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City of London Churches

City of London Churches


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Published by corinne mills
The following pages are a series of written by Mark McManus about some of his favourite churches in the City of London
The following pages are a series of written by Mark McManus about some of his favourite churches in the City of London

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Published by: corinne mills on Mar 24, 2008
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Every church in the City, and some in the outlying areas and in Westminster, is worth a visit.
Some have such a colourful history, and/or have been touched with the hand of architectural
genius, that they have merited articles of their own. The others may lack such colourful
backgrounds, but are nonetheless worth seeking out and appreciating, and I will list them here.

All Hallows On The Wall

Originally founded by Queen Matilda in the year 1108, and constructed on the foundations of the
City's Roman wall, the present building is the first church to be designed by George Dance The
Younger, who referred to it as 'my first child'. The hall attached to the east was constructed in

Edwardian times to provide shelter for early morning commuters.
The exterior is simple dark brick with an ashlar-faced tower, the inside a tunnel-vault nave with
simple and delicate decor. Two chandeliers, one a modern replice of the other, hang in the nave.
The church is currently being used by Christian Aid, and opening times are limited.

St Andrews Holborn

First mentioned in 951, this church stood on what was once the bank of the River Fleet and is
now Holborn Viaduct. It was the largest parish church rebuilt by Wrenand was restored after a
1941 incendiary attack. Engineer Marc Brunel and essayist William Hazlitt were married here,
and Benjamin Disraeli baptised. The church contains the tomb of philanthropist Thomas Coram
(its third resting place), and a brass plaque beyond the altar records the burial of the controversial
cleric Henry Sacheverell. William Marsden was prompted to found his famous hospital after
finding a homeless urchin dying on the church steps.

St Andrew By The Wardrobe

Boasting one of the best names of a City church, this stood across the road from the long-
demolished Baynard's Castle. The name of the church recalls the King's Wardrobe which stood
next door, and from which Shakespeare's players acquired costumes for their productions in the
nearby Blackfriars Theatre. Both church and Wardrobe were destroyed in 1666, and the rebuild
was Wren's final church for the City. The parish was united with that of another destroyed
church, St Ann Blackfriars, and masonry remnants of the great monastery can still be found close
by in Ireland Yard. John Dowland, Jacobean songwriter, was buried in St Andrew in 1625 and is
remembered by a wall monument.

St Anne & St Agnes

Now home to the City's Lutheran community, this Wren/Hooke collaboration is the third known
church on the site. Wartime damage almost saw it demolished, but it was saved by the
persistence of a verger who insisted upon keeping the church open despite a Dangerous Building
notice. It was also considered briefly as a possible residence for the Bishop of London.
The church interior, a Greek cross within a square, holds many relics from other,destroyed City
churches and the churchyard is second only to St Olaves Hart Street for rusticity. Supposedly the
burial place of Peter Heywood, d1640, the man who apprehended Guy Fawkes. To the rear of the
church can be seen the junction of two Roman walls - the City wall and the Fortress wall.

St Bartholomew The Less

Dating from the late twelfth century, this was originally the chapel of the medieval St Bart's
hospital. It became the parish church after the Dissolution, its boundaries being those of the
hospital itself. The present building was first designed in wood by Dance The Younger, but
rebuilt in stone a few decades later by Thomas Hardwick. The tower and vestry are survivors
from the medieval building. Inigo Jones was baptised here in 1573, and in the early 1590's it
hosted the burials of two poets, Thomas Watson and John Lyly. A fifteenth century brass to
William Markeby, described by Stow, survives in the vestry and there is a memorial erected by

Thomas Bodley (founder of the Bodleian Library) to his wife.

St Benet Paul's Wharf

The church was mentioned as far back as the year 1111, and is recalled by Shakespeare in
Twelfth Night. He would have known it from his visits to the College Of Arms, just over the
road. Inigo Jones was buried here in 1652, leaving £100 in his will for a sumptuous tomb which
was destroyed in 1666. The attractive Dutch-style replacement church has been attributed to both
Wren and Hooke, and the New Atlantis author Mary de la Riviere Manley was buried here in
1724. Today, hemmed in by very busy roads, St Benet is used by the City's Welsh community.

St Botolphs Aldersgate

St Botolph is the patron saint of travellers, and his dedication is found at gates in the City wall:
Aldersgate, Aldgate, Bishopsgate and at one time Billingsgate. This church goes back to early
Norman times, the present building a 1791 rebuild by Nathaniel Wright. The oblong exterior
hides interior apses at both east and west, and much graceful and well proportioned decoration.
The rosettes along the ceiling of the nave conceal gas lamps, and what at first looks like a
painted panel in the eastern apse turns out, upon closer inspection, to be a painted window.
Wesley preached on land adjacent to the church and received the inspiration that led to the
founding of Methodism. Two notable Tudor women were buried here; the philanthropist Lady
Anne Packington in 1563 and Lady Mary Grey (sister of the ill-fated Jane) in 1578. To the south
is the burial ground, now known as Postman's Park and containing Victorian memorials to
unsung heroes.

