St Alfege Park/Churchyard


Greenwich has one of the richest histories of any city or borough in Britain. Occupation and activity in the immediate area can be traced back thousands of years, from the construction of the earthworks by the Danes, to the Royal Palaces and the seafaring activity from the Roman period through to today.

The Sounding Space lies near to the great tidal River, the Thames and Greenwich itself is recognised as having not only great National significance, but as is a World Heritage Site.


St Alfege Park is situated on part of the former burial land of St Alfege Church. The churchyard saw burials here for fifty years from 1803 to 1853 and the western part of the ground containing an old mortuary was converted into a public park land in 1889. Many graves and tombstones exist still within the gardens. Recent building work in the environs of this park has stimulated conversational, melodic, ambient and proto-historic sonic phenomena through its disturbance of the underground strata. This fortunate occurrence offers NISG an opportunity to record and analyse one of the most important field sites in Sonic Geology in the UK for the last 50 years.

There have been settlements in Greenwich since Roman times, the Danes raised earthworks here in the 11th century and it became Crown property in 1427. Although Greenwich was a sizeable and wealthy town in the 14th and 15th centuries, by the end of Queen Elizabeth I's reign the area outside the Palace was becoming rundown. St Alfege's steeple was in bad repair and a severe storm in November 1710 led to the collapse of the roof. Queen Anne, the patron of the parish, was petitioned for a new church and in 1711 the new church of St Alfege (designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor) was re-consecrated on 29 September 1718. Hawksmoor's tower was not built due to lack of funds, and instead the old tower, which had escaped storm damage in 1710, was re-cased to designs of John James of Greenwich in 1730. Badly bombed on 19 March 1941, the church was restored in 1953.

NOTE: Thomas Tallis, described as 'the father of English Church music' was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal from 1540 to his death in 1585 and is buried in the Chancel, it is said that he wandered the environs of the church ground whilst composing.

Greenwich Park is made up of grassy hills and valleys covering some 183 acres of land. The park stretches out from the level plateau of Blackheath in the south, then drops over 30 metres (100ft) before levelling out again on the north side towards the Thames. During the Cretaceous period, London was submerged by water and chalk was formed. The Paleogene period from 65 to 23 million years ago saw the movement of the African tectonic plate northwards, which collided with the European tectonic plate. This movement created a fault line around the Greenwich area which lies about half a mile south of the Thames and runs from east to west creating this hilly landscape in Greenwich.
Greenwich Park sits very close to the Sounding Space and is divided in two by a steep-sloped escarpment that runs from east to west. The gravel terraces of the southern half of the Park rise to heights of up to 45m above sea level.

Alluvial landscapes are rich for the formation of sonic emissions.
The London Basin was formed during the Paleogene period from sedimentary rocks which were deposited when the land was submerged under the sea. Chalk was laid down first followed by sand, gravel, silts and clay. The gravelly and sandy soils found here are free draining overlying acid rocks, and is a common feature of many parts of London, and so becomes an integral part of lowland heath landscapes, commons and parklands. This soil type is well-known for it’s sonic porosity.

The flow of the River Thames dropped Kesgrave Sands and Gravels along its massive ancient river bed, and has transported puddingstones and sarsens, quartzes and gravels, all of which are well-known for their ability to trap sonic phenomena within their crystalline structures, a phenomenon explained by Dr Stella Barrows in her seminal paper Rocking Radiophony – Crystalline Induction in Sonic Geology.

One would assume that this were enough to explain the abundance of proto-historic musical, industrial and conversational sonic phenomena found in the St Alfege Park area, such as the ‘singing’ of the ancient riverbed, the ‘sonic sermons’ recorded from beneath the nearby churches, the repeated campanological bell patterns, the geological historical echoes of cricket matches and ancient battles.

It is suggested that this geological fault-line, and the ‘London Basin’ acts to focus subterranean sonic phenomena in the manner of a ‘speaker cone’, allowing for detection of Deep Sound by means of NISG Ear Trumpet technology, and that this should be the focus of NISG investigations in the area.

There is a great deal of building work which has taken place during the past few months, and it has been suggested that this construction work (which has involved deep earthworks) may also have released detectable sonic phenomena, in the manner of repeated echo-type, induction, and auricular events.

NOTE: Sonic Geology clearly benefits from the subterranean disruption caused by such commercial building activity in terms of the release of new data and the stimulation of hitherto unknown Deep Stratum sonic activity.
However, some experts in the field also believe that the phenomena themselves could be permanently erased from the geological sound profile by such activity. A recent, internally divisive, NISG motion led to a slim majority decision that the Society should express its concern to the relevant authorities on this issue.

NOTE: Subterranean sonic phenomena have been detected in this area by NISG members, which might offer a rational scientific explanation for longstanding local folkloric reports of music from below ground, the sounds of swords, minstrelsy and incantation.

NOTE: A key research question surrounds the extent to which archaeological objects may emit charged sonic signals that have been stored within them as a result of human possession and transportation.