It’s also been on the Phantom and Londonist and in the Wharf.

    RogerW Reply:

    Hi Rob

    Many thanks for the quick reply.

    (It was actually via TheGreenwichPhantom that I first found out about this)

  37. John Fahy on September 27th, 2011 11:34 am

    It is clearly evident that this partnership working has stood the test of time. We will be setting out a set of protocols in writing. There is,however,a very clear understanding about roles and responsibilities but clearly has gone badly wrong on this occasion.

  38. laurelleSE3 on September 27th, 2011 12:40 pm

    St Alfege’s Park is affectionately known as “The Rec” locally. Now unfortunately it will probably be thought of as “The Wreck”.

  39. park keeper on September 27th, 2011 1:27 pm

    Your damn right it has gone badly wrong. Again the work of bunches of preposterous incompetents who are clearly not up the job.
    Just what is your cultural strategy for the area Mr Fahey. Something akin to Thamesmead perhaps?
    The ability of LBG safeguarding and protecting valuable assets goes from bad to worse!

    The recent track record on planning matters requires some resignations:

    The park is being shut off and secured with 4m high fencing for an exclusive event totally unsuitable to its role, character and scale. The place will be trashed with the planned stadium and associated servicing crap.

    The Cutty Sark is no longer a ship and about to become an ‘experience’ with a cafe resembling a Garden Centre. (I suggest the so called planning committee get on the Eurostar to Paris if they’re so in need a Disney fix).

    The Old Royal Naval College and Queens House are now the Greenwich ‘Back Lot’ for Warner Bros and other ‘we’ll have that and stuff the visitors’ film makers.

    The excellent Sammy Ofer Wing (by Danish architects who seem to value our heritage more than we do) gets blighted with garage forecourt banners selected from some cheap promotion catalogue.

    All this and Chris Roberts thinks that the Ibis is an architectural gem.

  40. Robert Number16 on September 27th, 2011 6:20 pm

    Sorry for this ,but more bad news for St Alfege Park.I have been told several Houses in Sussex Court (that backs on to St Alfege Park) have had a large amount of lead stolen.

    Hakinboy Reply:

    @ Robert. Yes that is correct. At least two houses have had lead ripped of their roofed this afternoon. It has been reported to the police who have taken an interest. Suggest everyone who loves locally keep am eye out for lead thieves and make a point of strolling round the park and report any suspicious behaviour.

  41. Harriet on September 27th, 2011 7:34 pm

    Utterly shocked. I recently visted St Alphege (from Wales) as my ancestors were very much part of Greenwich and many of them were baptised and buried in St Alphege. I had been hoping to “visit” their graves. I knew St Alphege was closed but not deconsecrated (sp). I was saddened to see the stones along the walls especially as some of them appeared to have been put behind a hedge. Most were unreadable due to age and the way they were against the wall – but to destroy them…….it beggars belief.

    Indigo Reply:

    St Alfege is not closed. It is an open, working church.

    As for why some headstones are behind a hedge. In 1941, towards the end of the Blitz, St Alfege Church was hit by several incendiary bombs. You can get an idea of the destruction from the image on this page


    I believe that a nearby row of houses was also destroyed. Greenwich suffered badly in the Blitz. If you look at bombing maps of London (where the bombs of the Blitz fell), it seems inconceivable that gravestones escaped being badly damaged and displaced by bombing.

    Eg start here



    I have seen but don’t have a copy of a map showing where all the burials were in the churchyard and what is now St Alfege Park, before it was closed for burials. There is hardly a free square foot. I think Greenwich Council has the map.

  42. Graeme on September 27th, 2011 8:25 pm

    This wasan outrageous act of mindless destruction

    We need to find out what imbecile was responsible for allowing this to go on unchecked

    Who issued the instructions ?

    Who ‘supervised’ the work ?

    Who will be sacked as a consequence ?

    Whoever it was could be given the option of repairing all the broken stones.

    [Comment by email, posted on Graeme’s behalf]

    Eddie Gould Reply:

    There has been more than enough time now to identify the culprit, but his (her?) name will never be made public. More than likely the person has been transferred to another area of responsibility, probably with a handsome salary increase and a nice bonus. After all, it’s only council taxpayers’ money.

    NJ Wicken Reply:

    @Eddie Gould. The destruction of these monuments was not ordered by a member or an employee of the council.

    It appears this was in fact ordered by the Chair of the Friends of St Alfege Park. The Friends are a separate voluntary group who, somewhat ironically in this case, look after and improve the park.

    Further details on this can be found here:


  43. Hakinboy on September 27th, 2011 8:30 pm

    @ Harriett. Did you find the Welsh slate headstone with a Welsh language inscription? It has been carefully preserved, I suspect by the Friends of the Park, along with the other headstones which retain any more than the odd word of their original inscriptions. Because the slate is impervious to the acid rain which has removed the Inscriptions from the limestone headstones it is as good as new. If you didn’t find it, against the wall in the south east corner of the park, put up another Post here and I will check the inscription for you.

