We use cookies to improve your experience, some are essential for the operation of this site.

St Mary Magdalene, East Ham, Essex

(51°31′20″N, 0°3′30″E)
East Ham
TQ 429 824
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Greater London
medieval London
now Chelmsford
  • Isabel Tomlins
  • Ron Baxter
20 July 2016

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=5584.

Find out how to cite the CRSBI website here.


East Ham, in the London Borough of Newham, is 2 miles N of the Thames and the Royal Albert Dock. Its High Street runs parallel to the A13, and immediately N of it, and the rubble-built church, surrounded by a large cemetery that is now designated as a nature reserve stands on the N side of the High Street. It is an imposing building with a tall, spacious nave, a chancel with the remains of intersecting arcading on the side walls, no chancel arch but a 12thc apse arch and a semicircular apse. On the S wall of the chancel are 2 low side windows, the westernmost equipped with a wooden shutter. There is a W tower, variously dated between the 13thc and the 16thc, and the 12thc W doorway to the nave is inside the tower. On the S side of the nave is a 12thc doorway protected by a porch. The church was dilapidated by the end of the 19thc, but was restored in 1891-96. Further restoration work took place in 1930 and more recently after in was damaged in the 2nd World War. Romanesque features described here are the W and S nave doorways, the chancel blind arcading, the apse arch and a corbel reset above the piscina on the S wall of the apse.


Three manors in Ham are recorded in the Domesday Survey. Westminster Abbey held 2 hides in 1066 and 1086 that was certainly in East Ham. A second, held by Aethelstan in 1066 and by Robert Gernon and Ranulf Peverel in 1086 was valued at 8 hides and 30 acres; this manor was largely in West Ham according to VCH. Gernon also held a manor of 7 hides that was in the hands of Leofraed in 1066, and this may largely have been in East Ham. A church was in existence in 1066, since 3 virgates of the estate that became Robert Gernon’s were held by a priest called Edwin. In 1254 the advowson of East Ham church was held by a successor of Gernon, Richard de Montfitchet.


Exterior Features


Interior Features


Chancel arch/Apse arches

Interior Decoration

Blind arcades

Nothing here predates the 12thc, but the Romanesque work is not easy to date. The two doorways, with their simple cushion capitals and heavy roll mouldings could belong to the 1st half of the century, as could the blind arcading. The curious trumpet-scalloped corbel is unlikely to predate 1180. Cherry (2005) suggests that the arcading is after c.1130, but in general the works cited below offer no dates more precise than the 12thc.

More interesting is the apse, which Pevsner suggested was intended to be vaulted, based on the pilaster buttresses inside and out. The intention may not have been carried out, as the timber roof of the apse has been dated to the 1st half of the 12thc, and is thus probably original (see Cherry (2005), 270).


N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, Harmondsworth 1954, 149-50.

B. Cherry, C. O’Brien and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 5 East, New Haven and London 2005, 266-71.

J. Cooper, The Church Dedications and Saints’ Cults of Medieval Essex, Lancaster 2011, 136.

Historic England Listed Building 204948

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 2: Central and South West (1921), 58-61.

Victoria County History: Essex VI (1973), 8-31.