All Saints, Chingford, London

All Saints Church in Chingford, is usually known as the ‘Old Church’. While there is evidence that a church was on this site since Norman times, the current church mostly dates back to the 13th century. The chancel and tower are 15th century, while the south porch belongs to the 16th century. It fell into disrepair in the 1840s, when it was known as the ‘Green Church’ because of the ivy that grew over it. An idea of what it looked like can best be seen in the Pre-Raphaelite painting Home from Sea by Arthur Hughes in 1862. All Saints was abandoned and the new parish church of St Peter and St Paul was built in 1844. From the amount of graffiti on the outside All Saints clearly became something of a local tourist spot. However, any graffiti that may have survived on the inside was destroyed when the church was restored in the 1930s.

The graffiti that has survived is all on the outside. There are three crosses, but the rest is made up of names and initials. The earliest date is 19th century. Among the names and initials the one by B Sturrock stands out. It is clear that B Sturrock marked out their graffiti before carving it deeper. They were also interrupted in their work. The other thing to point out is that this is on a gravestone, not the wall of the church. It is possible because the church was abandoned that the gravestones were considered ‘fair game’, but I am struggling to think of another graffitied gravestone from my travels around English churches.

Report by: Anthea Hawdon

All Saints Church
185 Old Church Road
E4 8BU

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