St Botolphs Aldgate

Dating back to Saxon times, the present building is a sturdy and imposing Dance The Elder
design of 1744. Daniel Defoe was married here and wrote of the church in his Journal Of The
Plague Year; Isaac Newton was a parishioner while he worked for the Royal Mint; and the
philosopher Jeremy Bentham was baptised here. The traitors Thomas D'Arcy and Henry Carew,
executed by Henry VIII, were interred here, as was the head of Henry Grey Marquess of Dorset.
Other notable burials are Robert Armin, stage comedian and friend of Shakespeare, and the
steamship pioneer William Symington.

St Botolphs Bishopsgate

Mentioned in 1212, the church was rebuilt first in 1571, then in 1728 by the elder Dance and his
father-in-law James Gould. Unconventionally, they placed the tower at the east end where it
dominates Bishopsgate. In 1863, the churchyard became the first in the City to be landscaped
into a public garden. John Keats and the philanthropical actor Edward Alleyn were baptised here
- the present font is the one at which Keats was christened. A memorial marks the burial of Sir
Paul Pindar - his nearby house had a facade which is now an exhibit in the V&A Museum.

St Clements Eastcheap

Probably the original Oranges and Lemons church, despite the later pretensions of St Clements
Dane, as citrus fruit was once unloaded from a nearby wharf. It was first mentioned in 1067, but
the present building was created by Wren and enlarged to accommodate the congregation of
fellow Great Fire victim St Martin Orgar. A modest and quiet church, no longer in Eastcheap
since the Victorians created King William Street. Today, it houses the National Interpreting
Service and hosts a year-round second hand book sale.

St Dunstan In The West

The church with the eye-catching lantern tower which now stands overlooking Fleet Street dates
to 1829, its predecessor having been demolished to accommodate the widening of the street, but
the dedication - to a Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury - implies that a church has stood here for
much longer. A statue of Elizabeth I, the only such statue in London, was brought from the
demolished Lud Gate and placed on the outside of the building; in the vestry are statues of King
Lud and his sons, rescued from the same source. The interior is octagonal and richly decortaed, a
blend of Anglican and Romanian Orthodox styles. Buried here were Lord Baltimore, after whom
Baltimore in the U.S. is named; also Thomas White the founder of Sion College and the poet
Thomas Campion.

The Dutch Church, Austin Friars

Closed in by towering office blocks north of Cornhill, this is one of the better-hidden City
churches. The present building was constructed after its predecessor was flattened during the
Blitz, its foundation stone laid by the 10 year old Princess Irene of Holland. The exterior is
attractive Dutch-style, the interior straightforwardly modern and somewhat dull, offering no
clues to the site's colourful history. Originally it was an Augustinian monastery at which Richard
II's brother Edward was buried, as well as receiving the bodies of many nobles slain at the Battle
of Barnet in 1471. The humanist scholar Erasmus lodged there, but disliked the wine. After
Dissolution the land was briefly owned by the Marquess of Winchester before Edward VI
granted it to the City's Dutch community, under whose auspices it has remained ever since!

St Ethelburga

The smallest City church, a medieval building at which Henry Hudson and his crew prayed
before setting out on their unsuccessful search for the North-West Passage. Seriously damaged
by the 1993 Bishopsgate bomb, it was gradually pieced back together in something of a
patchwork fashion. Most of the previous fittings were destroyed or removed; the church's single
aisle has been converted into an office. It is now a Centre for Reconciliation and Peace.

St James Garlickhythe

Dating back to the twelfth century, this church is named after a nearby wharf at which garlic was
unloaded. Pilgrims also used to arrive here from Compostela, having visited the shrine of St
James, hence the church's dedication. James' symbol of a shell can be found all over thebuilding.
The present church is sometimes known as Wren's Lantern, although Hawksmoor was
responsible for the tower, and it has the highest nave in the City. A bomb fell between two pillars

during the Blitz, but failed to explode; in 1991, a crane toppled onto the church and landed
between the same two pillars! The damage has since been repaired. Ritual processions by the
Vintners' and Skinners' Companies, dating back to medieval times, still occur at St James.

