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The following pages are a series of written by Mark McManus about some of his favourite churches in the City of London
All Hallows by the Tower
Barking Abbey, the remains of which still be seen, was founded by Erkenwald in the year 666. Owning land on the eastern edge of the City, the Abbey constructed the Saxon church of All Hallows Berkyngechirche on Tower Hill in 675. Over the centuries, the name mutated to All Hallows Barking.
The exterior of the building is quite large and imposing, but its different architectural styles bring attention to its historic troubles: medieval masonry dominated by the brown brickwork of the post-Blitz restoration, its tower of 1659 being a rare example of a Cromwellian rebuild. Despite the somewhat forbidding exterior, the inside of the church is a spacious and light surprise. This is due mostly to Lord Mottistone's post-WWII rebuild, which replaced the previously gloomy Norman nave with concrete and stone, blending well with the medieval work of the aisles with a grace that the cluttered exterior can only dream off. The plain east window allows light to flood into the church, and the glass placed in the recently reopened southern entrance also helps to maintain this airy atmosphere. All Hallows is eager to tell its story. As you first step in through the main entrance in Great Tower Street, you are greeted by a large facsimile showing Vischer's famous engraving of pre-
Great Fire London seen from the South Bank, and a gift shop which is the largest I've seen in a City church. This is probably due to a greater amount of visitors than is usual, tourist overflow from the nearby Tower. A good selection of historic books can be purchased, displayed in glass cabinets... and All Hallows is certainly not short of history. Its proximity to Tower Hill obliged it to be the temporary resting place of various victims of the axe, such as Sir Thomas More (1535), Bishop John Fisher (1535),Henry Howard Earl of Surrey (1547), and Archbishop William Laud (1647). These notable bodies have all since been re-interred elsewhere, with the probable exception of their heads. On Wednesday 5th September 1666, the recently rebuilt church tower received a visitor from adjacent Seething Lane, one Samuel Pepys, whose Diary records, 'I up to the top of Barking Steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw. Everywhere great fires, the fire being spread so far as I could see it.' He was looking west; Sir William Penn of the Admiralty, father of the founder of Pennsylvania, saved All Hallows from the conflagration by ordering an intervening row of houses to be blown up, thus creating a fire-break. The irrepressible Diarist, never one to let a local apocalypse ruin his appetite, wrote, 'to Sir W Penn's, and there eat a piece of cold meat, having eaten nothing since Sunday but the remains of Sunday's dinner.' All Hallows' connection with notable figures is impressive. Apart from the short-lived interments mentioned, it was also host to the baptisms of Lancelot Andrewes, the Bishop who helped prepare the Authorized Version of the Bible for James I, and William Penn Jnr. Weddings included the notorious Judge George Jeffreys and John Quincey Adams, who became the 6th U.S. President. Many of the church's registers survived the ravages of the Reformation by being hidden in a lead cistern in the tower, and they were not discovered until 1923. These records include various plague entries, a mention of the Gunpowder plot, and names Penn, Quincey Adams and Laud in the register of baptisms, marriages and burials. They are the only unbroken record of events on Tower Hill in the sixteenth century. In the 20th Century the incumbent, Revd Philip Clayton, made two important contributions to the history of the church. He founded the international movement called 'Toc H', which promotes the spirit of war-time camaraderie through Christian fellowship, and he also changed the name, removing the obsolete Barking ( the Abbey had been dissolved since 1536) and replacing it with the more practical By The Tower. The parish Bounds are still ritually 'beaten' on Ascension Day, which involves a boat trip as part of the boundary is on the Thames, and sometimes a mock 'clash' with Beefeaters beating the Bounds of the Tower of London. Many historical treasures are displayed in the church. The canopy tomb of Alderman John Croke (1477) was destroyed in the 1940 air raid and reconstructed from over 150 fragments. Today it holds a bronze casket containing the Lamp of maintenance of Toc H. There are seventeen brasses, the earliest being that of William Tongue of 1389. The wonderful font cover, depicting cherubs and vines, was carved by master woodworker Grinling Gibbons in 1682 for £12, and a triptych of c1500, known as the Tate panel after the benefactor who commisioned it, shows the figures of St Joseph, St John the Baptist, St Jerome, St Ambrose and Tate himself kneeling in
prayer! One example of survival is the pulpit, originally from the church of St Swithins London Stone, pulled from the rubble after it was completely demolished in the Blitz. The Undercroft is a museum in its own right. It contains an in-situ Roman tessellated pavement from a 2nd century house on the site, and a Saxon archway from the original church which was rediscovered after the Blitz. There are three chapels, one of which - dedicated to bSt Francis was once a crypt of c1280 which managed to get lost for three centuries before rediscovery in 1925. A small neighbouring oratory, dedicated to St Clare, has a 'squint' through which services could have been observed. There are models of Roman tombstones, a model of Londinium made in 1928 and sadly dated ( no ampitheatre!), archives dating back to the year of the Armada (1588), the burial pit in which Laud once rested, and small artefacts from the Roman and Saxon periods. Overall, the Church is a marvellous surprise to the unwary. One could spend a couple of hours there, gazing at the relics of two thousand years of history. It was around 400 years before the neighbouring Tower was started, and the Londinium relics date back even further. It's also cheaper than the Tower, asking only for donations and a small fee for the Undercroft!
Author Mark McManus
St Andrew Undershaft
At the start of the new Millenium, after centuries of obselescence, St Andrew's suffix has now gained new meaning, as it stands today in the shadow of the soaring Swiss RE building, more colloquially known as the Gherkin. Originally, however, the name had a different meaning.
The history of the site may extend as far back as Saxon times, and it has previously been known
as St Andrew Cornhill, St Andrew juxta Aldgate and plain St Andrew the Apostle. The name Undershaft appeared in the 15th Century due to a custom that took place in the street nearby - the erection every year of a large maypole. This custom was described by Chaucer in his typically dense Middle English: 'Right well aloft, and high ye beare your heade The weather cocke, with flying, as ye would kill When ye be stuffed, bet of wine then brede Then looke ye, when your wombe doth fill As ye would beare the great shaft of Cornehill Lord, so merrily crowdeth then your croke That all the streete may heare your body cloke.' This tradition was suspended in 1517 after the so-called 'Evil Mayday', when City apprentices rose in riot against foreigners. Clearly the authorities did not wish any more public gatherings on this particular day. The maypole was hung aloft on houses along Shaft Alley, and today a replica maypole can still be found hanging on the wall of this alley, east of Leadenhall Street next to Marks & Spencer. Presumably the original was kept preserved in the hope that the tradition may some day be restored, but this was not to be. In 1520 the more wealthy parishioners joined forces to rebuild the late medieval church which still stands - with various alterations - to this very day. Its major benefactor at this time was Steven Gennings, a merchant tailor and one time Mayor, with 'every man putting to his helping hand, some with their purses, others with their bodies.' The church was finished in 1532. In 1549, the curate of St Katherine Creechurch - a neighbour of St Andrew, further along Leadenhall Street - was a rather fiery preacher named Sir Stephen. He denounced the dormant maypole during a sermon at St Paul's Cross, claiming that it was idolatrous. As a consequence of this, the maypole was removed from its resting place in Shaft Alley and sawn into pieces. These events were witnessed, and later recorded, by a Cornhill tailor named John Stow. Sir Stephen was later forced to flee the City after informing against, and therefore condemning to the gallows, a popular Romford bailiff who may well have been innocent. This execution took place virtually on Stow's doorstep. In 1565, the nearby church of St Mary Axe was closed down and its parish united with St Andrews. This church had been dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, St Ursula, and the 11,000 virgins, and keen observers of Undershaft's exterior today will spot a reference to the Axe. St Andrews seems to have led a quiet existence, being fortunate enough to escape the Great Fire and any significant Blitz damage. Its parish was eventually merged with St Helens Bishopsgate, and both churches were seriously damaged by the terrorist bomb which exploded in St Mary Axe in 1992, destroying the historic Baltic Exchange which now boasts the Gherkin on its site. St Andrews was repaired as quickly as possible, with none of the major changes which became so controversial at St Helens. Generally speaking, St Andrews is not open for tourists. It is used by study groups, for prayer meetings, and a Sunday school. Pews have been cleared from the interior and corners of the building are cluttered with catering equipment and toys! A bain marie stands in the northern
aisle, ready to provide a buffet for study group luncheons, and visitors need to ask prior permission at St Helens Rectory if they wish to view the interior for themselves. The style of the building is late Perpendicular Gothic, and the crowding of surrounding buildings gives the deceptive impression that the church is very small. This impression is dispelled when the visitor actually enters - it consists of a nave and two aisles, plenty of windows both clear and stained, and the absence of pews makes the interior seem even more spacious. The roof is mainly comprised of flat wooden beams, mostly modern following the post-1992 repairs. Font and pulpit are Jacobean, and the Harris organ dates to 1696. The church contains some notable monuments. A brass remembers Nicholas Leveson, d1539, a Sheriff who was one of the benefactors dusring the church's construction. His father in law, Thomas Bodley, founded the Bodleian Library in Oxford. This is the oldest brass remaining in the church. A lovely monument by Cornelius Cure, Master Mason to Elizabeth I and James I, commemorates Sir Thomas Offley and his family. He was Lord Mayor in 1556. A recess contains a memorial to Alice Byng, d1616, consisting of a small figure of Alice kneeling in prayer. She was married three times, and the monument lists her husbands and children. A monument in the south aisle remembers the Datchelor family, one of whom - Mary Datchelor - founded a well known girl's school in Camberwell. Three monuments deserve special attention - the large memorial to Sir Hugh Hammersley, Lord Mayor in 1627, his kneeling figure flanked by soldiers. This represents his presedential connection to the Honourable Artillery Company, which once had land near Spitalfields. Artillery Lane now marks the spot. Hammersley was also the president of Christ's Hospital in Newgate Street, which used buildings from the old Greyfriars monastery. Another monument in the NE corner, is the terracotta figure of John Stow, seated at a desk and holding a quill. Despite his popular and influential writings, Stow ended his days in poverty and was granted a licence to beg by the King James I. His wife erected the monument; one wonders how she was able to afford it. A Latin inscription reads: 'Sacred to the memory. Here awaits the resurrection in Christ, John Stow, a citizen of London who, having with the greatest care and diligence studied the ancient monuments, wrote the 'Annals of England' and 'A View of the City of London'. He deserved well of his own time and of posterity.' Stow's work provides the most complete record of the City before the Great Fire, and are highly valuable primary historic sources. He was the first man to fully describe the City Churches, most of which have either disappeared or been completely altered. I resisted the temptation to kneel and wail, 'I'm not worthy!' The third notable monument is a simple brass to the great Tudor court painter, Hans Holbein. He lived in the parish and died during an outbreak of the plague in 1543. Opinion was divided among historians as to whether he was buried here or in St Katherine Cree, but most now follow the conclusion of John Strype - a successor of Stow - who claimed the latter. This would make more sense - more land was available for plague pits at St Katherine, due to the land to its rear belonging to the recently dissolved Holy Trinity Priory. St Andrew's churchyard is small, and today only a tiny garden exists to the rear of the building. According to its guardians, thanks to its recent repairs St Andrews 'probably looks the best it has
for at least 100 years'. It is well worth a visit, but remember - arrange it with the St Helen's Church Office first! Author Mark McManus
St Bartholomew The Great
Smithfield is not an attractive area, with the sprawling hospital complex of St Barts on one side and the untidy meat market on the other. A couple of plaques on the hospital wall remind the passerby of certain less savoury aspects of the area's history, by memorialising Protestant martyrs who were burned here during the reign of Mary Tudor, and the Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace who was hanged, drawn and quartered. However, on the east side of Smithfield lies one of the City's best kept secrets. A Tudor gatehouse rises over a Norman archway. This was once the main entrance of a Priory Church, and is now the gateway that leads to the parish church of St Bartholomew The Great.
