The church stands in Church Street on the banks of the River Thames near the former ferry, which was the only means of crossing the river for many years. There is reason to believe that during the time of Mellitus, Bishop of London in the 7th century, a pagan shrine on this site was converted to Christian worship; certainly it existed in the reign of Edward the Confessor.
The first documentary evidence dates from 1181 and records a Visitation of the manors and churches. The record of this and further visits in 1252, 1297 and 1458, detailing the condition of the church and listing many treasures of plate and vestments reflecting the magnificence of worship in mediaeval times, can still be seen in the Guildhall Library.
The name of Chesewic is simply that of “wic” or village, but the derivation of ‘Chis’ is either the old English “cese” or “ciese” meaning cheese, or the village by the “ceosil” or “cesil” a stony beach or landing place which seems appropriate.
The dedication of a church to St Nicholas, patron saint of sailors and fishermen, was a common practice where the parishioners’ livelihood depended on water.
The connection persisted until recent times in the name of Fisherman’s Place (formerly known as Slut’s Hole), a row of ancient cottages which sheltered against the south wall of the churchyard by the river (seen in the foreground of the picture below).