St Katherine Cree

The suffix is a contraction of Christ Church, named after the Priory in the grounds of which the
church was built. The original church, only a few decades old, was demolished at the Dissolution
but rebuilt a century later, possibly by Inigo Jones. The tower, 'vilely snail-pointed' by the
Victorians according to Betjeman, is a 1504 survivor from the earlier church. The new building
was consecrated by Archbishop Laud, to whom a chapel is now dedicated. Its best monument is
the tomb and effigy of Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, Elizabethan courtier and the father-in-law of
Walter Raleigh. A brass in the Sanctuary commemorates John Gayer, a Lord Mayor who
survived a lion attack in Africa and, in gratitude, endowed an annual 'Lion Sermon' which is still
carried out. Despite interesting monuments and windows, the interior aesthetic is poor due to the
conversion of both north and south aisles into offices. A small churchyard, reached from Mitre
Street, contains a 1631 doorcase built in Portland stone and paid for by a goldsmith named
William Avenon.

St Magnus Martyr

First mentioned when William I granted it to Westminster Abbey, the church's next claim to
fame was its Rector in Tudor times, the Bible translator Miles Coverdale. He was originally
buried at St Bartholomew By The Exchange, but when that church was demolished in 1840 for
the enlarging of the Royal Exchange, he was moved here. Windows on the north were bricked up
in an attempt to alleviate traffic noise from the very busy Lower Thames Street. The tower and
portico stood on the footway to the old London Bridge; footings for the bridge's supports can still
be seen, as can a piece of Roman wharf timber excavated nearby.

St Margaret Lothbury

The Banker's Church, due to its proximity to the back door of the Bank of England. It stands
over the Walbrook, for a stone arch was erected over the brook in 1440 so that the church could
be extended. Wren rebuilt the fire-damaged church but the tower may be the work nof Hooke.
Many of the fittings are survivors from demolished City churches.

St Margaret Pattens

Named after the wooden shoes worn to protect proper shoes from the mud of London's pre-
tarmacadam streets, a pair of which were on display in the vestibule when I last visited. First
mentioned in 1067, but rebuilt in Tudor times and post-Fire by Wren. Its spire, almost 200ft tall,
is a local landmark and probably by Hawksmoor. One of the church's canopied pews bears the
monogram CW; it is unknown whether this stands for Christopher Wren or Church Warden.

St Martin Ludgate

In legend, the burial place of King Lud and Cadwallader. The west wall of this church is actually
a section of the City's Roman wall, against which the church was constructed. Although the post-
Fire church was probably the work of Hoke, the spire was designed by Wren as a foil to the great
Dome of St Paul's Cathedral, and from a point along Fleet Street the spire can be seen to bisect
the Dome.The interior, somewhat dark, contains curious relics: bread shelves and a double-
seated chair for the two churchwardens.

St Mary At Hill

Described by Betjeman as having 'the most gorgeous interior in the City', St Mary suffered a
calamitous fire in 1988. Some fittings were destroyed; others survived but are presently in
storage, hance the interior's somewhat 'empty' feel. It has suffered at least four fires in its history.
The exterior is relatively plain, but boasts an eye-catching protruding clock. A Fish Harvest
Festival' is held here in October, reflecting the church's historic connection with Old Billingsgate

St Mary Moorfields

This replaced a RC proto-Cathedral which was demolished in 1899. The new church was built in
1903 and became the only RC church in the City when the boundary of the City was moved from
the front to the rear of the building. Its entrance blends well with its neighbours but retains
modest grace. The altar was originally intended as a sarcophagus for Cardinal Wiseman, whose
seat was the earlier 'cathedral'.

St Mary Woolnoth

During the reign of Queen Anne, a series of new churches were constructed in the suburbs
around the City, and it is here that Hawksmoor's power can be seen - at Christ Church
Spitalfields, St George In The East and St Ann Limehouse - but he did manage to rebuild one
City church, and that was St Mary Woolnoth. Despite this attribution, it came close to demolition
when Bank station was being constructed by the Victorians. Hawksmoor's towered facade is an
interesting contrast to the exteriors designed by his teacher Wren. The Elizabethan playwright
Thomas Kyd was christened here; the slaver-turned-preacher John Newton, who wrote 'Amazing
Grace', was Rector here and was buried here until being translated to a Home Counties church in

St Michael Paternoster Royal

This church goes back to at least 1219 but was famously refounded in 1409 by the wealthy
merchant and oft-times Lord Mayor, Richard Whittington. It had to be completely rebuilt after

both the Fire and the Blitz, and is now HQ of the Mission To Seafarers. Whittington is
remembered by a stained glass window and a inscribed tile south of the altar; post-War
excavations failed to recover his coffin but, curiously, did recover the skeleton of a cat!

St Peter Cornhill

The highest church in the City, it stands on the site of the Roman Forum and somewhat
fancifully claims to have been founded in AD79, although the foundation is more likely Saxon. It
contains a Wren chancel screen in its original position, and the City's most upsetting church
memorial - to seven young siblings who died in a house fire in 1782. The churchyard was
described in Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, who ironically noted the 'healthy' proximity
of crowded graveyard to crowded neighbourhood! The churchyard is still crowded by other
buildings, but has long since been an attractive public garden.