  44. parky on September 27th, 2011 11:24 pm

    does anyone know who these so called “friends” actually are? are they the same louts who have pruned the shrubs and planted out the flower beds? Was it the same criminal “friends” who bought, built and placed picnic tables in the park ? i’ll bet it was the same vandals who have changed that park from a neglected refuge for noisy aggressive drinkers to a pleasant oasis which families feel comfortable in? because if it is, they should be lined up against those same walls they moved the headstones from and shot. What’s more, they should be shot by all those indignant contributors to this electronic organ who have lifted themselves off their seats and volunteered to improve that park which they seem to love so much.

    I reckon the “friends” will live for quite a bit longer

  45. AGree with Parky on September 28th, 2011 10:31 am

    Totally agree Parky.

    The friends have done SO much good work in that park, so let’s wait a little bit longer and get the truth of situation before judging. At the end of the day, how many of the poeple complaining on this website have given up their weekends to garden, to raise funding for new picnic tables, repaired the picnic tables when they get vandalised, replace the picnic tables when they get stolen etc etc?!

    Very few I assume.

  46. NJ Wicken on September 28th, 2011 4:48 pm

    I have now heard reasons from a reliable source as to why the chair of the Friends apparently asked the young offenders to remove the tombstones. Apparently the owner of the neighbouring property complained about children standing on the stones and looking into his garden and the council had earlier refused his request to increase the height of the boundary. Also, apparently the Friends’ wanted more space to have further vegetable beds installed. I have also been told that the greenhouse the Friends’ erected on the grounds next to the removed tombstones was never given permission by the council and will therefore need to be removed. If this is indeed true, it seems that certain members of the Friends have been a law unto themselves. If so I feel so sorry for the members of the committee who are dedicated to the grounds and appear to have been so let down by certain individuals.

  47. Hakinboy on September 28th, 2011 5:11 pm

    @ N J Wicken – if your source is reliable and was privy to both the conversations you refer to between the chair and the neighbour and the chair and the young offenders, tell us who it is and how that source came to be involved in both conversations. If you can do so, we will sll be elightenrd. If you can’t or won’t, i suggest readers ignore your comments. Repeating gossip and hearsay leads only to inaccuracy and prejudice.

  48. siobhan on September 28th, 2011 5:24 pm

    I live in the property mentioned and the owners were away almost all year. Not sure when they would have communicated with the chairman about children looking into the garden.

    Not that it matters, but I’m almost 100% the reason for the boundary extension was nothing to do with children and more to do with the fact there were attempted robberies on the property after people jumped over the walls.

  49. NJ Wicken on September 28th, 2011 7:00 pm

    @Hakinboy, perhaps if the Friends had issued a statement then there would not be the inaccuracy you speak off. It also seems clear from your earlier comment ‘What have we really lost as a result of these stones being moved and broken up?’ that the destruction is not of interest or importance to you. Given this comment and the fact you are using an alias, I wonder if perhaps you a ‘Friend’?

    @siobham, even if there were attempted burglaries on the property mentioned, which is indeed an unfortunate and distressing occurrence, the Friends still did not have the jurisdiction to order the destruction and removal of the stones. I can only hope that some sort of prosecution will be forthcoming, and my understanding is that this is currently an avenue being pursued by certain parties.

  50. David Porter on September 30th, 2011 12:53 am

    Unfortunately, and inexcusably, once a group gets together and decides to call itself ‘Friends’ of anything, they become to think they own it. And then they start to
    assume everything they do is good and necessary; they tidy, primp, and plant their neat flower beds, and next they’ll dictate who can use the park, or not, depending on the ‘Friends’ prejudices. Something similar happened elsewhere in another SE London cemetery, but thankfully so far the headstones have been left alone.

  51. Hakinboy on September 30th, 2011 9:03 am

    @ David Porter So do you agree they ought to be shot? And do you qualify to do the shooting?

    David Porter Reply:

    @Hakinboy. Don’t put words in my mouth. I didn’t mention punishment, just offered my personal observations on groups of ‘Friends’.

    NJ Wicken Reply:

    @Hakinboy. I am wondering why you have failed to respond to my comments, but thought it appropriate to offer such unneccessary and uncalled for comments to David Porter.

    I can only assume that your failure to deny your membership of the ‘Friends’ means you are indeed one of them, or closely involved with persons on the group.

    If this is indeed the case, then perhaps you could enlighten us as to when the chair of the ‘Friends’ will be making his long-awaited statement on the matter?

  52. parky on September 30th, 2011 9:49 pm

    @ NJ Wicken Waiting for you to tell us about your “source”. Unless you do, nothing to respond to.

    NJ Wicken Reply:

    @parky, given that my comment was for ‘Hakinboy’ and you have replied, do we therefore assume that these two anonymous identities are one and the same person?

    There is certainly a great similarity in terms of tone and content in the posts of these users above. I am now starting to wonder if your real identity may be none other than the chair of the Friends himself.

  53. Ian on the Hill on October 2nd, 2011 3:23 pm

    OK,l the comments are getting silly.

    Let’s be clear:

    What actually happened? So far we don’t know ANYONE authorised it. I’m thinking that any project undertaken by young violent offenders is fraught with this kind of danger if not properly supervised.

    Once we know where the responsibility is then is the time to look at appropriate action. \The most annoying thing here is the lack of information. It smells like a bad fish.

    NJ Wicken Reply:

    I agree with you Ian on the Hill that the lack of information has been the most frustrating element of this terribly sad state of affairs.

