Restoring St Mary’s Church Yard to its Former Glory

Rev Tim Davies shows me church wall graffitti

One of the most prominent land marks in Leyton is St Mary’s Parish Church on Church Rd. It is a powerful, towering building that inspires affection among all of Leyton’s communities whether or not they attend the church.

Unfortunately, over recent years, the condition of St Mary’s glorious church yard has somewhat deteriorated. Where there was once wild life, now there are dangerous needles and syringes left lying about.

On Monday, I took a tour around the church yard with Reverend Tim Davies and church warden David Hughes to see its condition for myself.

Tim and David show me around

David (pictured on the right) has been church warden for over thirty years and remembers what the church yard was like in its hey day. Only a few years ago, English heritage awarded the yard protected status.

I was shocked that this beautiful community space is now being used as a drug den and dumping ground for used needles and syringes (see below).

Needles lying in the grounds of St Mary's church

I now plan to work with Tim, David and other interested local residents to look at how we can return St Mary’s church yard and some of its fabulous grade one and two listed ornaments (see one of them below) to their former glory and stop illegal activity from taking place.

One of St Mary's many grade one listed ornaments

Restoring St Mary’s church yard will be a big project, but it is one that I believe is vital for the Leyton community. I plan to become fully involved and would urge other residents to join in.

St Mary’s will be participating in the Capital’s “Open House” day on Saturday the 16th of September 2006, between 10am and 5pm. The church will open to the public and there will be architectural tours and talks about the church’s history. I hope to see some of you there.

With Rev Tim Davies and church warden David Hughes

23 thoughts on “Restoring St Mary’s Church Yard to its Former Glory”

  1. A great project Miranda.
    BTCV has been involved in the past in helping to look at ways to restore and manage the area for conservation value. A Friends of Leyton Parish group was set up years ago but disbanded. An effort should be made to resurrect this. How much council support is there?

  2. From me, Mark, a lot!!!! Will really try and encourage both my councillor colleagues as well as Leyton residents to get fully involved. Fab that BTCV will be lending us your expertise and advice.

  3. wow, from the looks of that main photo, the church really has gone downhill! I’m all for widening the intake of the clergy, but I don’t think it should extend to satanist graffiti artists…

  4. My self and my mother have been to see this church on the 12/3/07 as we are doing the family tree. we could not belive what we came across it is such a sham to see the way it has been used as a drug den and dumping ground for used needles and syringes. we would just like to say we have seen some of the work you have been doing there to try and clear all the rubbish it would be lovely to see it brought back to what it should be a nice place to go we would just like to say thank you

  5. Hi Shirley, yes, it’s really great that work has now begun to clear up the church yard. I am delighted, as is the Rev Tim Davies who is the Priest now serving there. I very much hope that when you return in a few months it will look almost as lovely as it should. Thank you for your kind words and do let me know next time you’re coming. Kindest regards. Miranda

  6. Hi, I’m David Hughes (the church warden) daughter, and would like to say that there has been a slight improvement but lately people are now dumping objects for example a sun bed, in the church yard, I would like to see more involement from the council in helping to keep the conservation of the church yard.

  7. stop people that look suspicious sitting around the church yard

  8. Well, that is…ugh…words fail me.
    but…one thing i can say…at least your vandals spell correctly
    we had some graffiti on our church wall…
    reading…HAIL SATIN!

  9. You have many hard projects ahead. I was at university with TIM & his heart is always where yours is!

  10. How sad! Even sadder is the fact that this is the fate of too many churches, and while we observe ruined churches we also see as a result so many ruined lives. I have just discovered that my great-grandfather, William Beresford of Warren Farm, brought all his children to this very church for baptism/confirmation. There were 2 sons, the one being my grandfather Herbert Henry Beresford, and 6 or 7 daughters. Is it possible for me to learn more of this. I would be most grateful. I have lived in Norway since the war but was born in Loughton Essex. May the Lord bless you. Gillian

  11. I was planning a visit to the churchyard to visit the grave of Richard Franklin who was buried in a vault there oin 1765. From the pictures here I would be unlikely to see it, or have yiou made such goood progress with your wonderful project that the churchyard is now relatively clear of underhgrowth and debris?