The story of its founding is an interesting one. The White Ship disaster of 1120 had robbed England of the heir to the throne, Prince William, and had plunged the court of his father Henry I into gloom. A courtier named Rahere undertook a pilgrimage to Rome, and while there he contracted a fever. He may have been treated at the hospital on the Isolo Tiberina, supposedly the site where St Bartholomew's relics rest, and we know that he vowed to build a hospital for the poor if he were fortunate enough to recover. Regaining his health, he embarked upon his return journey, during which he experienced a vision of Bartholomew, who ordered him to build a
church at a place called the Smooth Field. Smooth Field/Smithfield was an unpleasant site even in Norman times, being used for cattle markets and executions as well as occasionally being utilised for tournaments. Nevertheless, with the backing of King Henry and the Bishop of London, the Priory Church of St Bartholomew and the Hospital of the same name - began to rise in 1123. Rahere died in 1143 and the work was completed by his successor. In 1250 there was a skirmish at the Priory between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Sub-Prior, and the Pope had to intervene to lift several excommunications that resulted. The year 1381 saw a famous brawl outside the entrance, during which the rebel Wat Tyler was fatally injured by the Lord Mayor, William Walworth. The Priory was never particularly large, nor wealthy, and was surrendered to Henry VIII, although a Dominican convent was briefly established there during Mary's reign. After this, the Nave of the Priory was demolished, but the area of the Quire, Sanctuary and Lady Chapel became the parish church of 'Greate Saint Bartholomew next Smithfield'. It now stands as one of only two monastic foundations in the City that still exist as churches, the other being St Helens Bishopsgate. The approach through the majestic Gatehouse is an impressive one. Through the archway, the visitor sees a small playground on the right, standing on the site of the cloisters, and on the left is an elevated burial ground that was once the Nave of the Priory. Ahead is the facade of the church, a mixture of styles due to various additions through the ages. Norman masonry is visible in the cloister to the right of the church door, a brick built Jacobean tower (containing a preReformation set of bells) rises above, and the porch is a Victorian work by Sir Aston Webb. Through this door, one enters a church which is utterly unlike any other City church. The light airiness of Wren, and the pretentions of the Victorians, cannot be seen here. What you have is superb Norman glory, the old Quire now serving as a nave, the old Sanctuary as a chancel, and north and south aisles with bays divided by massive Romanesque columns. What immediately catches the eye, however, is the triforium gallery above the columns, and the clerestory above that. It is the best example of Norman arcading in the City, and one can see here what all those ruined monastic sites across the country must have looked like. The floor of the Sanctuary is a mosaic laid in 1904, and to its north is the canopied shrine-tomb of the founder, inscribed 'Hic Jacet Raherus, Primus Canonicus et Primus Prior hujus Ecclesi&'. The tomb is a 1405 rebuild, although the effigy is believed to be the original. Many other fine monuments exist in the Quire, dating from Elizabethan through to the early Georgian period; that of Sir Robert Chamberlayne, d.1615, has an armoured effigy kneeling under a canopy with curtains being held back by winged figures. The aisles also contain impressive monuments, especially the south aisle. The largest is the monument to Sir Walter Mildmay, d.1589, who was a member of Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council, her Chancellor, a treasurer of the Exchequer, and still managed to find the time to found Emmanuel College at Cambridge. Nearby is the 1652 monument to the philosopher and doctor Edward Cooke, which was once an object of visitor curiosity. Before the installation of central heating in the church, condensation used to form on the monument and make it 'weep'. The
inscription actually invites the reader to weep as well. At the east end of this aisle is an altar for the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor, the membership of which is made up of those who have been knighted by the Queen, and who hold annual services in the church. The north aisle was once lined with chapels, all gone at the Reformation. A monument here commemorates John and Margret Whiting. He died in 1681, a year after his wife, and the excellent epitaph by Sir Henry Wootton reads 'Shee first deceased, Hee for a little Tryd/ To live without her, likd it not and dyd'. At the western end of this aisle a battered, lead-lined stone coffin is on display, discovered in 1865, probably belonging to one of the priors. Another coffin is under the quire screen and apparently its skeleton wears leather sandals - as does the skeleton of Rahere, seen during repair work to his tomb. Being buried in leather sandals was an Augustinian custom. The Lady Chapel, at the rear of the church, is the most modern looking part of the building. It is the third on the site, being built by Sir Aston Webb and dedicated in 1897. For three centuries after the Reformation it was used for secular purposes, such as dwellings, lacemaking, and at one time a printing press at which worked the young Benjamin Franklin in 1725. One corridor of the cloister remains, having spent its post-Reformation centuries also being used secularly. It has been a smithy, a stable, even a pub! The cloister was not fully returned to church use until 1928. The church's font dates from 1405 and is the only pre-Reformation font in the City. The artist William Hogarth was christened here in 1697. This church is truly startling on a first visit. I can imagine further visits being scarcely less rewarding. The sheer force of its survival from Norman times, with so much of the architecture of that period intact, is remarkable considering the bustle and tumult of Smithfield over the years. London's best kept secret? Shout it out!
St Brides Fleet Street
St Brides has a long history, probably due to the proximity of a Holy Well once dedicated to St Bridget, from which the church received its dedication. Indeed, the name Bridewell has been synonymous with the area for centuries, and is now the name of a nearby theatre.
On the site of the future church, the Romans dug a mysterious extra-mural ditch which was bigger than the one they eventually dug around the city walls, only a stone's throw away at Lud Gate. Soon after they put up an equally mysterious building, which has puzzled arcaeologists since its discovery. Why build just outside the walls of Londinium? Could this building, under the site of the present St Brides, have been connected to the Well? Or could it have been one of the earliest Christian sites, erected away from the settlement due to fear of persecution? The answers remain elusive, but the relics do not: the line of the ditch is marked on the floor of the crypt, and a section of tessellated pavement can still be seen. In the sixth century the first definite church was built here, a nave and chancel with a typical Saxon rounded apse. This was rebuilt many times over the following centuries, with the result
that the marvellous crypt contains remains from seven previous St Brides! It was, as the first church encountered between London and Westminster, of considerable importance: in 1205, the Curia Regis, first court of the realm, was held in St Brides and in 1210 King John held his Parliament there. By 1500 the area had become a magnet for the clergy. The Bishops of Salisbury, Peterborough and Ely all had buildings in the neighbourhood, and this in turn led to the area's enduring association with printing and journalism. At the time, the printing press was still a relatively new development but Wynkyn de Worde, the apprentice and successor of Caxton, knew that the principal purveyors of literature were churchmen - so he erected his printing press in the heart of the clergy's quarter, the churchyard of St Brides, where he has been buried since 1535. Other printers soon followed his example and flocked to the area.The connection between St Brides and the world of journalism is today still as strong, despite the mass defection to the Docklands in the 1980's. The growing number of printing presses attracted Dryden, Milton and Evelyn to the neighbourhood. Samuel Pepys was born in a road adjacent to the church, and was baptised there along with his eight siblings. Later, he recorded in his Diary the necessity of having to bribe the gravedigger with sixpence to 'jostle together' coffins in the crypt to make way for his brother Tom. Other notable interments at this time were Mary Frith (1659), otherwise known as 'Moll Cutpurse', a rather notorious local criminal, and the Cavalier poet Richard Lovelace (1658), who wrote 'Stone walls do not a prison make'. One speculates if these really were his thoughts, as he sat in the Gatehouse Prison doing time for his Royalist beliefs. The Great Fire destroyed St Bride's, other than the remains in the crypt, now very extensive due to the number of preceding churches on the site. Rebuilt to Wren's design at a cost of £11,430:5:11d, it was one of the first post-fire churches ready for worship. The steeple, one of the most remarkable in London, was completed in 1703. The steeple is of Portland stone. It consists of rising and diminishing octagons, ending in a spirelet, and until a lightning strike was eight feet higher. Its shape gave rise to one of St Brides most romantic stories, that of Thomas Rich. Rich was, as a young man, apprenticed to a baker near Ludgate. He fell in love with his master's daughter and, at the end of his apprenticeship when he set up his own business, asked for her hand in marriage. The proposal was given her father's approval. As a baker, Rich wished to create a spectacular cake for the wedding feast, but was unsure of how to create something completely new for his betrothed... until, one day, he looked up at the steeple of the church in which they were to be married, and the inspiration hit him. A cake in layers, tiered, diminishing as it rose. And thus began, according to the story, the tradition of the tiered wedding cake, based on Wren's steeple for St Brides. This story may be fanciful, there is no concrete historical proof to its veracity. However, walking through St Brides Churchyard, now paved over and with benches for lunching workers, one can still find - among about a dozen now prone gravestones - the names of Thomas Rich and his wife, still together after centuries, and one hopes the story is true. The area - and its printing presses - continued to attract the great and the good. Johnson, Boswell,
Reynolds, Garrick, Goldsmith, Pope, Hogarth, Sarah Siddons, Richardson, writers, actors, artists all. A later generation saw Wordsworth, Hood, Keats, Hazlitt and Lamb holding deep discussions in local coffee houses. Naturally, the rise of the newspaper was here - the crypt holds a copy of the first edition of the 'Daily Courant', the first newspaper. On December 29th 1940, the area suffered massive bombardment. By morning, all that remained of St Brides was the wedding-cake steeple and outer walls. With financial help from newspapers, Godfrey Allen studied Wren's original plans and created a faithful rebuilding, keeping the clear glass which Wren loved, but not rebuilding the galleries, instead laying out the stalls in collegiate style. The church today has a light, open feel of symmetry, the floor is paved with marbled parquets of black from Belgium and white from Italy. The church is very much a living church in a modern world - an altar in the NE corner carries sympathy messages to reporters who have lost their lives in current conflicts. A bust of Virginia Dare, the first child to be born of settlers in the New World, is a reminder that her parents were married here. The crypt has the feel of a medieval charnel, which is exactly what it is - in a bricked up chamber to the south are the bones of several thousand Londoners. On display are the remains of former churches, the Roman pavement, an iron coffin (to deter grave robbers) and the brass plate once attached to the coffin of Samuel Richardson, author of 'Pamela' and 'Clarissa', often proclaimed alongside DeFoe and Fielding - to be the 'Father of the English Novel'. Richardson was buried at St Brides in 1761. Something of a hypochondriac, he left behind several letters bemoaning his mediacal complaints. His coffin seems to have been disturbed during W F Grimes' post-War excavations, but was rediscovered in 1993 by the osteologist Dr Louise Scheuer, who scientifically compared the state of the bones with the complaints Richardson listed. Along with Christ Church Spitalfields, on the opposite side of the City, the many hundreds of named remains at St Brides are an invaluable resource for those studying illness in antiquity. Set back from Fleet Street, only yards from the tremendous bustle of Ludgate Circus yet seemingly existing in its own peaceful space, St Brides is one of the most historic, vibrant and beautiful churches to be found in London. The list of people connected with it reads like a Who's Who of historical personages, and even now, in this high-rise age, the famous spire draws the eye from surrounding vistas. A historic, architectural and thought-provoking gem.