    I know that a group comprised of people from the council visited the site on Thursday with, I believe, some members of the Friends.

    I have no idea if the chair was with them however, since he apparently only returned from holiday on that day.

    I do also agree that unsupervised work of this nature by the inexperienced is far from a wise idea. However I would like to point out that not all young offenders will have been convicted of violence-related crimes.

    A new statement from the chair and the friends was apparently being prepared over the weekend, so we shall see when – or if – it ever reaches the light of day.

    Ian on the Hill Reply:

    My understanding is that the group concerned deals solely with violent offenders, but I stand to be corrected.

  54. Friends of St Alfege Park’s Chair apologises for damage to gravestones | Greenwich.co.uk on October 4th, 2011 4:23 pm

    […] The Chair of the Friends of St Alfege Park, Tim Delap, has made his first comments since the controversy broke over the damage to headstones. […]

  55. Veracity on October 8th, 2011 11:26 pm

    I am appalled that the Chair of the Friends of St Alfege Park, in his finally released statement, says that they are “now urgently reorganising their work and management processes to ensure that we safeguard the infrastructure of the park”. “Now’?? Does this mean that they haven’t done that in the past? To me, in this statement he only apologizes that the destruction was done, he doesn’t deny that it was sanctioned by the so called “Friends”. I live in Australia but I was born in England and have family from the Greenwich area. Many of us feel that part of us belongs with the history and heritage of St Alfege and I’m shocked and disgusted that this wanton destruction has been perpetrated. Surely, to be a “Friend” must involve some knowledge & interest in the history of the place.

  56. Sandra on October 9th, 2011 1:48 am

    Absolutely Disgraceful Destruction, it is Heartbreaking !
    With ‘Friends’ like this who needs enemies….
    I was born in the South East and now live in Cheshire and, always visit St. Alfege when I return to Greenwich, my family lived in Greenwich from the 1700’s and, it was our family Church.

  57. Elizabeth Robertson on October 9th, 2011 2:24 am

    Deeply, deeply saddened by the reports of this desecration. Why on earth would anyone think that this was alright? Although I live in New Zealand, my family links go back to Greenwich at least from the 1700’s. Heartbreaking!

  58. Tony on October 9th, 2011 8:56 am

    This is an absolute disgrace and sacrilige, Those responsible should ALL face criminal charges, where they gave the orders or followed the orders! There is no justifiable excuse for carrying out such wanton destruction.

  59. Ian on October 9th, 2011 1:04 pm

    Jig-saw anybody

    Joking aside if the pieces are all there then why not try and put them back together if only to extract the names etc

  60. Barbara Smith on October 9th, 2011 2:49 pm

    I almost wish that I could repay their vandalism by vandalising their families headstones!
    Many years ago I made the mistake of taking my elderly mother to Woodgrange park cemetery of now noted infamy, where her mother and favourite aunt are buried. We had enjoyed a pleasant afternoon looking at the houses where she had been born and brought up and I thought this would be a nice end to the day. She was quite overcome when she saw the vandalised stones cast around and we had to beat a hasty retreat so that she could sit down and recover from what had been a very upsetting experience for her. Her mother and aunt were only buried in 1939, so hardly ancient stones.
    I can, therefore, understand what the relatives of the people here must feel. What possesses people? Have they no feelings? No brains? I would like them to have to sit down and piece together all that can be pieced together and from their own pockets pay for the replacement or refurbishment.

  61. Carol Whaley on October 9th, 2011 8:19 pm

    Vandalism by supposedly ‘normal’ people.
    They’d be the first to complain, but because they thought it was okayed by council, or the friends of the cemetary, must have thought it was ok to utterly destroy something so precious, that can never be made whole again.
    Would it be possible to put them back together????
    Maybe our vandals could give it a go.

  62. Peter Huntly on October 9th, 2011 8:45 pm

    This is terrible tragedy. It’s such a shame that the official and semi-official bodies involved could not have prevented this happening. They are are all chasing around to excuse themselves. How would anybody involved feel if one of the headstones had belonged to one of their family.

  63. Gill Hollingsworth on October 9th, 2011 11:21 pm

    I was only made aware of this distruction by “The Lost Cousins Newsletter” I feel as others, but deep down I feel sick, I have many relatives buried at Greenwich, do we have any idea as to whose graves have been distroyed? If so surely the details should be given in as much detail as possible so that the families involved are aware. Surely the priority now is to repair & replace if necessary these Graves, I know it’s not the same, but what else is there to do? We need to try and move forward and make sure that this NEVER happens again and try to make good for the devistation that has been caused. Debate the whys and what fors later, the first priority to me is to sort this mess out.

  64. JADon McVeity on October 10th, 2011 2:43 am

    Damage is done. Can it be put to rights? As I looked I wondered if there are photos taken by locals with the stones in the background that might serve as a guide so that they might be pieced together and replaced in their correct original positions. To me this is much preferable to a memorial garden with large memorial plaque Too much like “Well we got that bunch of rubble out of there and pasted in this little wall out of the way”

  65. Irene Absalom on October 10th, 2011 6:01 am

    I had always thought London was a city steeped in retaining heritage. Sights like the Greenwich gravestone junk heap are common here in Christchurch, New Zealand, at present – but we have an excuse. Well, three excuses, really, namely a 7.1 magnitude earthquake (Sept 4, 2010) and two 6.3s (Feb 22 and June 13 this year). But at least our gravestones have been left lying where they fell, possibly to be repaired if and when funds allow.

