The Church of the Holy Sepulchre Without Newgate is the proper name. “Without Newgate” refers to its position outside the City wall. It is named after the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. First mentioned in 1137 it is the largest parish church in the City. It was rebuilt in the mid 1400’s by Sir John Popham. It was originally dedicated to King Edmund but as many knights set out from here for the Crusades it took on its present name. Destroyed in the Great Fire, it was rebuilt by one of Wren’s master masons Joshua Marshal in 1670-4 this was because they could not wait for Wren. It stands opposite the Old Bailey and houses the Execution Bell. When a tunnel connected the church to the old Newgate prison a man called Robert Dowe started the practice of walking the tunnel the night before an execution while ringing this bell. As he walked he recited this verse: All ye that in the condemned hold do lie, Prepare you for tomorrow you shall die Watch all and pray the hour is drawing near, That you before the almighty must appear Examine well yourselves. In time repent, That you may not to eternal flames be sent And when St. Sepulchre’s bell tomorrow tolls, The Lord have mercy on your souls. In the morning they were led out to the sound of the Great Bell of Bailey striking from the tower of St. Sepulchre’s where they would be given a nosegay at the gates. This was stopped in 1744 but Dowe’s hand bell is on display near the entrance to the now blocked tunnel.
Saint Anne and saint Agnes
Saint Margaret Pattens
The church of St. Anne and St. Agnes stands in Gresham Street and is unmistakable by its letter “A” on the weather vane on top of the small tower. Named after Anne, the mother of the virgin Mary and Agnes, a thirteen year old martyr. First mentioned in 1137 it burnt down in 1548 and was rebuilt. Destroyed once again by the fire of 1666 and rebuilt by Wren in 1676-87. In 1649 the vicar was beheaded for protesting at the execution of King Charles I. After repairs to war damage were carried out by Braddock and Martin Smith in 1963-8 it became, and still is, a Lutheran church.
Pattens were wooden soles with metal hoops that were worn to protect footwear from the mud. These were manufactured nearby, hence the name of the church. Margaret was the maid of Antioch who reputedly suffered horrific ordeals before being put to death for her faith. The church was first mentioned in 1216 and rebuilt in 1530. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and rebuilt by Christopher Wren in 1684-7 On the roof of one of the original canopied pews is carved “CW 1686”. The octagonal panelled spire rises to 200 feet above the ground. It ceased to be a parish church in 1954 and became one of the City’s guild churches.
Saint Bartholomew the Great
Saint Bartholomew the Less
A priory was founded in West Smithfield by Rahere in 1123. It was dedicated to St. Bartholomew who was one of the apostles. He was martyred with a flaying knife, which became his emblem. Rahere was a courtier who became ill, probably with Malaria, while on a pilgrimage to Rome. He had a vision where the saint told him to build the priory.The church is the only remaining part. Henry I granted the right to hold Bartholomew’s Fair. This became the largest cloth fair in the country. After the dissolution of the monasteries much of the priory was rented out. There was a blacksmith shop and a printing works where Benjamin Franklin worked in 1725.
You will find this church within the grounds of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital (Barts), just behind the King Henry VIII gate in West Smithfield. It was founded around 1184 as the hospital chapel. The hospital was made its parish in 1547 and is still used today by patients, staff and visitors to the hospital. The architect Inigo Jones was baptised here in 1573. It has had many restorations including major work after WW II bomb damage, but there are still 15th. century stonework to be seen including the tower. Most of the internal fittings are Victorian. Many past surgeons and doctors at the hospital are buried here.
Dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Abchurch is a bit obscure and no-one is really sure what the derivation is First mentioned in 1198 and restored in 1611. Like so many other churches it was destroyed in the 1666 fire and rebuilt by Wren in 1681-6. Restoration after WW II bomb damage was carried out by Godfrey Allen in 1948-53. Many say that it is the church most closest to its original 17th. century style. It houses many interesting artefacts including a reredos authenticated as the work of Grinling Gibbons, one of the finest 17th. century wood carvers.
The church on the hill above Billingsgate is located in Lovat Lane. Also known as St. Mary de Hull and first mentioned in 1177. It was rebuilt in 1487 and renovated in 1616. Severely damaged in the Great Fire but enough medieval stone left for Wren to use when rebuilding in 1670-74. There was no serious war damage but the church was seriously damaged by a fire in 1988. There was much damage to the roof and the dome was destroyed. Restoration work was carried out by John Barnes of the Conservation Practise. Billingsgate fish merchants hold their harvest festival here in October.
Saint Olav Hart Street
Saint Peter Upon Cornhill
This church is dedicated to Olaf the Norwegian King who fought alongside Ethelred the Unready against the Danes at London Bridge in 1014. The nursery Rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down” relates to this battle, when Olaf's long-ships pulled down the wooden bridge to stop the Danes. He died in 1025 and was canonized for services to Christendom. A wooden church was erected shortly after. The present church was commissioned in 1450 and the red brick on the tower being added in 1732. Despite much renovation over the years the years it has remained almost unaltered. This was Samuel Pepys’ church and he had a covered stairway built to it from the Naval Office in Seething Lane so as not to get wet. Dickens called the church “St. Ghastly Grim” in his story of “The Uncommercial Traveller” because of the skulls above the gate.
St. Peter upon Cornhill occupies the highest point in the City and legend has it that it is the oldest church, founded by the first Christian King of Britain, Lucias, in 179 on the site of the Roman basilica. The earliest recorded mention is in 1040. Another of the churches destroyed in the fire of 1666 and rebuilt by Wren in 1675-81, however some would argue that Robert Hooke was the actual designer. The screen inside is said to have been designed by Wren’s daughter and was kept in place when the church was restored by J. D. Wyatt in 1872. Mendelssohn played the Father Smith organ here in 1840 and again in 1842. It has a pleasant public garden formed from the churchyard which Dickens refers to as “The place where the dead are raised above the living” in his “Our Mutual Friend”. This was because the path was lower than the graveyard!
Saint Olav Jewry
Christ Church Newgate Street
Named after the King of Norway, Olaf or Olav, who was killed in battle and made a martyr. The name Jewry comes from the nearby street of Old Jewry where the Great London Synagogue stood until 1290 when the Jews were expelled by Edward I. The church was first mentioned in a manuscript from 1130. Yet another church to be destroyed in the fire of 1666 and rebuilt by Wren’s office, in 1675. The church was in the shape of a coffin. The Victorians demolished the church in 1887 but left the tower standing. It now serves as offices Set back in Ironmonger Lane in a small garden it is difficult to see in summer because of the foliage on the trees. The sailing ship on the weather vane is thought to be from St. Mildred Poultry.
The church was once a Friary built by Franciscans (Greyfriars) in 1306-25 It was the largest church in the City apart from St. Paul’s. When Henry VIII called for the dissolution of the monasteries it was turned into a warehouse and it wasn’t until the last year of Henry’s reign that he returned it to the City as a parish church. When Wren rebuilt it after the fire he made it much smaller, but still large compared to others. This was because it had incorporated the parishes of other churches and their congregations. It was badly damaged by bombs on 29th. December 1940 and not restored. In 1962 more of the church was lost to a road widening scheme. The tower is now privately owned and the remainder has been turned into a pleasant garden.