St Clement Danes
Oranges and Lemons, say the bells of St Clements...' It is historically unsure whether the famous nursery rhyme refers to St Clement Danes or St Clements Eastcheap. Many researchers favour the latter. Nevertheless, it is the former that has appropriated the song, and proudly refers to itself as the 'Oranges and Lemons Church'. Standing in a dominant position at the junction of Fleet Street and the Strand, the church is a highly visible landmark, and its bells can often be heard ringing out the tune of the rhyme. Once a year, after a special service, the attending children of St Clement Danes Primary School are each presented with an orange and a lemon.
The history of the church is pre-Norman. Stow writes of 'the parish church of St Clement Danes, so called because Harold, a Danish king, and other Danes were buried there. This Harold [Harold I, 'Harefoot', r1035-1040], whom King Canutus had by a concubine, reigned three years, and was buried at Westminster [Abbey]; but afterward Hardicanutus, the lawful son of Canutus, in revenge of a displeasure done to his mother by expelling her out of the realm, and the murder of his brother Alured, commanded the body of Harold to be digged out of the earth and to be thrown into the Thames, where it was by a fisherman taken up and buried in this churchyard.'
Stow also mentions an event during the reign of Ethelred, when marauding Danes destroyed the monastery at Chertsey, but got their desserts when they were 'by the just judgement of God all slain at London in a place which is called the church of the Danes.' Although the Great Fire did not reach the church, it was deemed unsafe by its parishioners and in 1680 the body of the church was rebuilt by Christopher Wren. Joshua Marshall had built the west tower over a decade before Wren designed the main body, and James Gibb added a spire in 1719. As with so many London Churches, the Blitz caused serious damage when an incendiary bomb burned out the interior in 1941. During clearance of the rubble, the crypt was opened for the first time since the 1850s, when it had been cleared following the passing of an Act prohibiting further city burials. The crypt today is a chapel, quite spartan and with the walls oddly decorated with old coffin plates. A chain hangs on one of the walls. This was once used to secure coffin lids against grave robbers, but is now obsolete as the coffins were removed to a newly formed chamber in Victorian times. At the entrance to the crypt is a memorial plaque set up by the poet John Donne to commemorate his wife Ann, who was buried there. Post-war restoration was carried out by Anthony Lloyd in 1955. The interior is light, the darkstained wood of the pews forming a pleasant contrast to the paleness of the walls and floor. It is galleried, and Corinthian columns above the galleries help support the tunnel-vault nave ceiling. St Clements has been the central church of the Royal Air Force since 1958, and this is immediately apparent: statues of Dowding and Harris stand outside the entrance, and the floors of the nave and the wide aisle are set with emblems of different squadrons, all in slate. When I visited St Clements, the bells began to peel as I approached the entrance. Alas, this was not to welcome such a distinguished visitor, but because the time happened to be two o' clock exactly. The church is imposing from the outside and this is matched by the spaciousness of the interior. Although the subterranean chapel is somewhat haunting, all those coffin plates a constant reminder that the chamber was for many centuries a far less pleasant place, the military slates in the nave are another reminder of continuity, of an ancient foundation finding new life and relevance in the modern world, even if they DID have to commandeer a nursery rhyme to do it!
St Giles Cripplegate
Approaching St Giles. the impression given is that of a survivor. Surrounded by the Barbican development, the medieval church has endured several fires and one incendiary bombing. The surrounding area was shattered by the WW2 bombs and the Barbican rose from the ashes, but St Giles - after a Godfrey Allen restoration - carried on. The original church may have been a Saxon chapel, but in 1090 one Alfune, Bishop of London, built a Norman church. The dedication to St Giles came later in the Middle Ages, but has nothing to do with Giles being the patron saint of cripples. The name Cripplegate comes from one of the many gates in the adjacent city wall, and is derived from the Saxon 'crepel/cruple', meaning a covered walkway. The church was rebuilt in Gothic Perpendicular style in 1394, at which time it was being used by a religious fraternity founded by John Belancer, and the style has been maintained throughout three destructive fires: one in 1545, another in 1897 and of course the incendiary bombs of 1940 which gutted the interior. For his post-War reconstruction, Allen used the actual plans for the 1545 restoration, which were being kept at Lambeth Palace. St Giles seems deceptively small as one approaches, a consequence of its position in the centre of an uncluttered plaza, and the eye is drawn to its solid walls, repointed by the Victorians, and its red-brick tower with a white wooden turret. It has a great deal more character than the expensive flats which surround it, and as such seems to dominate the area despite being of less stature than its neighbours! The interior is quiet and somewhat stately, thanks to the arcades separating the north and south aisles from the nave, and a leisurely stroll quickly reveals the church to be one that is very proud of its historical connections!
The most notable of these features is a collection of busts set on plinths, showing four famous parishioners. Daniel Defoe, government agent, pamphleteer, useless businessman and famous author, was born in the parish and worshipped here. Oliver Cromwell was married in the church, although the incumbent vicar lost his living at the Stuart Restoration. His name was Samuel Annesley, but his descendants had the last laugh - his daughter, Susannah Wesley, gave birth to a boy called John... A third bust is that of John Bunyan, the Nonconformist preacher who spent twelve years in Bedford Jail for his beliefs and wrote 'The Pilgrims Progress', one of Puritan England's most popular and influential books. He was an occasional visitor to the church, and is buried close to Defoe in Bunhill Fields, a Dissenter's Cemetery in St Giles' parish, which also contains another famous local - the poet/painter William Blake, one of history's true eccentric geniuses. The remaining bust is that of John Milton, author of Paradise Lost and a member of Cromwell's Council of State. Milton is the church's most famous interment; as well as the bust, there is a memorial in the south aisle and his burial place is marked near the chancel. Another legendary poet with connections to St Giles is William Shakespeare. Two of his nephews were christened here, one was buried here, and interred here in 1634 was the granddaughter of Sir Thomas Lucy, supposedly the basis of the comic 'Justice Shallow' in Henry IV Part II and The Merry Wives Of Windsor. Shakespeare's fellow actor and local benefactor Edward Alleyn is memorialised by a stained glass window - he was the proprieter of the Fortune Theatre which once stood close by. Also buried in the body of the church are two eminent Elizabethans: John Foxe, the propagandist whose 'Book Of Martyrs' did absolutely nothing for the Catholic cause, and Sir Martin Frobisher, a mariner who fought against the Armada and attempted to locate the North-West Passage. Close by, and with a monument that has managed to survive the Victorian fire and the Luftwaffe bombs, is the seventeenth century cartographer and historian, John Speed. I'll round off St Giles' history with a couple of macabre but amusing anecdotes, the first of which is - hopefully! - a legend. A young gentlewoman named Constance Whitney was buried in the church during the 1600's. On the night of her funeral, a verger stole into the crypt to retrieve a ring which he had previously noticed adorning the deceased's finger. Attempting to cut off the finger, the verger was surprised (to say the least, one would think) when the woman woke up with a cry, jumped out of her coffin and ran home. I can't imagine the reaction of the housemaid when she answered the door being much better than that of the verger. St Giles' historically unscrupulous vergers lead us to the second story, which seems to be true. During the 1790's, while repairs were being made to the chancel, the coffin of John Milton was exhumed. The enterprising verger opened it and put the great poet on public display, charging interested parties first 6d, later 2d, and finally the price of a pint for a peek. This led to his teeth, hair and one rib being purloined for souvenirs before he was reburied, and the contemporary poet William Cowper wrote, 'Ill fare the hands that heaved the stones, where Milton's ashes lay!