    On top of that we have local and wider government bodies ripping down our city’s heritage buildings, seemingly irrespective of their ability to be repaired from quake damage. Heritage destruction wouldn’t happen in England, I thought, until seeing the photos of the Greenwich desecration.

    Our Munyard ancestors who lived in and around Greenwich, Camberwell and Deptford from the mid 1700s well into the 19th century must be reeling in their respective graves. Was there no one who questioned what was happening?

  66. Paul on October 10th, 2011 9:59 am

    It’s worth pointing out, for the second time, that this was not a graveyard. No bones are in there, they were removed presumably a century ago. That’s why the stones were arranged around the perimeter.

    I don’t want to downplay the stupidity of this, nor how outrageous it is that we’ve had no proper explanation of what the Friends thought they were doing, or what other memorials have been removed in the past year or two. But this place stopped being a graveyard many years ago.

    NJ Wicken Reply:

    @ Paul. It is my understanding that the bones were indeed left in place, just that the headstones were relocated to the perimeter walls of the park and the grounds then relandscaped into a park. So it is still very much a burial ground, all-be-it a deconsecrated one.

  67. siobhan on October 10th, 2011 10:13 am

    These comments are a bit out of context. I’m not defending the smashing of graves but we do know that it wasn’t intentional and it happened in error. Those who actually live near the park also can attest that gravestones were placed around the far walland as such have not marked graves in many years. the graves in fact were destroyed during the second world war (if my elderly neighbour is to he believed) and so technically the basketball ct, flower beds, pathway and picnic tables are all on the ‘real’ graves.

    Also, the Friends have really done fantastic things in the park. I’ve only lived in greenwich two years and have seen the change in that time. This year residents enjoyed fetes and picnics in the park thanks to their efforts. There are nice floqerbeds and bird boxes and feeding tables.

    NJ Wicken Reply:

    @siobhan: You state “we do know that it wasn’t intentional and it happened in error”. Unfortunately we do not know this at all.

    I am sure that the vast majority of the Friends are as upset by this as everyone else, but it does appear that their Chair, Mr Tim Delap, ordered the community payback workers to remove the stones.

    Furthermore, it appears that the removal of stones was taking place before the youth offenders were involved. Further details from the statement by the London Probation Trust can be found here:


    This states: “I can confirm we have been working at St Alfege Park clearing the grounds. Part of this work included the clearance of monumental stone markers and/or gravestones –as requested by a representative of the Friends of St Alfege Park. This has now been completed.

    “It should be made clear the removal of stones had been underway for some months before we attended.”

    The above appears to make it clear that the Friends were removing stones long before this recent mass demolition. It remains to be answered how many were removed exactly.

    According to the council park workers, who I have spoken to, it would appear that the now missing stones along the wall where the Friends’ new greenhouse and vegetable beds are now located were amongst them. The outlines of removed memorials can be clearly seen, but the council workers have no idea where the removed tombstones were taken.

    There is an interesting post by ‘Hakinboy’ from 27 September above. He is either a Friend or very closely associated with them and from my previous post exchanges with him also appears to be identical with the poster ‘parky’.

    In reference to a Welsh slate headstone in the park, he states: “It has been carefully preserved, I suspect by the Friends of the Park, along with the other headstones which retain any more than the odd word of their original inscriptions.”

    His posts clearly show he has ‘inside knowledge’ of the workings of the Friends and I am now starting to wonder if this means the stones that had inscriptions which were no longer legible were discarded by the Friends.

    Unfortunately the lack of clarification by the Friends group makes this all very unclear. In my opinion the Friends have seriously damaged their standing with this disaster. This is not only due to the original action, but also their subsequent silence on the exact turn of events.

    Their Chair, who ordered the destruction, is still in position and they have commented very little.

    Catherine Grove in a post on this website states ‘I would further urge the Friend’s to consider whether in the eyes of the community the credibility of the organisation as the caretaker of the park can be fully restored if their current Chair, who seems to have personally issued the instructions to destroy the headstones without committee approval, continue in his role. It is my opinion that he cannot, but ultimately the decision whether Mr Delap stands down or not is one for Mr Delap and the Friend’s to make.’

    I do agree with her, but if I were Greenwich Council I would not allow the Friends to continue doing anything in the park until this has all been resolved and a new management committee heads the Friends.

    I would also be interested to hear the comments of the committee Chair of the St Alfege Restoration Appeal. I know they are separate to the Friends of St Alfege Park, but the church and park are connected by both history and locality. It therefore rather ironic that they are trying to restore the church, when another group is smashing up its history round the back.

  68. Pamela on October 10th, 2011 11:32 am

    No bones in this churchyard is one thing but why the DESTRUCTION of the stones?

    There seems to be NO reason for it. could the stones not have been placed in the area where they now lay broken and destroyed until someone with a brain decided what to do with them?

    I am a family historian and know I have family buried in this area. I am coming to England next spring to research and photograph sites and hope to do grave stone rubbing. I hope none of my ancestors’ are buried in St. Alfege’s.

    With “FRIENDS” like this I don’t think this church yard needs enemies.

