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Chelsea Old Church
Clock Tower
Tower Clock
Thomas More Chapel

History of Old Chelsea Church

     The history of Chelsea Old Church also known as All Saints is from an earlier version of their web site. Their current web site is located here.

The Church

     There has probably been a Church on this site ever since Christianity came to England. It used to be the Parish Church of the Village of Chelsea before this village became part of London. The building, as it stood before the war, consisted of the Chancel, dating probably from the 13th century, with Chapels on the North and South (about 1325), and the Nave and Tower (1670).

     Both Chapels were private property, that on the North, now known as the Lawrence Chapel, belonging to the Lord of the Manor of Chelsea. The present arch leading from the Chancel is a reproduction of the original 14th century one, which collapsed in 1784 and was only partly restored.

     To the East of this arch is a "squint", probably intended to enable worshippers in the Chapel to see the Altar; this purpose was interfered with by the raising of the floor of the Chapel and the placing of the Bray Tomb on the North of the Chancel.

     The Chapel on the South was rebuilt in 1528, as his private Chapel, by Sir Thomas More. This date is inscribed on one of the capitals of the pillars leading to the Chancel. These capitals are alleged to have been designed by Holbein and represent the symbols of More's offices in Church and State.

     Of the whole Church, the More Chapel was the least heavily blasted by the bombing in 1941. For 9 years the congregation carried on its worship in a ward of the adjoining hospital. In 1950 the More Chapel, with extensions, was reopened for service; the Chancel and Lawrence Chapel were restored and rededicated in May 1954; and the whole Church reconsecrated in May 1958 by the Lord Bishop of London in the presence of H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

     The Consistory Court having granted a Faculty,the Stanley monument was transferred to the Lawrence Chapel, and the More Chapel was furnished and dedicated in July 1964, being thus brought into use again as a Chapel for weekday services for probably the first time in 408 years.

     The Church has been restored in its entirety on its old foundations and looks substantially as it did before, with its square Nave built in the classical style from which the mediaeval Chancel and Chapels can be seen through the three arches. The King Post at the West end of the More Chapel, which had been plastered over, was revealed by the bombing and has been left uncovered as an example of pre-Tudor building.

The Furnishings

Altar and Altar Rails

     These date from the 17th century and the rails comply with the regulations laid down by the Bishop of Norwich in 1663: "Neer one yarde in height, so thick with pillars that dogges may not get in".


     This was originally a three-decker, dating from the 17th century, and adapted to its present form in 1908. After the bombing the present copy was made, incorporating the original vertical carving, door and Southernmost panel.


     The Font dates from 1673. The marble is original, the cover a reproduction of the one destroyed in the bombing.

Chained Books

     The only chained books in any London Church were the gift of Sir Hans Sloane (1661-1753), and consist of the Vinegar Bible (1717), two volumes of Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1684), a Prayer Book (1723) and Homilies (1683).

Ashburnham Bell

     Hanging from its headstock in the Porch is the bell presented by the Hon. William Ashburnham as a thank-offering in 1679.

Stained Glass

     The Cartouche in the West window of the Lawrence Chapel is German or Flemish of the 16th century; and the panels in the North and South windows at the Westernmost end of the Nave are of 17th century Flemish stained glass.

The Monuments

     THE MONUMENTS were badly damaged, but thanks to the zeal of the architect, Mr. W. Godfrey, they were mostly saved and restored. Among those commemorating the great families who lived in Chelsea and the most notable are:


     On the South side is the Dacre Monument (1595) to Gregory Fiennes, Lord Dacre of the south, and his wife Ann Sackville, who inherited the Chelsea properties of Sir Thomas More and founded the Emanuel Charity which now supports a boys' Grammar School in Battersea.


     The mutilated tomb (1555) in the S.E. corner of the More Chapel commemorates Jane Guildford, Duchess of Northumberland, who was the mother-in-law of Lady Jane Grey, the mother of Queen Elizabeth's favourite Leicester, and the grandmother of Sir Philip Sidney.


     The monument to Sir Thomas More (1532) stands in the Sanctuary against the South wall. The inscription was composed by Sir Thomas More himself, commemorating his first wife and expressing the wish that he and his second wife should be buried in the same tomb. He was beheaded in 1535; his head is known to be in Canterbury. Unsubstantiated tradition states that his daughter, Margaret Roper, brought his body to Chelsea for burial at the Old Church.


