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Borough: Newham
East Ham Nature Reserve
All Saints' Churchyard 16k
East Ham Nature Reserve  
East Ham, at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, was owned by Leofric and Edwin and in the Domesday survey is recorded as consisting of '38 villagers, 30 small-holdings and 3 slaves', with '17 ploughs, 15 cattle, 180 sheep, 44 pigs with woodland for 700, 59 acres of meadow, and 3 beehives'. The word 'Hame' meant 'low-lying pasture', and in medieval times the area was largely arable land and woodland although intensive farming led to the disappearance of the latter by the late 13th century.

The ancient parish church of St Mary Magdalene indicates where the medieval settlement was centred; however it is near the site of a Roman cemetery discovered in 1864. The church was built in 1130 and is one of the oldest in the country. Numerous building materials were used in its construction including Roman tiles, Kentish rag, flints and chalk, and Norfolk pudding-stone; the original Norman timber roof over the apse remains, held together by wooden pegs. A tower was added in the C13th, although the tower today dates from the 16th century. It once housed five bells, of which only one remains, 'Gabriel', the oldest bell in London which was cast in 1380 at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. In the church are two church-wardens 'prickers' of 1805 which were used to wake those who slept during the sermon. There is an anchorite's cell in the north side of the chancel, and the church has a number of monuments and brasses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries including a large Jacobean monument to Lord Mortimer, his wife and 7 children, and a marble and onyx monument to Giles Breame and his wife. Breame's father was granted the patronage of the living of East Ham after the Abbey of Stratford Langthorne was dissolved in 1532.

Among the many graves and tombs in the churchyard is a memorial for two of the crew of the S.S. Titanic; a relative of Fletcher Christian is buried here, as is William Stukely who surveyed and recorded Stonehenge, in the 18th century. The churchyard was officially closed for burials in 1974 and was a wilderness until its value as a wildlife reserve was realised in 1977. In 1981 hedges were planted around the oldest part of the churchyard, a copse of 20 Scots pines was planted in the south, and the Visitors Centre was built. Various areas of the Nature Reserve have been named after people and places associated with the church, such as Roll's Plantation after the Revd. Sir James Roll, vicar here between 1944 to 1958.

The Nature Reserve was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1983. In 1990 the Wren Conservation Group co-ordinated the planting of 5,000 young native tree species to increase woodland, with a grant from the Nature Conservancy Council. At this time paths were upgraded and nature trails were laid out, one for wheelchair users to use unassisted, and another for their use with assistance; additional support from the Area Museum Service for South-East England. The National Churchyard Conservation Campaign was launched from here in May 1991.

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