St Peter's Church

a picture of post-medieval Life in Petersham

St Peters churchyardSt Peter’s Church is located in Petersham, a village located on the bank of the River Thames, one mile south of Richmond. Between November 2017 and February 2018, archaeologists from AOC’s London office carried out a monument survey, excavations, and historic building recording within its churchyard ahead of the construction of a new church hall. We worked closely with the exhumation contractor, church, consultant, engineers and Greater London Archaeological Advisory Service to identify and target areas for foundations and excavation. Prompt delivery was required for the conditions of the Faculty.

The burials of 26 individuals dating to the late 17th to early 20th centuries were excavated. By integrating archaeological data with information from historical sources, we were able to build up a detailed picture of life in Petersham during the post-medieval period. Parish records and census data showed that Petersham was an affluent community during the 17th-20th centuries. By the early 1700s there were around 30 houses in the village, most of them large mansions, and their inhabitants included financiers, merchants, lawyers, goldsmiths and members of the aristocracy. Petersham continued grow as an affluent middle and upper-class area and by the end of the 1800s its population had reached 800 inhabitants.

Osteological analysis was carried out on the 26 individuals and ages and sexes of some individuals were determined, as well as the diseases and injuries. The results reflected the wealthy population, with some individuals living into old age and a prevalence of age-related disease, such as osteoporosis and degenerative joint disease. Dental disease also suggested the inhabitants of Petersham enjoyed a sugary diet, and the fact that some individuals wore dentures and had fillings provided further evidence that this was an affluent community.

Grave memorials allowed for the identification of named individuals in some of the burials. The family vault of Caroline Douglas (née Scott), the 6th Marchioness of Queensbury (1774- 1854) contained the remains of the marchioness herself, along with her granddaughters, Frances Louisa Gage (1834-1915) and Lucy Amelia Gage (1838-1905), and grandson, Archibald William Gage (1837-1871). The family were well-connected within London society during the 19th century and their burials attested to this, including elaborate coffin fittings and expensive jewellery.

St Peters montage