St Nicholas Cole Abbey

This never was an Abbey; the name is a mutation of 'Coldharbour'. The spire is notably
surmounted by a gilded ship, brought from a demolished church. Built by Wren and restored
after the Blitz, its war-blackened walls featured in the Ealing comedy Lavender Hill Mob. At the
Counter-Reformation, it was the first church to celebrate Mass in Latin, and until recently was
being used by Scottish Presbyterians.

St Vedast Alias Foster

Thanks to parochial amalgamations, this parish can boast the name of 'St Stephen with St
Michael le Querne, St Matthew Friday Street, St Peter Cheap, St Alban Wood Street, St Olave
Silver Street, St Michael Wood Street & St Mary Staining, St Anne & St Agnes and St John
Zachary Gresham Street'. A cloister between the church and its rectory contains a section of
Roman tessellated pavement which was excavated nearby.

St Etheldredas

This RC chapel in Holborn is all that remains of Ely Palace, the London residence of the Bishop
of that see. It has an atmospheric vault, many colourful windows and statues of various London
martyrs. Alexander D'Arbley, son of the novelist Fanny Burney, was Reverend here in the
1830's. The 13th-century crypt in the Palace of Westminster is almost identical to the
contemporary crypt here.

St Mary le Strand

Rebuilt by the architect James Gibbs in the eighteenth century, St Mary stands in a sea of traffic

at the junction of Aldwych and the Strand. Its once extensive churchyard was curtailed by the
construction of its neighbour Somerset House. Father John Huddleston, who accepted Charles
II's deathbed conversion to Catholicism, was buried here in 1698.

Savoy Chapel

The original Savoy Palace belonged to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and was burned down
in the Peasant's Revolt of 1381; the present Duke, HM The Queen, is the current owner of the
Savoy Chapel. It is all that remains of a Hospital built by Henry VII for the 'pouer, needie
people'. Burial place of Gavin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld and poet, in 1552.

City Road Chapel

Probably the closest the Methodists have to a cathedral, this stands in an area famous for its
dissenting traditions. John Wesley's House stands alongside, and the man himself occupies an
eye-catching tomb in the garden to the rear. The crypts are the site of an impressive museum of
Methodism, and just across the busy City Road is the famous dissenters' burial ground of Bunhill
Fields, which contains figures such as Bunyan, Defoe, William Blake, Susannah Wesley, the
radical Richard Price and the hymnwriter Isaac Watts.

St James Piccadilly

Commissioned by the rakish Henry Jermyn and built by Wren in the 1680's, plain brick with
Portland stone dressing. Williams Blake and Pitt were baptised here, and indeed it is now the
meeting-place of the Blake Society. Burials include the Dutch maritime artists Van Der Velde
(Elder and Younger), the essayist and wit Dr John Arbuthnot, Dr Thomas Sydenham the
populariser of laudanum, and auctioneer James Christie.

St James Clerkenwell

Originally the site of a Priory of St Mary, this became the Parish church after the Dissolution and
was rebuilt in its present form in 1792 by James Carr. It is a dignified old building in a somewhat
untidy but vibrant area, dominating Clerkenwell Green. It could possibly claim to be the
Playwright's Church if it had a mind to; Elizabethan writer George Peele was buried here and
may have been followed by the Jacobean dramatists Thomas Dekker and John Webster. Also
here is Henry Penton, after whom Pentonville is named.

St Mary Lambeth

Standing next to Lambeth Palace, this redundant church is now a Museum Of Garden History,
which is perfectly appropriate considering the botanical connections of its famous interments:

John Tradescent father & son, travellers and Royal Gardeners; Elias Ashmole, who founded
Oxford's Ashmolean Museum; James Sowerby, botanical illustrator; and commander of The
Bounty William Bligh, whose 1789 mission to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to Jamaica met
with a minor delay. Also here is a Howard Chapel containing Elizabeth Boleyn, mother of Anne.

St Marylebone

The present church, consecrated in 1817, is the fourth to bear the name. Its outstanding feature is
its splendid apse, added in 1884. Robert Browning and Charles Dickens were born in the parish
and would have worshipped here; the marriage of Browning to fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett also
took place here, and the church retains the entry in the Marriage Register. Baptisms include 'Bad'
Lord Byron and Horatia, daughter of Emma Hamilton and Horatio Nelson. In the 'old'
churchyard were buried Revd. Charles Wesley, the animal artist George Stubbs, the sculptor
John Rysbrack, the codifier of whist Edmund 'according to' Hoyle, and architect James Gibbs.
This ground was cleared in 2004 to make way for a school gymnasium; these notables currently
reside in boxes under the auspices of the Museum of London.

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