St Giles In The Fields
St Giles In The Fields is certainly a site of contrasts. To begin with, there have been no proper fields in this area of high urban density for a long time, unless one counts the large but somewhat shabby-looking churchyard, so the name is in conflict with the reality. The second noticeable contrast is the building itself. Its facade is a triumph of Palladian majesty, striking loftily above the bustle of the West End, but the high, rectangular building behind the facade is sombre brownstone, with rows of small windows that put one in mind of a Victorian workhouse. The last contrast is the impression conveyed by the interior. Walking into St Giles leaves the visitor breathless at its beauty, not least because it is so unexpected. The sheer scale of it leaves your lower jaw sagging. Large, ornate chandeliers, gilded patterns on the white ceiling, galleries with imposing arcades. This place looks as though it were designed to be a palace, not a parish church... and yet this site, with all its impressive architectural features, its glorious fittings, its colourful array of monuments to the great and good of the parish, has more dark moments in its history than most of the other London churches put together. Its history begins in the year 1101 when Matilda of Scotland, Queen to Henry the First, founded a leper hospital on the site. Not an auspicious start, you might think, and you'd be right - this was not to be the last time in its history that the parish was connected with pestilence. The hospital had a chapel, which was most probably used by local villagers as a church, although one cannot imagine too much mingling with the inmates. Little seems to be known about this medieval phase of the site's history (other than the fact it was
probably surrounded by fields!), apart from an event during the reign of Henry the Fifth, an event which was to be the prelude to St Giles' later connection with condemned prisoners: the story of Sir John Oldcastle. Oldcastle was a leader of the heretical religious movement known as the Lollards. Originally a friend of Henry the Fourth, and companion of the future Henry the Fifth during his campaigns in the Welsh Marches, Oldcastle fell from favour when his religious leanings were discovered and he refused to renounce them. Convicted of heresy, he managed to escape from the Tower and start an uprising, easily dispersed, at St Gile's Field. Fleeing to Herefordshire, Oldcastle remained at large - and plotting - for four years, until being seized by Earl Powis and returned to London on a horse litter. Oldcastle was hanged at St Gile's Field in Decmber 1417, and his body (including the gallows!) burned to ashes. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the hospital was surrendered but the chapel remained as the parish church, the first rector being appointed in 1547. For the first time, it became known as St-Giles-In-The-Fields. In the 1620's the delapidated building was replaced by a proper Gothic church, mostly paid for by the noble Dudley family. In 1665, the parish was once again connected with pestilence as, unfortunately, the first recorded outbreak of the plague in London was reported in the nearby street called Long Acre. The outbreak ravaged the parish, and the churchyard was extended to accomodate the plague pits. However, this had a detrimental effect on the relatively young building, which began to suffer from damp. Fifteen years later, another dark episode was written in the church's history. The Popish Plot, inflamed by Titus Oates, saw widespread panic over rumours to assassinate King Charles the Second and re-introduce Catholicism. Between 1678-81, twelve executed victims of the Plot were interred at St Giles, including Oliver Plunket, the Archbishop of Armagh. Plunket has since been re-interred elsewhere, and was canonised in 1975. The other eleven, mostly Jesuit priests, have been beatified. No other London church has this many prospective Saints in its graveyard. By the early 1700's the damp problem had become intolerable. After years of wrangling, the parishioners finally received a grant of £8000 and in 1730, work began on a new church created in Palladian style by the architect Henry Flitcroft, who is better known as the designer of the Duke of Bedford's sumptuous home, Woburn Abbey. This is the church that occupies the site today. When completed in 1734, St Giles must have stood as one of the most impressive churches outside of Wren's work in the City. But, wouldn't you know, the bad publicity just kept rolling in. The population of the parish well nigh exploded in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and furthermore it was one of the most notorious parishes in the capital for poverty and squalor. The church's connection with executions continued; it was the last church on the route from Newgate Prison to Tyburn, and the churchwardens would often pay for condemned prisoners to have a last drink of ale at the neighbouring tavern.Slight architectural alterations were made during Victorian times, but still the parish received censure from social observers. An article in the 'Weekly Dispatch' of September 1838 gave a vivid and gruesome picture of the scandalous condition of, and inhumation practices witnessed at, St Giles overcrowded
churchyard. I won't repeat any of it here in case you're eating. Parliamentary Acts closed London's churchyards in the 1850's, which solved the hygiene problem, and the parish's poverty problems faded with the gradual fall in population - from over 30,000 in 1831 to about 4,600 at present. The church survived the War with a few broken windows, and was restored during the early 1950's well enough for the work to be fulsomely praised by John Betjeman, writing in the Spectator. The internal appearance of the church today is mostly owing to that restoration. As well as the wonderful, striking galleries, and the intricate gilded patterns on the ceiling, St Giles has two paintings beyond its altar, of Moses and Aaron, painted by Francisco Viera, court painter to the King of Portugal. A model of the church, built by Flitcroft himself as a template, is displayed in a glass case and a wooden pulpit by the north wall turns out to be from John Wesley's principal chapel at West Street. The founder of Methodism himself regularly preached from it, as did his brother Charles. The monuments are many: in the entrance, before even stepping into the main body of the church, one can see a monument to the sculptor Flaxman who lived in the parish. He was buried at St Pancras - but the remaining monuments are to notable folk who were interred here. These include the Jacobean poet Andrew Marvell, Cecil Calvert 2nd Lord Baltimore, the first proprietor of Maryland, the poet George Chapman who first translated Homer into English (and whose monument was designed by his architect friend Inigo Jones), William Balmain, a surgeon who was one of the founders of New South Wales and who has a suburb in Sydney named after him, Luke Hansard printer to Parliament (after whom Parliamentary records are still called 'Hansard'), and - resting in the crypt with no memorial - one John Pell, a clergyman and mathematician who invented the symbol for division. St Giles' most notorious monument is to Richard Pendrell. Generations have found mirth in his overblown epitaph, with which I close this history of St Giles In The Field: 'Here lieth Richard Pendrell, preserver and conductor to his sacred majesty King Charles the Second of Great Britain, after his escape from Worcester Fight, in the year 1651, who died Feb 8, 1671. Hold, passenger, here's shrouded in this Herse, Unparalell'd Pendrell, thro' the universe. Like when the Eastern Star from Heaven gave light To three lost kings; so he, in such dark night, To Britain's monarch, toss'd by adverse war, On Earth appeared, a second Eastern Star. A Pope, a Stern, in her rebellious Main A pilot to her Royal Sovereign. Now to triumph in Heav'n's eternal sphere, Whilst Albion's Chronicles, with matching fame, Embalm the story of great Pendrell's Name.
St Helens Bishopsgate
Perhaps the greatest irony with St Helens is that, as a monastic building, it managed to survive the Dissolution, the Great Fire and the Blitz... only to be hit by a double whammy of terrorist bombs during the 90's. The 1992 St Mary Axe explosion saw it receive damage from the north, while the Bishopsgate bomb a year later saw it seriously damaged from the west. Since then, the church has been fully restored and today stands as one of the busiest City churches, its attached Rectory being the offices in charge not only of St Helens, but also the nearby churches of St Andrew Undershaft and St Peter Cornhill, both of which are used by study groups and generally closed to the public. St Helen's capacious interior and range of monuments has led to it being described as the City's equivalent of Westminster Abbey, and a description of this remarkable building will follow... but first, the history. The church is first mentioned in 1140, but early in the thirteenth century a William Basing, Dean of St Pauls, was given permission to establish a Benedictine nunnery on its north side. He also built a new church, attached to the old, which is why St Helens has an unusual shape - it is two churches merged together. The double nave was originally separated by wooden partitioning; the nuns used the northern nave and the parish used the southern. In 1385 the nuns were reproved for their less than strict lifestyle, for 'the number of little dogs kept by the prioress, kissing secular persons, wearing ostentatious veils' and 'waving over the screen which separated the parish nave from the convent nave, and too many children running about'.
in 1466 a local Sheriff and grocer called John Crosby leased land next to the church from the prioress Alice Ashfed, for the sum of £11 6s 8d per annum. On this land he built a stately home called Crosby Hall. It was in this building, legend has it, that Richard of Gloucester's cohorts begged him to usurp the throne. Crosby's fortunes continued to rise; he was an alderman in 1470, was knighted in 1471, and died in 1475 leaving St Helens the sum of five hundred marks. Crosby Hall was controversially dismantled in 1910 and rebuilt on the Embankment at Chelsea, where it stands to this day. In hindsight, this was probably a good thing - had it remained in Bishopsgate, the 1993 explosion would have reduced it to firewood. The nunnery was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1538, valued at £314 2s 6d, and its buildings sold to the Leatherseller's Company. The last of these buildings survived until 1799. The screens dividing the double nave were removed, and St Helens remained as the parish church. Stow laments that the church 'wanteth such a steeple as Sir Thomas Gresham promised to have built, in recompense of ground in their church filled up with his monument'. Thomas Gresham is a historically important figure in the City of London; it was he who founded the Royal Exchange. His symbol, a grasshopper, can still be seen in parts of the City. The Royal Exchange has a gilded grasshopper on the roof and a building in Lombard Street carries the symbol alongside the initials TG. As well as this, Gresham Street is named after him. Notable parishioners came and went, including Sir William Pickering, who was Elizabeth I's Ambassador to Spain, William Shakespeare who briefly resided in Bishopsgate and a Master of the Rolls and Privy Counsellor to James I named, somewhat ostentatiously, Julius Caesar. In 1874 the nearby church of St Martin Outwich, which stood at the junction of Bishopsgate and Threadneedle Street, was demolished and eighteen of its monuments transferred to St Helens. Chief among these was the late 14th/early 15th century monument to John de Oteswich. As time passed, and City populations fell, so parishes were merged. Since 1991, the full title of St Helens parish has been 'St Helens Bishopsgate with St Andrew Undershaft & St Ethelburga Bishopsgate & St Martin Outwich & St Mary Axe'. A year after this title was adopted, a bomb went off in St Mary Axe, only 60 yards from the east end of St Helens Church. All the windows were broken, one was completely blown into the church, the roof sustained serious damage, and so did the church organ and the tomb of Julius Caesar. A second bomb in Bishopsgate the following year added insult to injury, although St Helens fared better than St Ethelburga, a small medieval church which was torn to pieces and has only recently opened its doors following very heavy reconstruction. The architect in charge of St Helens reconstruction was Quinlan Terry, and he put forward an ambitious plan to restore the church's medieval floor level, thus returning it to its original level throughout, and allowing for underfloor heating. He also re-ordered the interior, and the description of St Helens as it appears today will now commence! The best approaches are from Bishopsgate, where one can appreciate the twin medieval facade that matches the twin naves, and the neatly paved churchyard that retains a couple of table tombs, or from Leadenhall Street where one can assess the length of the church and see the adjoining Rectory.
Enter and stare at the effect of the double nave. It's wide! The restoration has emphasized light streaming in through the new windows, making it one of the brightest church interiors in the City. Before the damage, the pews were aligned to face east, but now the seats focus toward a pulpit on the south. Turning left,one can ascend a stair turret to the gallery with the organ. There is an internal tower, designed by Wren in 1699, which leads to the belfry. Although it blends with the surrounding masonry, this tower is cleverly disguised wood! The organ itself dates from 1743 and its case is carved with representations of musical instruments. Returning to the nave(s), the spaciousness of the church seems to highlight its grand monuments. Gresham's 1579 tomb is marbled, and the marble is dotted with small fossils. On the north wall near the tomb can be found a 'squint', through which the nuns used to watch services. Moving south from Gresham, you come across a marvellous marble tomb surrounded by a rail of wrought iron. This is Pickering, the man who had what must have been a job only for the very politically astute - Queen Bess's man in Spain. This tomb dates from 1574. Moving into the south transept, we find the 1475 monument of Sir John Crosby. The 500 mark bequest he made to St Helens is believed to have paid for the four great arches in the centre of the building that mark the split between the naves. Also in the transept are many brasses, often defaced. An engraver was actually paid to commit this damage during the Commonwealth, as the inscriptions were deemed 'superstitious'. Near these brasses is the tomb of Caesar, fully restored following its brush with terrorism. Walking back toward the entrance, we find the oldest monument, that of John de Oteswich and his wife, brought from the demolished church with the same name. Could he have been a benefactor, and the church named after him? There are other precedents in the City: the church of St Laurence Pountney, destroyed in the Great Fire, was named after the mayor John Pountney who paid for its enlargenment in 1347. The last monument, very ornate and restored to its original colours, is for Sir John Spencer and his family. He was Mayor in 1594. His tomb, too fragile to be moved, had to remain in its place during the post-bomb restoration and is now protected by a railing. From a distance, it looks as though it has sunk into the floor; a peek over the railing shows you the ground level of this corner of the church before Terry changed it. Despite the monuments, the church is full of life. The Rectory attached to it always seems to be bustling, on my visit the organ was being played with a saxophone accompaniment, and a register on the altar revealed that a wedding had taken place there that very morning! A short guide book, taking you on a tour of the building and full of little details which you otherwise may have missed, makes a visit to St Helens a worthwhile and uplifting experience!
St Lawrence Jewry
Standing proud on the south side of Guildhall Yard, the church of St Lawrence can owe its survival to its position as the Church of the Corporation of London. Originally, the Guildhall possessed its own Chapel but after this was turned into a court in 1782, the Corporation's services moved to St Lawrence. The area is full of the remains of former churches: Among many others, the site of St Michael Bassishaw is marked by a plaque on the other side of Guildhall, the remains of St Mary Aldermanbury and St Alphage are close and so are two towers, those of St Alban Wood Street and St Olave Jewry. The church of St Michaels Wood Street (at which was interred the head of James IV of Scotland) has vanished, but the yards of two Great Fire victims, St Olave Silver Street and St Peter Cheap, can be found within a short distance. The great survivor in this crowded area, St Lawrence, was built in 1136 over a tiered section of the Roman Amphitheatre. It received its suffix, 'Jewry', from the fact that it was sited at the edge of the medieval City's Jewish area, and archaeological remains relating to their religious customs have been unearthed in the area quite recently. Although Edward I expelled the Jews, and other Kings persecuted them mercilessly, the suffix remained so that the church could be differentiated from other City churches sharing the same dedication. Stow described it as 'fair and large',and also remarked that it displayed a human 'shankbone' (an odd relic which he also claimed for St Mary Aldermanbury). This one was twentyfive inches long and was at one time accompanied by a tooth the size of a fist. Whether these proportions were correct cannot be proved, as both relics are long gone, but Stow claimed to have personally seen the bone. Of course, whether the bones were human or not seems a more pertinent question. Buried in this medieval church were members of the Rich family, ancestors of Lord Richard Rich the slippery Tudor courtier, and Sir Richard Gresham the father of Thomas. William Grocyn, a scholar praised by the humanist Erasmus, was Rector in 1496 and the parishioner Sir Thomas More preached here.