  12. Hi to everyone I haven’t yet responded to. As far s I’m aware the restoration of the church yard is coming along nicely. If you would like to speak with Tim directly I am happy to pass your details to him. He welcomes visitors from all parishes. Kindest regards and looking forward to hearing from you. Miranda

  13. Hi I visited your church today, whilst doing some family history research in the walthamstow/leyton area. My great grandfather was married at this church sometime before 1905, and could anyone tell me how i could find out about church records, also i think that my great grandmother was buried in the church yard. Keep up the wonderful work, and lets hope your good work and lets hope that in the future the graveyard will not be used as a dumping ground anymore. sue

  14. I really hope you can bring this beautiful Church back to it’s former glory. I got married here in 1997, my Mum and Dad got married here in 1971 and my Grandparents ashes are buried in the Garden of Remembrance. My Grandparents used to live on the Leyton Grange estate behind the Church and we used to walk through the churchyard to get to their flat.
    I haven’t been back for a while, not since my Aunts funeral where we walked from her house in Ive Farm Close to the Church.
    I sincerely hope the Church will be cleared up to provide happy memories for many others.

  15. Hi Nicola, thanks for your message. Stories like yours are exactly why we need to treasure church yards like St Marys – it has obviously played a major role in the lives of yourself and your family. You’ve inspired me to try and book another appointment with the Rev Tim Davies soon, to pop along to the church yard (with my camera) for an update! Thanks again for your message. Miranda

  16. I have ancestors buried in this churchyard in the late 1800s. I live too far away to be able to visit, but like #14 above – Sue Cope – would like to have contact with someone who has access to the church records – if they still exist. Can anyone help me on this?

  17. While doing research I looked up this church as is it where my grandfather was christened and where his sisters married around 1890’s. The picture of it on Wikipedia looks awesome, but to learn it has now been reduced to a dumping ground is very sad indeed.
    I visited Walthamstow a couple of years back to find records and was disappointed to see that it too looked like a dumping ground for old furniture, fridges, beds etc. I was doing family research then and am still looking, but I wont be returning to the area again as what I saw then put me off for good. What a shame. Good luck on the cleaning up of the churchyard.

  18. Hi!
    It was very sad to see what has happened to the churchyard. My wife and I lived in Buckland Road from 1961-1963. I was persuaded by the Vicar,Revd.Geoffrey Earl to manually wind up the church clock on a weekly basis. This involved climbing one or two ladders up to the clock mechanism and using a type of ‘cranking handle’ to wind the clock for the following week. Not something I could manage nearly 50 years later!
    Now living in Devon but wish you and your team all success in your task of restoration.

  19. For anyone looking for a list of gravestone inscriptions, I finally found this online:

    I visited for the first time today (thanks to all who have cleaned up – I was fearing the worst). Many of the inscriptions are no longer legible – or even visible! – but I was so pleased to find my elusive Old Father William (died October 1855 aged 79) solidly inscribed on an imposing monument. His wife Elizabeth Wragg is there somewhere in among the Wraggs but I couldn’t locate them in the failing January light

    There may be a plan of the burial plots – any help?

  20. Unfortunately there is no plan of the burials that I know of. As a member of the Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society, we have a record of the most famous or intriguing tombstones.

    The Friends of Leyton Churchyard should be applauded for their work, which is never ending.

    The reference #20 above refers to the churchyard of St Mary’s in Walthamstow.

  21. I was married in this church in 1968 Leyton was a very special place it was like a little village I moved there from war ravaged Stratford to a new house in Leyton in 1949 to see these photos upsets me.

  22. A working group of the Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society has now (2014) mapped the graves in the churchyard of Leyton St Mary’s. They have also photographed every headstone and transcribed the memorial inscription (MI). Details of each grave have been entered onto an Excel spreadsheet. For further details see the society’s website.

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