About this church
It was the first church built between 1712 and 1718 under the Fifty New Churches Act of 1711, and the first complete church project undertaken by Nicholas Hawksmoor, one of England’s most original and significant architects.
Master craftsmen working with Hawksmoor in St Alfege church were also working in other main sites in Greenwich and London. The design and carving of the pulpit and the Corinthian capitals on these pillars are attributed to Grinling Gibbons, who worked with Wren on St Paul’s Cathedral and is regarded as the finest English wood carver. The old pulpit, covered in elaborate carving by Grinling Gibbons.
The wrought iron altar rails and balcony rails were designed by French craftsman Jean Tijou, who produced screens for St Paul’s and for Hampton Court.
The elaborate columns and cornices are the original Hawksmoor design. The main pilasters at the east end and the apse were originally painted by Sir James Thornhill, better known for his work in the Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College
The crypt is best known as the burial place of General James Wolfe but it was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor to be a space for the living, and possibly a school. Soon after the church was consecrated in 1718, the parishioners of Greenwich decided they had other plans. People paid to be buried on the floor of the crypt and as a result the current floor level is about three feet higher than the original. Wealthy local families set up family burial vaults in the crypt, like the one used for James Wolfe. The vaults contain over 1,000 bodies. The crypt is currently only open to the public a few times a year.
St Alfege church has a rich musical tradition and is the burial place of Thomas Tallis, the father of English choral music, composer and director of music serving four monarchs from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I.
Henry VIII was baptised here, and many other key historical figures in Greenwich’s royal, maritime and scientific history have close links with the site including Thomas Tallis, General James Wolfe and John Flamsteed. St Alfege is a key part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.