This church went up in flames in 1666, and Wren's rebuild opened 11 years later, costing a then impressive £11,870, the re-opening being graced by the presence of King Charles II. It was now a Guild Church rather than a Parish Church, the Corporation its patron. The King's Chaplain, John Tillotson, revered as one of the great preachers of his age, was a weekly lecturer at the new church before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury in his twilight years. Married in St Lawrence, he was placed in a vault here in 1694. A century later, it was a custom to print and circulate the church's Michaelmas Sermon to the City aldermen. On December 29th, 1940, during the same air raid that gutted St Brides, a bomb struck the church and nothing survived save sections of the walls and the tower. History then repeated itself. St Lawrence was rebuilt by Cecil Brown, closely following Wren's design. The new spire is a replica of the old. Following the example of her predecessor, Queen Elizabeth attended the re-opening of the church in 1957. A couple of curious features can be spotted if one circles the church before visiting. The churchyard is long paved over and forms part of the Guildhall Yard; a plaque on the wall of the church explains its now invisible limits. It is well known that the streets around the Guildhall seem to 'bulge' outward, a consequence of the medieval street system having to build around the remains of the amphitheatre, and I did a bit of research to see if the churchyard's shape also had any features that may have accomodated the tiers of Roman work below. According to Roque's 1740 map of the area, the yard was more or less rectangular but does seem to curve slightly to the west, although this could just as easily be due to the marked curve of the roadway in front of the church entrance. Another feature is the weathervane on top of the spire. This is the vane from Wren's original church, and is in the unusual shape of a gridiron. One finds out why as soon as one enters the building. Through the western entrance, the visitor stands in a long vestibule. To the right are the vestries, to the left a small chapel in which can be found the crests of Basing and Gresham families. Ahead, to the right of the entrance to the main church, is a display case carrying relics salvaged from the rubble of Wren's building. The most notable feature here, however, is a painting. This has been attributed to the North Italian School of the late 16th century, and has miraculously survived both the Great Fire and the Blitz. The painting shows the martyrdom of St Lawrence, who was roasted on a gridiron in Rome during the year 258. Here's what Foxe's 'Book of Martyrs' had to say about this: 'He was beaten with iron rods, set upon a wooden horse, and had his limbs dislocated. He endured these tortures with such fortitude and perseverance, that he was ordered to be fastened to a large gridiron, with a slow fire under it, that his death might be more tedious. But his astonishing constancy during these trials, and his serenity of countenance under such excruciating torments, gave the spectators so exalted an idea of the dignity and truth of the Christian religion, that many immediately became converts. Having lain for some time upon the gridiron, the martyr called out to the emperor [Valerian], who was present, in a kind of jocose latin couplet, which may be thus translated: 'This side is broil'd sufficient to be food, For all who wish it to be done and good.' On this the executioner turned him, and after having lain a considerable time longer, he still had strength and spirit enough to triumph over the tyrant, by telling him, with great serenity, that he was roasted enough, and only wanted serving up.'
Foxe was, of course, a Protestant propogandist and his texts should not be taken too seriously, but the painting - more or less contemporary with Foxe's work - certainly gives a vivid portrayal of this scene. I entered the church and noticed two things immediately: the interior is very splendid, probably due to the Corporation's patronage, and some sort of event was under preparation. Several suited people were loitering, and a sound engineer was setting up a big fluffy microphone in one corner. I sneaked a glance at one of the booklets strewn in the pews. It seemed I was only half an hour from the commencement of a special service, held in the presence of the Lord Mayor, which is held just before the election of same. Furthermore the rather ornate pew at the front of the church, from which I had picked up the booklet, was that of the Mayor himself. I prudently replaced the booklet. Other than a tablet commemorating Tillotson, and the fact that Cecil Brown's ashes are interred in a cinerarium below the altar, most of the church's monuments take the shape of stained glass windows, colourful yet not overdone in a way that darkens the church. Most of these are the work of a Master Glass Painter named Christopher Rahere Webb. He owes his unusual middle name to the fact that, at the time of his birth in 1866, his uncle Sir Aston Webb was restoring St Bartholomew The Great at Smithfield, the priory church founded by Rahere. Three windows commemorate the parishes of St Mary Magdalen Milk Street and St Michael Bassishaw, which were united with St Lawrence in, respectively, 1666 and 1892. Others commemorate Thomas More and Dr Grocyn. My favourite, however, is back in the vestibule, where a window shows Wren flanked by his mason Thomas Strong and his carver Grinling Gibbons, above Cecil Brown and the Vicar at the time of that restoration, Frank Trimlingham. They are surrounded by the craftsmen of the post-War rebuild and stand above an idealised skyline of Wren spires and towers. The Commonwealth Chapel, on the north of the church, is divided by an oak screen which contains, in its centre, a wrought-iron screen built and donated by the Royal Marines. Flanking this are two further gates, donated by the Airborne Forces and the Parachute Regiment. The chapel contains an Ascension window and a Madonna and Child painting by Cecil Brown, also a St George window containing the arms of the Sovereign Independent States of the Commonwealth in 1957: South Africa, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Ghana, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Malaya. The church was beginning to fill up with people who, frankly, looked a lot more dignified than I looked. I paused to admire the Font, a c1620 work originally from the disappeared Holy Trinity Minories, then surreptitiously made my exit. Stepping back through the western doors, I stood aside to allow a man wearing a great big chain around his neck to pass, accompanied by his coterie. Off I strolled, having no time to hobnob with Lord Mayors. Not when there were other churches on my list for the day...
St Leonards Shoreditch
**"When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch...'** Apparently the rhyme originally referred to 'Fleetditch' and the bells were those of St Brides. Why it changed appears to be unknown. The suburb of Shoreditch seems to have begun in late Saxon times, at the junction of two Roman roads leading to Bishopsgate. The earliest known reference is to 'Soerditch' in the mid twelfth century, and this may have meant a sewer. Originally a medieval foundation, probably associated with a nearby Priory, St Leonards Church
grew up in an area that was to become famous for being the birthplace of the English theatre. It was close enough to the City for easy access, but outside the jurisdiction of the pious aldermen and sheriffs who viewed such displays of public entertainment with suspicion. Similar developments were taking place south of the Thames at Southwark. After the Priory had been dissolved, the first playhouse since Roman times was constructed in its grounds during 1576 by James Burbage. It was known simply as 'The Theatre', a name now used to describe all playhouses. Two years later, a rival was opened along the same road. This was known as 'The Curtain', possibly because it stood in the shadow of the Priory's curtain wall. Not as successful, this was eventually purchased by Burbage and his two sons, Richard and Cuthbert. When the lease for the land on which The Theatre stood expired and renewal was refused, the enterprising Burbage brothers dismantled their building and carried it to Southwark,where it was rebuilt as 'The Globe'. The Curtain continued into the 1640's, when it fell victim to Puritanism. Stow wrote about St Leonards in his Survey, listing members of the noble Houses of Westmoreland and Rutland who had been buried in the church. He also commented upon an example of ecclesiastic greed: '...of late one vicar there, for covetousness of the brass, which he converted into coined silver, plucked up many plates fixed on the graves, and left no memory of such as had been buried underneath them, a great injury to both the living and the dead, forbidden by public proclamation, in the reign of our sovereign lady Queen Elizabeth, but not forborne by many, that either of a preposterous zeal or of a greedy mind spare not to satisfy themselves by so wicked a means.' Although St Pauls Covent Garden is proud to call itself the Actors' Church, St Leonards is the original, due to its connection with the two earliest theatres. The first known entertainer to be buried in the churchyard was Will Somers, court jester to Henry VIII, and he was followed by many of Shakespeare's friends, business partners and fellow actors. When Richard Burbage, the greatest tragedian of his age and the first to play Hamlet, was laid here in 1619 his gravestone carried a simple but fitting two word epitaph: 'Exit Burbage'. By the eighteenth century, the old medieval church was delapidated and a replacement was needed. The Palladian style was all the rage and the architect, George Dance the Elder (creator of the Mansion House), designed a church similar to that which was being erected by Flitcroft at St Giles In The Field: a large brown-brick building with a splendid porticoed front and a tall, dominating steeple. During its construction, the Church became the site of the first strike in the building trade. This came about because local builders refused to work for the low wages that were being offered, so Irish workers were brought in from outside the parish. This led to anti-Irish riots, and the militia had to be called out to disperse a mob of about 4,000. The new Palladian church was finally completed in 1740, looking pretty much as it does today. In 1817 it became the first church to be lit with gaslight, and in 1824 a local worthy named James Parkinson was interred in the yard. He was a doctor who was born, baptised, married and worked his entire life in the parish, and his name survives to this day because of his 'Treatise On The Shaking Palsy', an illness which is now known as Parkinson's Disease. I found my visit to St Leonards left me with mixed feelings. It is the first Actors' Church, yet -
unlike its equivalents at Southwark Cathedral and Covent Garden - it seems determined to keep its historical theatrical connections a secret. The portico and the steeple are certainly impressive to look at, especially the spire with its slender, graceful soaring into the sky, but otherwise the exterior shows no sign of the colourful and vibrant history of the area. The churchyard is mostly cleared, partly landscaped at the rear, and its one curious fixture - the Shoreditch village stocks have now been removed elsewhere. This lethargy is not confined to the church - the sites of the Theatre and the Curtain, in nearby Curtain Road, are marked only by easily overlooked plaques unveiled in 1994 by Sir Ian McKellan. St Leonards does possess an Actors Memorial, but sadly even this is not on prominent display. It is kept in a side room of the church, although vergers will show interested parties. It lists the men of the theatre who rest within the precints of the church: Will Somers the jester, James Burbage and his sons Richard and Cuthbert, the famed Elizabethan comedian Richard Tarlton, the actor Gabriel Spencer who died fighting a duel with Ben Jonson, and Shakespeare's business partners William Sly and Richard Cowley. Nowadays, Shoreditch is undergoing something of a regeneration. The church was recently spruced up, new railway links are being constructed and celebrity chefs are opening restaurants in the area. Perhaps with this regeneration may come more visible recognition that the parish and its church have just as important a place in the history of acting as the South Bank and Covent Garden. I live in hope...