    Indigo Reply:

    Pamela, I can save you some time: here is the Tracing Your Ancestors page on the St Alfege Church web site


    “all the St Alfege registers are now held at the London Metropolitan Archives.

    The covering dates of the registers deposited at the Archives are

    Baptisms 1616-1975
    Marriages 1616-1989
    Burials 1615-1914

    Also, registers of confirmations and services, electoral rolls, charities records, inventories, parish magazines and miscellaneous material.”

    Pamela Reply:

    Thank you so much for this information. I hope it has what I need.

    I’d like the Lost Cousins news letter for bringing this to our attention.

    I have been in many cemeteries where broken stones have been cemented back together as much as possible against a wall or in the ground. I know it would take longer than destroying the tombstones and piling them up but it would show respect for those who are and have relatives buried there.

    There was NO excuse to do this. Destroying history! There is no excuse.
    Here in Canada we don’t usually get cemeteries or churchyards near as old as in Great Britain and it breaks my heart to see it destroyed in this manner.

  69. Frances on October 10th, 2011 8:51 pm

    An apology from the perpetraters, for this desecration and disrespect for the dead and their descendants would not be enough – actions speak louder than words. They should fit all the stones back together like a jig saw and be made to record all the details of the deceased which should then be inscribed on a memorial for people to look at in perpetuity. Or at least have the results archived in say the London Metropolitan Archives.

  70. Hakinboy on October 10th, 2011 11:36 pm

    I have no direct knowledge of what happened nor how it came about. This is what I do know. St Alfege Park has been transformed in the last 2 or 3 years. It was an overgrown dirty place full of dogmuck, heavy drinkers, sometimes aggressive, and cottagers. It was to be entered with trepidation, if at all. Those problems have not been eliminated but they have been driven away by ordinary peaceful people using the park for picnicking, and for family actives. The birds encouraged by the bird feeding tables fill the park with birdsong. It is a place to sit and contemplate and remember:before, it was a place to be nervous and not to stay. As a result, I take my four children to St Alfege park to enjoy the fresh air of this oasis of nature in the city. Because the aggressive and unpredictable substance abusers have been largely driven away, and there are more families using the park, I am comfortable leaving my older children there by themselves. I would never have done that 2 years ago. Because they spend time in the park the children ask about the graves and the history of the park. In this way those who were buried there are remembered by the younger generation, instead of lying forgotten under brambles and White lightning cans. I wonder whether those buried there would have preferred the place where they’re buried to be filled with birdsong and the sound of children playing or of drunken arguments and dogs fighting. I have watched this transformation unfold and I have seen who had made it happen. I put it down to the inspiration and actions of one man: the same man who is the chair of the friends of St Alfege park. I hope those of you who have written to say you intend to visit this lovely park enjoy the beauty that this man has worked so hard to reveal for us all to enjoy.

  71. george chapple on October 11th, 2011 2:51 am

    I have no connection to this location but as a church and family historian I am utterly shocked at the damage that has been done. I have just here in Canada the church that my family had used for 100yrs closed and converted into a store. To walk throu it where three generations of my family were baptised, married and funerals took place helped me appreciate who I am and my Christian heritage. This all ends with a desecration service taking place at the end of the month. Now if there was a cemetery around the church and it was destroyed I would be furious!!!!!! A thousand apologies does not replace the tombstones that cannot be replaced and the info lost. I have a deep sadness for the families that have lost this part of their past.

  72. Julia Greenwood on October 11th, 2011 11:52 am

    We do have ancestors who were buried here. the last time we were there the gravestones were lined up around the ground, perfectly safe.

    This is total desecration and I am most upset that no notes seems to have been taken of the names or part of the names that may have been there. To break them up is a further step that was unnecessary.

    this shows no respect for a churchyard. History means nothing to people like this. Heads should roll on this one.

  73. Joan on October 11th, 2011 11:36 pm

    This was an appalling decision, and to make young offenders do the dirty deed is totally and utterly irresponsible. We should be teaching them respect and helping young offenders get back into society, not to destroy and disrespect in this way.

  74. Keith R. Dawson on October 13th, 2011 7:44 am

    Was a list compiled of the gravestone information? the grave stones were of importance to the old British Commonwealth. One day I was hoping to find the grave of Robert Dawson who may or may not have been a ancestor, ancestry in common is the name, occupation Horse Dealing and obode in Essex. Robert unknown to many but of some importance. He was the first manager of the Australian Agricultural Company which is still in existence. Robert got on the wrong side of John MacArthur and lost his job, the last I can find of him was that he resided at Morden College and was buried in Greenwich. Admiral P.P. King spent time at Samuel Enderby III’s house he built in 1788 in Coombe Hill, now the Catholic Presbytery; King named the largest island that forms Cape Horn, the bottom of South America. His name is all over Queensland Australia from the Exploration of Ludwig Lleichardt. A bottle brush bush is named Dawsonia. It is beyond my comprehension why the gravestones were destroyed. England is not what it used to be in my day.

  75. NJ Wicken on October 13th, 2011 10:04 pm

    The story has now reached the pages of this week’s ‘Private Eye’ (14th-27th October 2011 no. 1299, Nooks and Corners page 14).