     On the North side of the Chancel in a recess is the tomb of Sir Edmund, first Lord Bray (1539) and heir to the Sir Reginald Bray who was Master of Works to Henry VII and in charge of the building of Henry VII's Chapel at Westminster and St. George's Chapel at Windsor.


     Above is the Hungerford Monument(1581),a family monument very similar to that of Sir Thomas Lawrence in the North Chapel.


     Sir Thomas Lawrence, Goldsmith and Merchant Adventurer of the City of London, is commemorated (1593) in his chapel.


     His eldest daughter, Sara Colvile, is also commemorated there (1632), and is depicted rising in her grave clothes from the tomb.


     At the East end of the Lawrence Chapel is the monument (1632) to Sir Robert Stanley, son-in-law of Sir Arthur Gorges, whose brass is in the North wall of the More Chapel.v


     Within the West arched entrance of the Lawrence Chapel is the triumphal arch (1563) commemorating Richard Jervoise.


     On the North side of the Nave is the memorial to Lady Jane Cheyne (1669), daughter of the Duke of Newcastle, and a great benefactor to this Church and the village of Chelsea. The memorial is the work of an Italian artist Bernini.

Sir Thomas Lawrence Monument

Inside the Lawrence Chapel.
The large monument in the center is of another family. In the upper right is a monument to Sir Thomas Lawrence.

The monument to Sir Thomas Lawrence, grandfather of Robert Lawrence who immigrated to Isle of Wight Co., Virginia, about 1638, depicting Sir Thomas's wife and children

The inscription on Sir Thomas Lawrence's monument reads:

The yeares wherin I livd ware fifty-fowre, October twenty-eyght did end my live, Children five of eleven God left in store, Sole confort of theyr mother & my wife. The world cn say what I have bin before, What I am now examples still are rife, Thus Thomas Larrance spekes to tymes ensving, Than Death is sure & Tyme is past renuing.

Sir John Lawrence Monument

Memorial in the Lawrence Chapel to Sir John Lawrence, Knight and Baronet, son of Sir Thomas Lawrence and father of Robert Lawrence, the immigrant to Virginia.
Close up of the Memorial to Sir John Lawrence. The Inscription reads:
Sacred to the memory of Sr. John Lavrence late of Iver in ye covnty of Bvcks Knight and Baronet who married Grissill davghter & co-heire of Gervase Gibbon of Benenden in the county of Kent Esq. by whom he had issve seven sons and fovre daughters Hee deceased the xiith of Novembr. 1638. aged 50 years

What bad men dy & tvrn to their last sleepe What stir the poets and engravers keepe By a fained skill, to pile them vp a name With termes of Good & Just ovt lasting fame. Alas poor men, svch most have neede of stone And Epitaphs, the Good ( indeed ) lack none Theire owne trve worth's enovgh to give a glory Vnto th' uncankerd record of theire story. Such wass the Man lyes heere yet doth pertake Of verse and stone bvt tis for fashion sake.

Sarah Colvile

The monument of Mrs. Sarah Colvile, daughter of Sir Thomas Lawence. It represents the deceased, in a winding-sheet, rising from her tomb, and bears the following inscription:
"And you shal know that I am the Lord when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your sepulchres." Ezeh. 37. vers. 13.
Continuation of the inscription under the monument of Mrs. Sarah Colvile:
Sacred to ye blessed memory of that vnstayned copy & rare example of all virtve Sara wife of Richard Colevile of Newton in ye Ile of Ely in ye covnty of Cambridge Esq. davghter to Thomas Lawrence of Iver in ye covnty of Bvckingha Esq. who in ye 40th yeare of her age received ye gloriovs reward of her constant piety being ye happy mother of 8 sons and 2 davghters Wonder not (Reader) how this stone Should be so smooth and pure: Theres one That lyes within't by whose fayer light It shines so cleere & looks so bright. The Cutter's art could only giue A forme vnto't: no power to liue Nor shall it euer loose this grace Till she arive and leaue the place For losse of whome ye mournfull Vrne Shall fire and to cynders tvrn. She dyed ye 17th of April 1631