St Margaret Westminster
Despite being a fair size, St Margaret is often overlooked because it is dwarfed by its proximity to Westminster Abbey, the entrance to which stands only a few yards away. The mighty Gothic colossus that is the Houses of Parliament dominates the view to the east, and it is unsurprising that the casual visitor to Westminster might miss this treasure of a church, sandwiched as it is between two famous and towering edifices. St Margaret owes its existence to the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey. Finding themselves constantly disturbed by local residents turning up at the Abbey to hear Mass, they erected a church - only a few years after the consecration of the Abbey itself - so that the population of Westminster could worship in their own space while leaving their Benedictine neighbours to their private devotions. The church was dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch. It was originally Romanesque, but was replaced in the Perpendicular style during the fourteenth century, at broadly the same time that the Abbey itself was being rebuilt by Henry III. In 1482 the church underwent its last major reconstruction, under the charge of Robert Stowell, and this rebuilding lasted until 1523. This is the church which, despite various alterations over the centuries, stands proudly today. It was during the Stowell restoration that the churchyard received one of the earliest of its many famous interments: William Caxton, the pioneer of print, who died in 1491 after revolutionising Literature and allowing authors such as Chaucer and Malory to reach a wide audience. In 1529 an early Poet Laureate, John Skelton, was also interred
here. The Dissolution saw the end of Benedictine life at the Abbey, and with it their control of St Margaret's. Under Elizabeth Tudor, the Abbey and the Church became - like the Temple Church - a 'Royal Peculiar', directly under the charge of the Monarch, although since 1972 it has been in the care of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. However, St Margaret's closest association today is with the House of Commons, an association dating from 1614 when the entire House took Holy Communion on Palm Sunday. The seventeenth century saw St Margaret's at its zenith for notable associations with famous historic figures. In 1618, Sir Walter Raleigh was executed close by in Old Palace Yard. A renowned courtier and explorer, history popularly (and erroneously!) portrays Raleigh as the man who introduced tobacco and the potato to Europe, although his greatest success was probably the founding of Virginia. Popular in Elizabethan times, he fell out of favour with the subsequent Jacobean court and was held at the Tower of London for many years. Freed to attempt one last exploration, the quest for El Dorado, his failure was followed by his beheading. He was interred in the chancel, followed there in 1666 by his son Carew. During the Interregnum, St Margaret hosted the wedding of Samuel Pepys to Elizabeth. It was not to be the Diarist's last visit to the Church. He wrote in 1667 of a visit, which he spent surveying his fellow worshippers through a perspective glass, '...by which I had the great pleasure of seeing and gazing at many fine women; and what with that and sleeping, I passed away the time till sermon was done.' Priceless. The year after Pepys' s wedding, John Milton married the second of his three wives there. After the Stuart Restoration, Charles II was keen to hang, draw and quarter various regicides and Parliamentarians, only to find that some of them had already died and wee resting in Westmoinster Abbey. This minor inconvenience did not deter his vengeance. The bodies of Oliver Cromwell and two others were disinterred and gibbeted at Tyburn, while other notable Parliamentarians were removed from the Abbey and deposited in the less noble yard of St Margaret. These include John Pym, one of Charles I's greatest opponents in the Commons, Isaac Dorislaus who drew up the capital charges against the ill-fated monarch, and Cromwell's most able seaman Admiral Robert Blake. They were joined in 1677 by the engraver Wenceslas Hollar. Although he was prolific, Hollar's best-known work - thanks to its value as a historic text shows a vista of the pre-Fire City of London, with the stews and theatres of the South Bank in the foreground and the Thames flowing in between. Because the dominant building in this engraving is St Saviour's (Southwark Cathedral), Hollar's principal monument can be found there rather than at St Margaret's. A few decades earlier, in 1640, an additional burial ground for St Margaret's had been created at what is now the junction of Victoria St and Broadway. Often referred to as Tothill Fields, it was provided with its own chapel called Christ Church and also received notable interments: Sir William Waller (d.1668), Parliamentary commander whose victory at Cheriton provided the Roundheads with their first significant win. He was also the man who suggested a National army rather than regional militia - an idea which laid the foundation for the New Model Army. Also laid to rest here, in 1680, was the great Jacobean rogue Colonel Thomas Blood. Born to a
gentrified family in Ireland, Blood came over to fight for the King in the Civil War, only to switch sides when he saw in which direction the wind was blowing. Fleeing abroad at the Restoration, he became embroiled in two plots to kidnap the Governor of Ireland and, returning to England under an assumed identity, organised the brazen but famous attempt to purloin the Crown Jewels in 1671. Dragged before Charles II, he so impressed the Merry Monarch with his audacity and charm that the King pardoned him and gave him a pension. So notorious was Blood that he was exhumed shortly after his death to scotch rumours that he had faked it! In Georgian times, the future Prime Minister Lord Liverpool and the dandy 'Beau' Brummell were baptised at St Margaret's. In 1780 the black writer Ignatius Sancho, friend of Johnson, Sterne and Garrick, was laid to rest in Tothill Fields. James Rumsey, the inventor of the steamship who had demonstrated his creation on the Potomac for the benefit of George Washington, died during a London lecturing tour and was buried in the yard on Christmas Eve 1792. In 1814, Captain Sir Peter Parker died in action on the Chesapeake while commanding the frigate 'Menelaus'. At one time a subordinate of Nelson and an officer on the 'Victory', Parker was returned to St Margaret for burial. In Victorian times, the condition of the yard received censure and in the 1850's the grounds were closed to further burials. St Margaret's yard now is a bland expanse of turf, while Tothill Fields is a public garden. In the twentieth century, a 1908 wedding took place between Sir Winston Churchill and Clementine, and the church later received wartime damage - some of which is still visible. The exterior of the church was faced in Portland stone in 1735, and a walk around the exterior betrays a couple of features: a plaque commemorating the Parliamentarians who were expelled from their Abbey tombs, and a bust of Charles I in a niche on the east wall, solemnly gazing across the busy road at the statue of his nemesis Oliver Cromwell. The church is entered through the Victorian west porch, and its size can be fully appreciated from the view straight down the length of the interior. The entrance is flanked by two monuments showing Elizabethan women kneeling in prayer: Blanche Parry, the Queen's nurse, and Lady Dorothy Stafford, Mistress of the Robes. A stroll down the north aisle has to be slow, in order to properly appreciate the monuments on display. Memorials to Parker and Hollar are here, as well as the colourful bust of an Elizabethan Yeoman of the Guard named Cornelius Van Dun. Nearby is the blackened monument to Reverend James Palmer, its damage caused by an oil bomb during the Second World War. Fire damage can also be traced on some of the pews. Although some of the windows in this aisle are clear, having been replaced after the war damage, there is the Milton window, showing scenes of the poet's life and images from both Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Fragments of glass exist in another window, showing Caxton demonstrating his printing press to Edward IV and his Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Other windows show scenes of Blake's life and funeral(s), and a Nativity scene commemorates Edward Morris. The windows were all installed during a Victorian restoration by George Gilbert Scott. Before the chancel stand the eye-catching lectern and pulpit, dating from 1878. The former was a gift from Thomas Vacher to commemorate his parents, the latter is a memorial to Vacher himself. He founded the reference book Vacher's Parliamentary Companion. The chancel
contains a Crucifixion window, a 1905 reredos and a fifteenth century statue of St Margaret of Antioch, carved in wood. The window, described in the church guide as 'containing some of the finest pre-Reformation Flemish glass in London', shows Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon kneeling in prayer. The south aisle contains memorials to Caxton, Raleigh, Rumsey and holds the tomb of Lady Mary Dudley (d.1600). Most of the stained glass in this aisle is modern, much of it designed in the 1960's by John Piper. Memorialised in the windows are Edward Fitzroy, a Commons Speaker buried in te chancel in 1943, and Phillip Brooks, a Massachusetts bishop who wrote 'O Little Town of Bethlehem'. A nearby brass plaque remembers Thomas May (d.1886), who wrote Treatise on the Law and Usage of Parliament, a procedural guide. The westernmost window commemorates Lord Cavendish (d.1882), Chief Secretary for Ireland. The visitor is now back at the west porch, and should look up at the West Window. Dating from 1888, it is a monument to Walter Raleigh and depicts famous figures from his lifetime, as well as scenes from his life. St Margaret is a perfect complement to the grandeur of Westminster Abbey. One is the burial place of Royalty, the other is steeped in Parliamentary history. The Commons symbol of the portcullis can be found on the church doors, kneelers and curtains. The relationship between the church and the Commons, begun on that Palm Sunday in 1614, continues still. Perhaps that vengeful action by Charles II has actually proved appropriate, as the Parliamentarians ruthlessly re-interred in St Margaret's Churchyard are now in their spiritual home!
t Martin in the Field
St Martin In The Fields is not only the most well known of the parish churches in London, it is probably one of the best known in the world. Thanks to its position overlooking Trafalgar Square, it has appeared in countless paintings and photographs, and its orchestra - the Academy of St Martins - has received global acclaim. Ironically, the building was once concealed from view in St Martins Lane. Only the clearing of the area to the southeast for the construction of Trafalgar Square in 1820 afforded the church its famous vista and prominent position. Although the Oranges and Lemons rhyme 'you owe me five farthings' may refer to the City church of St Martin Orgar ( of which nothing remains but a tower), it is this baroque church in Central London that is the one everybody thinks of. It is believed that the present St Martin is the fourth building on the site. The earliest recorded mention came in 1222, when the Abbot of Westminster disputed the Bishop of London's authority over the church. The Archbishop of Canterbury mediated and decided in favour of the Abbot, so St Martin was probably used by monks from Westminster until 1542, when Henry VIII built a church which was added to in 1609 by Prince Henry, brother of the future Charles I (who was christened here).
In the seventeenth century, with the nearby Whitehall Palace in full use, St Martin became the parish church of the Court, and started to receive notable Jacobean interments. In 1615, Anne Turner was laid to rest here. A Court dressmaker, she had been involved in one of the greatest scandals of James I's court. Sir Thomas Overbury had been poisoned by his enemy, the unstable Frances Howard Countess of Essex, and it had been Anne who had delivered the fatal potion. She was hanged for her troubles. Four years later, St Martin hosted the funeral of the celebrated Nicholas Hilliard, the first true painter of miniatures. Some of his work can be found in the National Portrait Gallery, adjacent to the church.
