Greenwich is famous for its Royal Park, but right in the town centre is another park, hidden behind the church and surrounded by high walls.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the former graveyard for St Alfege Church.
In fact, it’s two graveyards, the ancient, and an expansion added in 1803 due to the tendency for people do keep dying, but in 1853 even that was full and they couldn’t keep buying more land. It’s thought that some 45,000 people were buried in the graveyard by the time it closed.
In 1889, the land was handed to the local council to look after and they opened it as a recreational ground. A number of new trees were planted and the area landscaped into gardens.
A lot of the gravestones were moved to the edges of the park, and in the 1950s the western end gained a hard-surfaced playground.
A decade ago there was a scandal in the park when gravestones were smashed during some maintenance work.
Today the park is very much a municipal space, with large open lawns, with a number of large trees, and lots of bushes and planting around the edges. An old drinking fountain can be seen peeking out in one corner.
A small mortuary building used to sit in the park on the north-eastern corner – on the site of what today looks like an old garage. There were plans to turn that into a cafe kiosk, but that seems to be on hold a the moment.
By the 19th century, the Mortuary moved to a much larger building on the eastern side of the park, and a new Coronor’s Court was built beside it. Both buildings still survive just outside the park, as private homes.
The high walls, and that it’s stepped back from the main roads make this fairly large open space one that’s little-seen by tourists, and remains a bit of hidden space for Greenwich residents.
The easiest way to find it if not familiar with the area is to head to St Alfege’s church on the main road, then walk down the alley next to it. A doorway in the wall at the end opens into the park.