St Mary's is situated at the southern end of High Street South, East Ham, London, E6 3PG. Although situated near to a busy road, the noise of passing traffic quickly subsides as you walk into the churchyard.
The Tower is 15.2 m (50 ft) high and inside measures 4.7 m (15 ft 6 ins) square. It is three stories in height, and supported by eight massive buttresses. The castellation on the top of the tower were added by the Victorians.
As you walk up the path notice the tall lancet windows of the Tower, 53 cm (21 ins) in width and 3.3 m (11 ft) in height.
The lancet windows are Early English and shows that the Tower was built or altered in the 15th century.
Now you are in the grounds you can look around the outside, go into the church, or explore the nature reserve. If you come on a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening, you could attend a service. You would be very welcome.
The doorway between the tower and the nave is Norman in origin. Originally it was the outer door to the nave and was exposed to the weather.
On the North side of the chancel, next to the pulpit and built into the thickness of the wall is the derelict rood-loft staircase. The rood which stood on it (same word as rod, wood or tree) was a large cross or crucifix.
Past the chancel in the apse is the sanctuary. It is on the altar that the priest blesses the bread and wine. The priest would have entered the sanctuary through the separate priest's door in the south wall.
The Cistercian Wall Paintings
St Mary's was founded by the Cistercian monks from the Abbey at Stratford Langthorne. Although an austere order, they painted some unique murals above and underneath the arch between the choir and the sanctuary.
Statue of Mary Magdalene
St Mary Magdalene is the patron saint of the Church. The feast day of St Mary Magdalene is 22nd July and the church has special services, to mark the patronal celebrations. This figure stands to the left of the sanctuary entrance, and is Flemish in origin. She carries in her right hand the box of precious ointment.
Set into the North Wall above the chancel step is the hatch to the Anchorite's cell which is built into the thickness of the wall.
The cell was a hollow space measuring 3' by 2' and about 6' high. It would have been used in the 13th or 14th centuries by an anchorite, the most notable example of whom is St. Julian of Norwich.
On the south side of the apse, in a niche in the wall, there is a double piscina. (Piscina is a Latin word for basin). The two piscinas were set side by side (as at St Mary's), one was reserved for the washing of the priest's hands, whilst the other was used for the cleaning of the sacred vessels (chalice and paten).
The piscinas each contain a drain which is connected with the earth, to receive the water used for the ceremonies.
The Nevill Monument
To the north-east is the large Nevill monument. Edmund Nevill, styled the "Seventh Earle of Westmerland" and Dame Jane, his wife, and represented by kneeling effigies, 1 m (3 ft) high, under a canopy adorned with emblems, numerous shields, and three inscriptions. Above are figures of Hope and Prudence, with the Nevill coat-of-arms.
In front of the tomb were small kneeling figures of 7 children, including the Katherine Nevill who was buried here in 1613. (Unfortunately, the smallest child has been stolen).
Charles Nevill, the sixth Earl of Westmorland, was involved in one of the conspiracies to place Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.
He escaped to Flanders, and his titles and estates were forfeited. Edmund Nevill, the next succession, tried to get James I to reverse the attainder, but without success. Thus he had no right to the title seventh Earl of Westmorland. It seems evident that the monument was erected during the lives of Edmund Nevill and his wife, on the death of their daughter Katherine.
The Priest's Door
A small door set in the south wall of the apse was used for the priests to enter and leave the sanctuary.