  76. NJ Wicken on October 13th, 2011 10:06 pm

    The story appears in the edition of ‘Private Eye’ published this week (14th-27th October 2011 no. 1299, Nooks and Corners page 14).

  77. Monica on October 15th, 2011 1:12 pm

    I was both sad and appalled at the destruction of the headstones. The people who did this should be made to restore them and re-erect. If it takes months and months of hard work then perhaps it will teach these destructive creatures a lesson.


  78. Matt Salo on October 15th, 2011 3:37 pm

    Some thoughts come to mind that may not have been addressed by others. Even though the perpetrators may have been acting on orders, like soldiers, they still would have to use common sense. Soldiers that obey illegal commands to commit war crimes are occasionally, although too rarely, held responsible for their actions.

    But these presumably were young offenders of unknown ages. If they were too young, or somehow too handicapped to know how to tell right from wrong, then the person(s) responsible for sending them to do this work unsupervised clearly bear the responsibility for their actions. Juvenile delinquents are not normally let loose unsupervised to do work where their actions could cause harm. The chain of responsibilty should be made clear and action taken to punish those who failed to do their duty.

  79. Anne Hammond Connell on October 15th, 2011 5:37 pm

    I am 84 and half-American/half-English. In 1951, when I first visited my father’s church at Bassingham, Lincs., my grandparent’s graves were guarded by a huge, upright stone cross and those of many of their 400+ yrs. of ancestors marched down towards the river. Inside the church in an ancient oak chest were their records (since moved to a safer location). The last time we visited, the cross was tilting precariously and most of our stones had been taken up and stacked. When a cousin and I asked permission to have the cross reset, the visiting vicar said in a bored tone, “Oh, no … we prefer to just let things happen as they will.” It broke our hearts! At another village, my husband found his ancestral church had pulled up all the stones and relaid them as pavers – not only sacriligious, but a quick way to destroy the ancient inscriptions. No one seems to care anymore!

    Take a look at the St. Alfege Church web site for a discussion of historic burials. It has been rebuilt more than once, but likely was the church of many kings, Greenwich being a favorite “home away from home”. I remember Henry VIII loved it.

    Anne Hammond Connell

  80. Deb Harrison, Maryland, USA on October 15th, 2011 8:24 pm

    What a terrible thing for the church, the families who have lost part of their history, and Greenwich. If it really was the so-called “Friends” who destroyed the headstones, shouldn’t they be held responsible and then disbanded?

  81. Joan Twamley Freeman on October 15th, 2011 10:19 pm

    As a descendant of a Cornishman, Thomas Tambling, I feel so sad that none of my family will ever be able to visit these graves. I can’t understand how anyone could be involved in such a thing. As in Canada, we must be ever vigilant about protecting our heritage!

  82. Judith Anderson on October 15th, 2011 10:49 pm

    I cried when I saw these pictures. It reminded me of when I went to visit the cemetery where some of my ancestors were buried in Michigan, USA and found that the tombstones of my grandparents and great grandparents had been destroyed by vandals. What a waste.

  83. David Davenport on October 16th, 2011 1:35 am

    I have just learned of this. Words do not allow me the express my outrage. Friends or enemies, must know that no graveyard, once consecrated, even if bombed during the Blitz, showed ever experience what has happened to this one. That many of these headstones were illegible is not the point. These “friends” are NAZIS, vicious creatures without a modicum of deceny in their bones. People like this can never be forgiven for what they have done. In their homes they probably kick their pets, violate their children and starve their parents. They should be hanged, drawn, and quartered and their heads placed on spikes. I eagerly await the U-tube of the president of this group of Friends, stating that he accepts full responsibility for this inexcusable action followed by his suicide. He either wasn’t clear in his instructions that the headstones were not to be destroyed, or alternatively, that his minionbs did exacrtly what he ordered. Either way he doesn’t deserve to live. In the name of the Prophet I declare a “fatwah” on him and those of the “Friends” who wielded the hammers.

    Pedro Reply:

    Ah – so you think this is funny? What a sophisticated sense of humor you have.

    Wolfe Reply:

    The event wasn’t funny but the hysterical over-reaction is. Breaking up the stones was particularly stupid because they charaterise the park. Which is what it is. A park, not a cemetery. No graves were damaged. The stones were moved to stand around the side of the park over a hundred years ago so no-one’s alive to blame for that one. Most of the stones are completely blank through erosion. There are still lots left, more than 90% at a guess. So, once again:
    It’s a park not a cemetery.
    The stones are mostly blank and look like flagstones.
    No graves were damaged. Because it’s a park. Not a cemetery.

    David Davenport Reply:

    I am not being the least bit sarcastic. Destruction of the headstones is a very serious matter. The people responsible should be severely punished. The only reason the graveyard has become a Park is that invaders have desecrated it. We cut off the hands of the people who do this where I live.

    Pedro Reply:

    What rot. Get off your high horse and do some work around the community, rather than calling for violence against those who, while well meaning, make stupid mistakes.

  84. em on October 16th, 2011 3:13 am

    My dear “Friends”…I demand to know exactly where my ancestors are buried down to the exact spot the stone was erected on many, many years ago…piece together their stones and replace them exactly where they were found, work you fingers down to the nubs, bare bones and all…glue the crumbs together…I don’t care what it takes you figure out a way to do it and you can pay for what ever is needed to get the job done…you can stay up all night for the next six years sorting through records and photographs for all I care but we all need to demand the return of these stones in one way or another by these so called “friends” !!!!! to their exact original spots…I will not take any excuses or “No” for an answer…demand is the only word that is needed here….and “impossible” is not an acceptable answer…! you figure it out !!

