The tours take in a brief tour of the church itself, founded on the claimed site of the murder of Alfege, Archbishop of Canterbury in April 1012. The current church replaced an older medieval building that collapsed in a bad storm, and this church was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor.
It was badly damaged during WWII, was restored, and has recently been restored again.
However, when the church was built, it was decided to include a large undercroft underneath. It was supposed to be similar in size to the one under St Martin-in-the-Fields, but either wasn’t, or the floor has since been filled in a bit raising the floor by a metre or so.
The church instead decided to sell off plots of the crypt for burials, and people could either buy an entire vault or just a spot in the communal vault. Burials stopped a long time ago, and the vaults were bricked up and sealed.
Cleared out as part of the recent renovation works, you can go through a small side door, down some steep stone steps, take a small torch, and stand in the corridors lined with the dead. It’s well lit and dry, and the torches are only needed to highlight the memorials down here.
The tours of the crypt last about 30 minutes as there’s a lot to see — and hear.
In a far corner, there are what’s thought to be remnants of the older medieval church, where you can stop and listen to the funeral music that was played in the church above for the funeral of Thomas Tallis, which is quite an experience in itself to listen to surrounded by the dead.
A lot of the tour is pointing out the notable dead, and yes, you can peer into the crypts through iron railings, although the coffins are all covered over in soil to protect them and their dignity, so you are basically looking at empty chambers.
A lot of names will be familiar to Greenwich locals, but the stories attached to them are going to interest most people anyway.
The tours end with memories of a more modern use the crypt was put to — as an air-raid shelter during WWII.
Along with the church above and the crypt below, the tours last around an hour and should appeal to anyone keen on seeing the subterranean world beneath our feet.
Tours take place either every other Saturday in the morning or on the first Wednesday in the evening.
They’re also very affordable at just £6.84 per person, which is quite good value for an hour of fun.
Tickets need to be booked in advance from here.
St Alfege church is in the centre of Greenwich, a short walk from either Cutty Sark station on the DLR, or Greenwich station for Southeastern and Thameslink trains.