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The churches in the City of London (1)

Churches in The City of London

Christianity came to Londinium within the first hundred years of it’s founding. Places of worship would have existed back then, but records of these sites can only be traced back to Saxon times. As Christianity spread, so did the number of churches that were built to house the growing congregations.
Before the great fire of 1666 there were approximately 133 parishes in the Square Mile. Each parish had a place of worship of which around 107 were recognised churches. Eighty five of these churches were destroyed in the blaze. Fifty one of the destroyed churches were to be designed and rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren and his team, which included Robert Hooke, Edward Woodroffe and later, Nicholas Hawksmoor.
In order to keep costs down and well as speed up the building process Wren tried to use the existing foundations and any remaining structure. This explains the sometimes odd shapes of the buildings. As the rest of the City was being built up on the same street layout as before the fire the new buildings often left little room for manoeuvre.
As the Victorian age approached and transport, including the railway became readily available, people migrated from the Square Mile and the commuter age was born. This meant that the congregations of some churches dwindled and so parishes merged and some churches were pulled down to make way for other buildings. Most of these churches were established elsewhere, outside the City.
Then came the Blitz of 1939-1945, causing as much damage as the 1666 fire had done. Hardly a church came out unscathed. Many were restored after the war but many were gone forever. Wren’s most famous construction, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, has been given a page of it’s own. Go to St. Paul’s >>

Saint Mary Le Bow - Cheapside

St. Mary Le Bow in Cheapside dates back to Norman times. It was destroyed by the fire of 1666 and while Wren was rebuilding it in 1670-80 he discovered the original 11th. century crypt and a Roman road beneath. It was again gutted by fire during the blitz, on May 10th. 1941. It was restored to the original Wren plan in 1956-62 by Laurence King.
It’s tower houses  Bow Bells, including “The great bell of Bow”, mentioned in the famous nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons”. Although the ringing was silenced for twenty years due to the WWII damage anyone born within the sound range of these bells was said to be a true cockney and the Pearly Kings and Queens still have a special service there annually. They were also used for over four hundred years to ring out the curfew from 1469 till 1876.
The first record of the church dates from 1091 when the roof was blown off by strong winds. In 1271 twenty people were killed when the tower collapsed.
A  goldsmith called Duckett was murdered in the church in 1284 after seeking sanctuary there. This caused the hanging of sixteen men and the burning of a woman for taking part in the murder. The church was then closed until 1331 when it was consecrated again.
The name was probably derived from the bow shaped arches inside the crypt and was originally called Mary D’ Arcubus by the Normans.
The tower with it’s steeple is 66 metres high and is topped with a dragon shaped weather vane which was once mounted by a stunt man called Jacob Hill. On the tower Wren incorporated a balcony. This was added as a historical reminder of the stone viewing platform built by Edward III in front of the church to watch pageants. An earlier wooden tower had been erected after the birth of the Black Prince, for Queen Isabella to watch the celebratory jousting tournament. Unfortunately the tower collapsed as soon as the ladies set foot on it. It was for this reason that the stone ‘shed’ was built. It remained up until the fire.

St. Andrew Undershaft

St. Benet Paul's Wharf

The church is in Leadenhall Street in the shadow of the Gherkin. It’s original name was St. Andrew Cornhill and was first mentioned in 1147. It was given it’s present name during the 15th. century because of the tall maypole that was erected next to the church each year.
In 1517 on what is known as “Evil Mayday” the apprentices caused a riot and 300 were arrested, one of whom was hanged. The pole was then hung along the walls of the houses in Shaft Alley until 1549 when it was destroyed as a heathen idol on the orders of the curate of St. Katherine Cree.
It is one of the few churches that survived both the fire of 1666 and the blitz of WW II, only to suffer damage from an IRA terrorist bomb in 1992. The tomb of John Stow is inside the church with his effigy sitting at a desk holding a quill pen. There is a ceremony performed here to change the quill every three years.