  85. Pat O'Brien on October 16th, 2011 8:56 am

    I have just seen the terrible destruction in St. Alfege Park, this is a cemetery so why are there vegetable gardens there. I’m secretary of a Friends group in Sydney, Australia and for the last 15 years have been looking after and restoring a beautiful 2 acre cemetery that was overgrown and unloved. The group has busted their guts over those years raising money to restore and look after it. We also have a group of young men doing community hours that work there, they are also learning to love and respect the cemetery. Our council is so supportive and helpful, I just can’t understand how this could happen. Someone should be bought to account and restoration fully paid for and the “Friends”reformed with people who care. I am so upset.

  86. Chris King on October 16th, 2011 11:40 am

    So who was supervising the Community Payback team? I think the people responsible for the destruction should be made liable for either their poor decision or poor supervision, whichever it was. Is this classed as criminal damage?In an ideal world the stones would be restored, but more realistically, those responsible – if they are concerned for their community’s heritage – should be forced to piece the stones back together and record all the details from them for future generations. Wouldn’t it be good if they volunteered to do this, and maybe the Community Payback team could help!

  87. Jackie King on October 16th, 2011 11:04 pm

    It is no less like a cold blooded murder. You “Friends” may not care about family history but the majority of us do. Did you not offer these stones to the family? Did you not think about your own family? Perhaps one day your own stone will be destroyed and you will be forgotten. I hope that while you are burning in purgatory someone will pray for your soul. Eternal rest grant unto them oh Lord and let the perpetual light shine upon them may they rest in peace especially those who are forgotten and have no one to pray for them.

    Pedro Reply:

    A shame you’re not a Christian. Because a Christian would recognise that the stupid destruction of a 200year old gravestone, which has already been moved from its site in a deconsecrated graveyard, is entirely different from murder.

    Gravestones are not monuments to be worshipped – that’s what the Romans did, not Christians. They are a symbol of remembrance, and to damage them is stupid and thoughtless, but it won’t affect anyone’s chance of salvation.

    People are mistaking sentimentality for sense.

    Jackie Reply:

    Where does it say in my post that I am worshiping a tomb stone? I merely stated that while the names are on the stone is a great historical value it reminds us to pray for the dead. Read your bible if you have one and see where it says to pray for the dead. May God bless you and your ancestors and may He give them life everlasting. Ü

  88. Susan Edminster on October 17th, 2011 6:10 am

    How sad this is. My husband and I visited St. Alfege’s in 1999 and was so impressed by the history and beauty of the church and grounds. I took some photos and later posted them in a blog article.
    Susan Edminster, Washington State, USA

  89. Links, 10.17.11 « The Ancestral Archaeologist on October 17th, 2011 2:21 pm

    […] bad, bad: This destruction of historic grave markers at a Greenwich (UK) cemetery looks so mindless and heartless that it just had to be the work of […]

  90. ian on the hill on October 17th, 2011 11:53 pm

    Jeez, I’m as angry as the next guy; someone was either damned stupid or mindlessly destructive and we still don’t have a proper explanation. But…

    1. It’s not a cemetery, it’s a park.
    2. The gravestones are of aesthetic interest and are valuable as historic artefacts, but almost certainly none of them had any decipherable or meaningful inscriptions left and have no family history research significance.
    3. These stopped being functional headstones an awfully long time age. There’s no grave desecration involved.

    Personally I still want to know WTF happened. In detail. Someone took a hammer to these. Why?

  91. Rowena SUMMERS on October 18th, 2011 11:58 am

    I read of the desecration of headstones from St Alphege’s Greenwich with total shock & disbelief. Removing them & replacing them to form a retaining wall I could understand, but smashing them to smithereens? I have a gt gt aunt & uncle bur there so I am hoping someone photographed & documented these before they were smashed so wantonly. With Friends like those, who needs enemies. Kiwirow in Oz

  92. Hirsh on October 18th, 2011 10:16 pm

    @Ian on the Hill, Elizabeth disagrees with you. She’s the one whose name, among other information, is clearly readable on her broken gravestone. But nice try…

  93. ian on the hill on October 18th, 2011 11:50 pm

    I based it on walking around and looking at those stones many times. There were/are words that could be made out (or half deciphered) here and there, but for the most part they were scrubbed clean by time.

  94. Pedro on October 19th, 2011 2:09 pm

    Ian is correct. There’s only one stone with legible writing – Elizabeth’s. Yes, the destruction was pointless and stupid, the area’s changed from a resonant, evocative one to a bland garden, but in terms of historic interest it has to be said those stones are not crucial, and apart from Elizabeth they didn’t relate to identifiiable people, being in an entirely different location from that of the graves.

    We lose far more important bits of Greenwich heritage all the time – for instance the Rotunda in Woolwich, which is unloved and in peril, or even that lovely wooden waiting room, used by generations of people at Greenwich Pier, which has been replaced by a Frankie and Benny’s fastfood outlet. It’s the council staff responsible for this who should be imprisoned, I reckon, not some wellmeaning but idiotic chairman (who should admittedly resign).