Following the Restoration, Whitehall resumed its place as the centre of Court. John Taylor, Thames boatman celebrated as the 'Water Poet', was buried here in 1654. Nell Gwynn, actress and probably the most celebrated Royal Mistress in British history, was laid to rest in the chancel following a fatal stroke (1687), and the renowned philosopher /scientist Robert Boyle found his resting place here in 1691. Other notable actors interred here include John Lacy in 1681, Susannah Mountfort Verbruggen in 1703 and her husband John Verbruggen five years later. The artist Thomas Manby was buried in 1695, and the playwright George Farquhar in 1707. In 1721 the architect James Gibb designed a replacement for the Tudor building. It was consecrated in 1726 and, as the church that stands to this day, has proved extremely influential. Its style has been copied many times since, even abroad in Ireland and North America. However, it was not universally acclaimed at the time; the architect John Gwynn complained that 'the absurd rustication of the windows, and the heavy sills and trusses under them, are unpardonable blemishes'. People of repute continued to find their way into the churchyard, notably the highwayman and multiple prison escapee Jack Sheppard (1724), Louis Roubiliac the sculptor (1762), Thomas Chippendale the furniture maker (1779) and Dr John Hunter, the pioneer of modern surgery ( 1793). New catacombs were constructed around St Martin's when Duncannon Street was installed as part of John Nash's re-ordering of London, and coffins were exhumed from the yard and removed to the catacombs. They were, for a time, open as a somewhat macabre tourist attraction. In the 1850's, when London churchyards were closed to further burials, Hunter was transferred to Westminster Abbey, but most coffins were transferred to cemeteries outside London, such as the St Martin's extra-parochial ground in Pratt Street, Camden. The last of the coffins were removed in 1938 to Brookwood in Surrey. The catacombs and the crypt beneath the church serve a variety of purposes, such as the popular 'Cafe In The Crypt', a
centre for relief of the homeless, the London Brass Rubbing Centre, a bookshop and a gallery. From whatever angle the visitor approaches St Martin, one cannot fail to be impressed by its sheer presence. In an area also containing the NPG, Trafalgar Square and the English National Opera House, the church more than holds its own. The facade is one of the best in London. A pediment displaying the Royal Arms of George I ( the only monarch to be a churchwarden of St Martin) is supported by a row of large, solid Corinthian columns. Above the pediment the tower soars, its steeple topped with a gilt crown. The interior is scarcely less impressive. Columns rise from the galleries to support the barrelvaulted ceiling, and the ceiling of the chancel is resplendent with gilding. The church has an box pew for the Admiralty (who, at one time, worshipped at St Olaves Hart Street) and it is festooned with the Royal Navy White Ensign and the flag of the Admiralty Board. Based in Whitehall, the Admiralty falls within the parish boundaries and the bells are traditionally rung on the occasion of Naval victories. In the north aisle is a portrait of the architect Gibb. Originally the church owned a bust of Gibb, by Rysbrack, but this is now in the V&A Museum. This year (2004) is the 250th anniversary of Gibb's death and the church has been commemorating him. Perhaps the most welcome aspect of the interior, in my experience, is that it is truly a haven of peace. I visited during the weekend of the Chinese New Year. Trafalgar and Leicester Squares were holding thousands of visitors, the roads between a constant flow of movement... but I took a few paces away from the bustle, stepped into the cool interior of St Martin and spent a while walking around the nave with admiration. The drums and whistles of the celebration, only a stone's throw away, were muted and unintrusive. I sat on a pew and contemplated the irony that the mighty plaza across the road, with its four stone lions and its soaring monument to our greatest naval hero, is not the real historic gem of this corner of the cityscape... with thanks to churchwarden Mr Jeff Claxton for further information
St Mary Abchurch
St Mary Abchurch is one of the easiest of the City Churches to actually miss. Rather than occupying any lofty position, or possessing a high steeple that towers over the surrounding vista, it is situated halfway down a narrow and easily overlooked thoroughfare called Abchurch Lane, linking the more formidable highways Cannon Street and King William Street. The church first appears in the historical record in 1198, and its suffix has been spelled in many ways: Abbechurch, Habechirch, Apechurch, Abchurch and Upchurch. The provenance of the suffix is unclear: it may have been because the building could be seen 'up' the hill from St Mary Overies across the river, later Southwark Cathedral, as the Prior was the Patron of the living until the fifteenth century. Alternatively it may have been named after a forgotten benefactor named Abbe, although in the absence of historical proof this is pure speculation. After the Reformation, Archbishop Parker persuaded Elizabeth I to grant the church to his College, Corpus Christi Cambridge, and the College has appointed the incumbent ever since. Stow described St Mary briefly, calling it 'fair'. It contained side chapels and a medieval crypt which still exists below the churchyard, but this building was completely destroyed in 1666. In the interval between the church's destruction and its rebuilding, a Tabernacle was erected in the ruins. The Altar table existing in the church to this day comes from that temporary measure. Christopher Wren rebuilt the church between 1681-86 for £4,922, and he seems to have constructed it to form a perfect contrast with his nearby reconstruction of St Stephen Walbrook. Where St Stephen is faced with white Portland stone, St Mary's exterior is of warm redbrick with dressed quoins at the angles (this is a Dutch style also seen at St Benet Pauls Wharf). Where the interior of St Stephen is a celebrated baroque experiment in spatial manipulation, the small square box of St Mary's interior is given over to the intimate glory of wood. Betjeman described it as 'a complete surprise' and 'one of the most beautiful in the City', and it is easy to understand why, considering the building's hidden location and the exterior that suggests nothing of what awaits those who cross the threshold. Did Wren design this surprise deliberately? Of course he did, and it works as well today as it did back in the 1680's, for St Mary contains Wren's least 'interfered with' interior, and stands today almost exactly as he would have wished it to be seen. The church entrance is approached across the churchyard, now cleared and pleasantly cobbled with five types of stone forming a geometric design. The 14th century vaulted crypt is below this yard. The tower can be seen to good effect; while not large, it is built of the same redbrick and quoin as the walls and ends in a lead-lined obelisk spire. Through the entrance, and the visitor is confronted by the truth of how beautiful wood can be in the hands of the best craftsmen of Wren's day. It has been described as 'a treasury of seventeenth century art'. The beautiful pulpit is the work of William Grey, and William Emmett contributed the Door Cases, Royal Arms, Lion & Unicorn and Font cover, all in wood. The Font itself was a William Kempster work. The symbol of the Pelican feeding her young, which appears at other City Churches like St Michaels Cornhill and is symbolic of Christ shedding his blood for his flock, can be seen twice: first as the coppervane which once adorned the spire and now is fixed above the north door, and also in the reredos. It is also a symbol of Corpus Christi College. The pews, mostly originals from the Wren restoration, were once accompanied on the south side by small kennels for the benefit of parishioners who wished to bring their pets to church!
The reredos is the glory of St Mary's woodwork. It is the largest surviving work of Grinling Gibbons, and his original bill for what he called the 'Olter Pees' was discovered as recently as 1946 in the Guildhall Library. It is limewood, Gibbon's favourite material due to its versatility. He carved trailing fruit and flowers, and topped it with four gilded urns. Fruit and flowers can also be seen adorning the elaborate pulpit, very appropriate as this is now a Guild Church for the Fruiterer's Company. However, Wren had not yet finished with the element of surprise. When the visitor manages to tear his eyes away from all this fascinating and ornate decoration, he may cast his eyes upward to see that the architect had incorporated a Dome into the ceiling, a Dome which - unlike that at St Stephen - cannot be seen from the exterior. It has been described as an 'architectural tour-deforce', as Wren arranged the stresses so that the Dome stands on four plain walls without the need of any buttressing. It was painted in 1708 by William Snow, and depicts the worship of heaven. A bomb hit St Mary in 1940, and typically the greatest damage was to the church's greatest treasures - the Dome, and Gibbons' reredos. Godfrey Allen repaired the church, lowering the Victorian floor level and consequently revealing some grave slabs which remain on display. It was restored to look as much like Wren's original as possible: the Dome, repainted by Hoyle, now looks as though it were never damaged and the reredos, smashed into 2000 pieces, was painstakingly restored in an operation that took five years. This is one of the smallest of Wren's church interiors, and it is the one that took me by surprise the most. I spent longer in this place, gazing at the minutae of detail on offer, than in many other churches twice the size. I felt completely manipulated by Wren, taken in by the casual way in which he confounded any expectations I had when approaching the building. Its opening times are limited, more's the pity, but if any visitor should ever take a shortcut from Cannon to King William and happen to notice the dors are open, then they should certainly not continue passing by. St Mary Abchurch is a rare treat indeed!
St Mary Aldermanbury
It was in December 2003, on a cold but thankfully dry day, that I adjourned to the London Guildhall and spent a couple of hours browsing its fascinating Library with my companion, top TTFF mover and shaker Pete G. Lunch was a visit to a sandwich shop just across the road, where a ciabatta and a fruit salad were purchased, and I decided where we should sit and eat our grub. A spot to the west of the Guildhall, the small garden that holds the remains of St Mary Aldermanbury. Ruined churches are not unusual in the City, the Blitz saw to that, but unlike the nearby St Albans Wood Street and other notables such as Christ Church Newgate Street and St-DunstanIn-The-East, St Mary lacks a dominating tower or standing exterior walls.In fact, it is quite the opposite - the remains are sunken in comparison to the surrounding landscaped churchyard. Low stonework, only a few courses high, trace the shape of the building and the bases of the columns that once supported the roof can be seen. One would be forgiven for feeling a little sadness at the loss of what was a lovely Wren church, but the fact is that St Mary has not been lost. It has simply been moved! Of which more later, for St Mary's history goes back long before the enemy aircraft changed its destiny. Stow provided an explanation for the name of the street: 'this street took the name of Alderman's bury, or court... but now called the Guildhall; which hall of old time stood on the east side of the same street... I myself have seen the ruins of the old hall in Aldermanbury Street'. He described the pre-Great Fire church as fair, with a cloister in which was displayed a 'shankbone' of a man, some twentyeight inches in length. Among the burials he lists is that of
Dame Mary Gresham, wife to the important City figure Sir John, and mother of the even more important Sir Thomas. Other than Stow's description, little seems to be known of the medieval church, which was one of many victims of the Great Fire. Two of Shakespeare's fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, lived in the parish and were buried in the churchyard. Their names may be unfamiliar to most but, in fact, it is due to the diligent efforts of these two that English Literature is the most respected in the world for, without them, the name of Shakespeare would hardly be known. A bust of the Bard is displayed in the churchyard, and an inscription on the plinth describes the achievement of his two friends and fellow actors: 'To the memory of John Heminge and Henry Condell, fellow actors and personal friends of Shakespeare. They lived many years in this parish and are buried here. To their disinterested affection the world owes all that it calls Shakespeare. They alone collected his dramatic writings, regardless of pecuniary cost, and without the hope of any profit gave them to the world. They thus merited the gratitude of mankind.' These publishings are known as the First Folio and are probably the most influential works in literature. As a fan of Shakespeare, I can only second the sentiments of the inscription. Wren designed the church that rose from the ashes of the Great Fire and, when the building was still young, it hosted another burial - this one done quietly and with a minimum of fanfare, for the deceased in question was anything but popular. Judge George Jeffries, known to history as the Hanging Judge, rose to prominence as a crony of the Duke of York, later James II. Following the failed uprising that culminated in the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685, Jeffries was sent to the West Country to deal with the captured rebels. His trials, known as the Bloody Assizes, are still spoken of with a sense of horror today. Somewhere in the number of three hundred were hanged, drawn and quartered, and many more were transported. Mercy was not a word that Jeffries included in his thinking. Naturally, this made him tremendously unpopular with the common folk, but his friendship with James saw his power continuing to grow, and his attaining the position of Lord Chancellor All this ended suddenly with the Glorious Revolution. William and Mary landed, James fled to France, and Jeffries - believing his life in danger of lynch mob justice ( a probably correct suspicion), sought sanctuary in the Tower of London. He never left it alive. Placed under arrest and charged with treason, he died unlamented in 1689. Three years later, he was moved from his grave in the Tower and quietly dumped in St Mary. Today, no monument marks his presence. Wren's church was burned out in the Blitz and, after the War finished, it was one of the churches that received a new lease of life. However, it was not rebuilt on the site. Its stones were labelled in strict order, then packed up and exported to Missouri! In 1946, Winston Churchill had visited the States and made a speech at Westminster College in Fulton. It was decided to rebuild the church of St Mary on the campus as a Churchill memorial. The rebuilding took place under the care of architect Eris Lytle, who actually visited London to study Wren's work for himself before refitting the interior of the church. St Mary Aldermanbury survives today, a Wren church on a college campus in the USA. Its exterior, of 7,000 Portland stones, looks much the same as it did when it occupied its site near the London Guildhall. Its interior is bright and welcoming - Lytle obviously appreciated Wren's
love of sun-filled churches with clear glass. The site in London that it occupied for centuries is a garden, easily missed as it sits below the level of the Guildhall, and looking at first glance like it has been excavated out of the earth by archaeologists. I sat there on a cold December afternoon and found amusement in the fact that Pete, the TTFF resident expert on Dorchester, sat eating a ciabatta above the bones of Dorset's most infamous scourge, and I looked across at the bust of the Bard and gave quiet thanks, as I always do when I pass this spot, to his friends John and Henry. Later, Pete and I visited St Mary le Bow, but that's a different story!