Situated in Queen Victoria Street this small Wren church occupies the site of the 12th. century building destroyed in the fire of 1666. It is named after Saint Benedict. The architect Inigo Jones was buried in the old church and there is a monument to him in the present one. Shakespeare gives a mention to the church in his play “Twelfth Night”.
It came close to being demolished once again, in the 19th. Century until the Welsh Episcopalians acquired it and kept  it in full use. This led to it being known as the "Welsh Church". Although attributed to Wren, there is opinion that it is a Nicholas Hawksmoor design. Sunday services are still held in Welsh language. The nearby College of Arms, also makes use of the church.

Saint James Garlickhythe

All Hallows by the Tower

Named after Saint James the Apostle the church stands on Garlick Hill.  The church takes it’s name from the dock, or hythe, where the garlic was offloaded when it originally stood on the bank of the Thames in the middle ages. It was founded in the 12th. century and rebuilt in 1326. Like many other churches in the City,St. James’s was destroyed in the fire of 1666 and rebuilt by Wren from 1676-83 with the steeple following in 1713-17. It suffered some damage in the blitz but luckily a 500 pound bomb failed to explode after hitting. The damage was restored in 1954-63 and again in 1988 (clock). Unfortunately a crane managed to break a stained glass window and chandelier in 1991. The pews were also smashed. The window was replaced with plain glass and the pews with oak. The chandelier was recreated from the original drawings by the Glass Sellers Company.

Also known as All Hallows Barking. A Bishop of London, Eorconweald, had founded an Abbey at Barking for his sister Ethelburga in 675. She and the nuns then went on to found this church.
It stands in Byward Street near the Tower of London. Samuel Pepys the great 17th. century diarist watched the Great Fire of London from the tower of the church in 1666. The green verdigris of the copper spire is quite spectacular.
WW II bombs caused much damage but also uncovered some original Roman and Saxon remains which can be seen today. It has many historical associations. The famous Judge Jeffries was married here and rector Tubby Clayton made it the headquarters of the TOC H movement in 1922.

Saint Mary Somerset

Saint Albans Wood Street

Standing in Upper Thames Street, the name is thought to derive from a nearby wharf named Somershythe. It was mentioned in the 12th. century and repaired in 1624 before being another of the victims of the great fire of 1666.
It was one of the last churches to be rebuilt by Wren, in 1686-95.
It was demolished due to an act of parliament in 1872, but the tower was left standing and a garden planted at the eastern face. I believe it is now privately owned accommodation.

As well as being home to the City of London Police special units, Wood Street is also home to the tower of Saint Albans Church. Named after the first English martyr. There has been a church here since 793 when Offa, King of Mercia founded the abbey. It was another of Wren’s church constructions after the great fire and once again like many of the City’s churches was damaged by World War Two air raids which left only part of the building including the tower standing. It is a private dwelling now

Saint Katherine Cree

All Hallows on the Wall

Built in Leadenhall Street by the Prior of Holy Trinity, Aldgate so that the Canons of the monastery would not be disturbed by the “laity”, or common parishioners.  It was rebuilt in 1280, 1504 and 1628. It escaped damage by both the fire and the blitz (slight damage only).
Sir Nicholas Throckmorton was buried here in 1571.
The name Cree is thought to be derived from Christchurch. Purcell, Wesley and Handel have all been said to have played the Father Smith organ here. The organ dates from 1686 and was remade in 1866 and 1906.

As the name suggests, this church can be seen on the street named London Wall. In fact the vestry is actually built on one of the circular bastions of the original Roman wall that surrounded the City of London.
It was first mentioned in 1130 and in 1474 a cell for anchorites was built. Simon the Anker was walled up in it for 20 years while writing  “The Fruyt of Redemcyon” which was published by Wynken De Worde in 1514.
Although it escaped damage in the 1666 fire it was rebuilt by George Dance the Younger in 1765-7
The pulpit is a strange feature. It is the only one in the City that has to be entered from outside the knave.
WW II damage was restored by David Nye in 1960-2

Churches (2)