  95. Will Posey on October 20th, 2011 1:14 am


  96. Keith R. Dawson on October 21st, 2011 12:07 am

    St. Alphages church in at least the 18th Century was of mystery as to its Religion.Samuel Enderby II who started the Whaling in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and an executor of James Cook who lived in Mile End Road, North London, whilst Samuel lived in his house in Earle St. North London, a house he had owned all the time he leased houses in Greenwich/ Blackheath from the Morden College, a house he signed his will in so therefore a good chance he died there were both transported to St Alphages to be buried, Sam inside the church with his wife. Samuel left money in his will to Presbyterian personnell at Salters Hall in Bread Street, London, the street where Gov. Phillips was born and to Personell in Worthing. Gravestones may have assisted in removing the mystery.

  97. John U.K. on October 22nd, 2011 10:06 am

    Having sifted through the comments above, I am left a little confused about the exact status of the churchyard/park.
    “it is deconsecrated” occurs several time
    “the stones were moved, but the bones are still there”

    If it has merely been placed in the care of the local authority for maintenance as pubic open space, or “made over” to them for the same purpose (the various Burial Acts enable local authorities to to take over the care of closed churchyards) then, unless the bodies have been exhumed and re-interred elsehere/cremated and the site has been formally de-consecrated by the relevant ecclesiastical authorities then it remains subject to the Faculty Jurisdiction of the Chancellor of the Diocese of Southwark. No work can be carried out without a Faculty granted by the Chancellor, as Lambeth Council found out to their cost a few years ago in the case of West Norwood cemetery – see

    John U.K.

    John U.K. Reply:

    I meant to have added – Can anyone clarify the exact status of the churchyard??
    John U.K.

  98. Donna on October 24th, 2011 8:50 pm

    Appalling…have these people no sense at all??

  99. Kevin on October 26th, 2011 9:53 am

    Each headstone was bought by someone. The destroyer could be bankrupted recompensing with inflation and antique value taken into account.

  100. NJ Wicken on October 30th, 2011 3:51 pm

    There has still been no further statement on the precise facts surrounding this destruction. It seems as if the ‘Friends’ are hoping it will all blow over so they can continue as they were before.

    I can only hope that behind the scenes the council are still investigating this matter fully and some sort of report/statement from them shall be forthcoming.

    In the meantime, I saw this Australian news story which might be of topical interest:


  101. Pamela on October 30th, 2011 4:05 pm

    I have read many times of drunken vandals destroying monuments in cemeteries around the world. This was done by a group of “FRIENDS” ordered to destroy the headstones and monuments. To me there is no difference.

    If I had been a “friend” in that society I would have walked away from the planed destruction. They weren’t soldiers obeying orders. They were people like you and me.

    I just don’t understand the rhyme nor reason behind it.

  102. Paul Webbewood on October 30th, 2011 8:35 pm

    There was a question about this at last week’s meeting of the Greenwich Council. Councillor John Fahy’s reply included the frollowing action plan:

    1. A meeting with the Friends Group where the agenda will focus on what needs to be done in responding to the implications of the instructions given to remove the Headstone.

    2. A further meeting of the St Alfege’s Parks committee (sic) with senior officers attending to agree next steps.

    3. Consideration of options including a rockery or a more formal footpath using the broken stones as a memorial heritage path leading to a communal garden.

    4. Partnership working will be taking place with local historians to receive advice on the memorial heritage garden using the headstone remains.

    5. Consultation will be undertaken with other conservation bodies, including English Heritage, the Georgian Group, the Mausolea and Monuments Trust and SAVE Britain’s Heritage about the proposed plans for the memorial garden.

    NJ Wicken Reply:

    Thank you for this interesting update Paul. It is a relief to know that the Council is indeed still investigating this matter. Though I wonder why it has taken so long to arrange a meeting with the Friends? Are the Friends dragging their heels, perhaps?

    David Davenport Reply:

    A meeting? When will criminal charges for vandalism be filed?

  103. St Alfege Park: Friends banned from working in park as photo raises new questions | Greenwich.co.uk on November 9th, 2011 7:04 pm

    […] Uncertainly lingers over the chronology of events in St Alfege Park which led to historic headstones in the deconsecrated churchyard being smashed to smithereens. […]

  104. Rob Powell on November 10th, 2011 10:56 am

    Commenters who subscribed to this post by email may be interested to see Greenwich.co.uk’s latest post on the subject:


  105. NJ Wicken on November 11th, 2011 5:54 pm

    I have now been officially informed that Greenwich Council has dissolved the Friends of St Alfege Park with immediate effect. They have been notified of this decision by the council in writing and will no longer have any association with the park at all.

    In my opinion it is not a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater (as Mr Delap will believe), but more a case of throwing away once-ripe fruit that has become mouldy and repugnant.

    The Council’s priority is now to establish the turn of events and put right what they can. Following this being achieved, a future meeting will be called to create a new, replacement (and less reckless) group to help maintain the park.

    When this meeting is called I shall be attending. I hope that all those who have expressed an interest in this heritage area of Greenwich will, if able, lend their support.

  106. NJ Wicken on December 27th, 2011 4:51 am