'I do not know, say the Great bells of Bow' The bells of Bow are indeed famous, and not just because of the song. They are the bells that called back Dick Whittington, they were used during the Second World War by the BBC as a signal for those secretly listening abroad, and legend tells that any born within their sound is a Cockney. A more recent theory suggests that the expression 'within the sound of Bow Bells' may actually refer to the area between this church and Bow Church in the East End. Given the fact that Cockneys are associated with East London, this theory may well be correct. The church dates from 1087, and was originally called St Mary New Church, to differentiate it from the nearby Aldermary. Its Norman crypt dates from this time and is the source of its present name. 'Bows' are the arches in the vaulted crypt and the ecclesiastic court, known as the Court of Arches, is held here. The history of the Church is somewhat chequered. Stow writes of 'divers accidents' which caused the church to be 'more famous than any other parish church'.
St Mary's brushes with infamy began early. In 1090 a tempest lifted the roof and dropped it into the street, causing fatalities. In 1196 a seditious tailor named William Fitz Osbert, along with several accomplices, barricaded himself into the steeple. He fortified his position with munitions and victuals, but the steeple was stormed and he was captured, later hanged at Smithfield. In 1271 part of this steeple collapsed, causing more fatalities. Thirteen years later, a goldsmith named Laurence Ducket sought sanctuary in the church after wounding a Ralph Crepin. Unfortunately, the angry Crepin and some of his friends violated the ancient law by entering the church and dispatching the unfortunate Ducket. This crime led to sixteen men being hanged,
drawn and quartered, and one woman - apparently the cause of the mischief - being burned at the stake. For a while the church was interdicted, its doors and windows ritually stopped up with thorns.
It was open again by 1331, when festivities were held in Cheapside to commemorate the birth of the man later known as the Black Prince. A balcony was constructed outside the church for the comfort of Queen Phillippa and her ladies in waiting. Somewhat predictably, given the building's history, the balcony collapsed. The Queen was injured but survived. In 1469 it was ordained that the bells should be rung nightly at 9 o' clock, and local apprentices wrote a poem to the Clerk of the church: 'Clarke of the Bow bell with the yellow lockes, for thy late ringing thy head shall have knocks'. The Clerke responded ' Children of Cheap, hold you all still, for you shall have the Bow bell rung at your will'. Wren rebuilt the tower and steeple following the Great Fire, and he must have done a good job as it hasn't collapsed since, not even after wartime bombing which left little but the tower and the crypt. The postwar rebuild was by Laurence King. I visited St Mary in the company of Pete G. The churchyard is paved, and contains a statue of parishioner John Smith (of Pocahontas fame). Milton is commemorated by a plaque, as he was born in adjacent Bread Street. The interior is bright and colourful, lots of white and gold, but also greeen and pale blue in the ceiling. The crypt is a famous vegetarian cafe and the pulpit has been used for lunchtime 'dialogues'. Trevor McDonald, Jeffrey Archer and Dame Diana Rigg have all been 'on the spot' here. Noticeable are a throne for the Bishop of London, a bust of Admiral Phillip who was born nearby and founded Australia, and the carved heads above the aisle supports which are of fairly recent benefactors. On Sundays, the church is used by the St Thomas Syrian Orthodox Church.
Not by Cockneys!
St Michael Cornhill
St Michael's is the only City church I've visited with a crowd, and this was a pleasant surprise as none of us were expecting it to be open on a Saturday. Our nervous but erudite guide, Talking History stalwart Keith, allowed a few minutes from the itinery so that the Time Team Forum Friends could take a look around the City's most Victorianised church. And Victorian it very much is, which is either good or bad depending on one's own aesthetic tastes. The church was a Saxon foundation, patronised by the Abbot of Evesham from 1055 to 1503 when responsibility fell to the Draper's Company. In his 'Survey', Stow wrote extensively about the church, more extensively than any other church he described, and this is probably for sentimental reasons - his father and grandfather, both of whom were named Thomas, were buried in the churchyard, and so was his godmother Margaret Dickson (an alderman named Robert Fabyan, who chronicled a history of England and France, was interred somewhere within the building). He complained about the north side of the building being obscured by tenements (presumably Cornhill was narrower in Tudor times), and related a marvellous anecdote about the effect of a lightning strike on the bellringers: '..upon St James' night, certain men in the loft next under the bells, ringing of a peal, a tempest of thunder and lightning did arise, an ugly shapen sight appeared to them, coming in at the south window, and lighted on the north, for fear whereof they all lay down, and lay as dead for the time, letting the bells ring and cease of their own accord. When the ringers came to themselves, they found certain stones of the north window to be razed and scratched, as if they had been so much butter, printed with a lion's claw. The same stones were fastened there again, and so remain till this day. I have seen them oft, and have put a feather or small stick into the holes where the claws had entered three or four inches deep... one of the ringers lived in my youth, whom I have oft heard to verify the same to be true.' The 1666 conflagration carried away St Michael's with the exception of the tower, and arguments are still continuing today over who rebuilt it. Wren's influence seems apparent, but the rebuilding was begun very soon after the fire and some believe his influence was minor. The tower, however, was remodelled in 1722 by Hawksmoor, built to resemble Magdalen's tower in Oxford, and its Gothic style is probably the inspiration for the extent of the Victorian refitting of the interior. Hawksmoor, a pupil of Wren and a famous architect in his own right, seemed to have no problem with the incongruity of a Classical church with a Gothic tower. Between the rebuilding and the Victorian period, St Michael's witnessed some passing historic events. Thomas Gray, famous for his poem 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard', was christened here and the church today owns and displays his walking stick. One of the City's first coffee houses, precursor to today's Lloyds, was set up in a tent in the churchyard. Today the site is occupied by the 19th century Jamaica Wine House, situated in one of a maze of alleys behind the church which gives one a feel of how the City used to be. Another nearby pub, the George and Vulture, achieved fame by being featured by Dickens in 'The Pickwick Papers'. In the 1850's the Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott was let loose on the church, and today it bears his mark more than it did Wren or Hawksmoor. One cannot deny the splendour of his
north entrance, fabulously ornate and accompanied by a statue of St Michael himself. What he did to the interior, however, meets with a mixed reception. Earlier relics remain, such as the reredos and the 18th century pelican feeding her young, and Scott's pews, with small doors at their ends, were an expensive but interesting indulgence, but the proliferation of stained glass impressive though it is - darkened the church to the point of perpetual gloom and would have horrified Wren. The windows, 'Lombardised' by Scott, also accomodate the Victorian mania for neo-Gothic. A renovation in the 1960's removed some of this glass in an effort to lighten the interior, but too little was done - probably because Victoriana is nowadays just as historically important as Jacobean. The contrast between the interior's opulence and its general gloom was commented upon (by me, talking to a Dutch friend who was probably feigning more interest than she actually felt!) during our visit. Wren believed in clear windows; the best of his remaining churches bear witness to this. The first words spoken by God in 'Genesis' were 'Let there be Light', and Wren took this seriously. His churches were simply not designed for stained glass. Be that as it may, the church is undeniably Victorianised, and enough of Wren's work remains in the City for us to allow Scott's indulgence. Considering how many fine Wren churches were demolished during that 'progressive' period, we should magnanimously accept the lesser of two evils. St Michael is Scott's monument these days, and unique in its own way. The current Rector, Peter Mullen, is a well known figure - he is Chaplain to the Stock Exchange (bet he was busy on Black Wednesday), and writes a thoughtful column for 'The Times'. One last comment should be St Michael's connection with music. The tradition of lunchtime recitals, which take place every day at various churches across the City, was begun here in 1916 by the composer Harold Darke. Over the next 50 years he undertook 1800 performances. So if you ever wander into a City church to find someone happily banging away on a piano, you'll know where it started!
St Olaves Hart Street
When I visit London, and disembark at Fenchurch Street Station, so long as I'm not in a hurry I try to step round the corner to the nearest church, St Olaves which stands at the corner of Hart Street and Seething Lane. I've visited it many times, and hope to visit it many more. Despite all its splendid rivals, this small and unassuming building is my favourite of the London Churches. At first glance, it has little to catch the eye. It's medieval, built circa 1450, has a small tower of the seventeenth century, survived the 1666 Fire, and its external walls are something of a patchwork due to repairs made necessary by wartime bombing which gutted the building. So what is special about it? The first thing the visitor should do is walk around the side of the church, to the churchyard with its entrance in Seething Lane. Betjeman described this building as 'a country church in the world of Seething Lane', with 'a real churchyard not got up as a garden of rest'. He was correct: unlike most City churchyards, this one is small and surprisingly rustic. The ground is elevated, due to thousands of burials and a plague pit, so elevated that steps actually lead down to the old south entrance. An oblique line scars the exterior of the building, the last vestiges of a stair which once led to a gallery pew that was reserved for staff from the Admiralty offices in Seething Lane. In this quiet ground are interred Mary Ramsay, reputedly the woman who brought the Plague to London, and an eccentric Elizabethan known as 'Mother Goose'. This woman used to knit little boots for her geese so that their feet wouldn't get sore as they were herded to market. The 1658 arch over the churchyard's entrance is crowned with a cluster of skulls, a Memento Mori carved
from the stone, and it bears a Latin inscription which translates as 'death is a light to me'. Charles Dickens was much taken with this. In his 'Commercial Traveller', he referred to it as the church of 'St Ghastly Grim', and wrote of '...a small small churchyard, with a ferocious strong spiked iron gate, like a jail. This gate is ornamented with skulls and cross bones, larger than life wrought in stone.' After a century and a half, his description is still accurate. Through the north entrance in Hart Street, one enters a small vestibule before stepping into the church proper. Now it is possible to see why it is special. Following the wartime damage, the interior was lovingly restored, and the small building gives an almost palpable feeling of intimacy. The walls hold many colourful monuments from the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, all in excellent condition despite the damage the church sustained in 1941, and all worthy of examination and admiration. It is clerestoried, with north and south aisles of three bays. There is modern stained glass but, unlike some other churches which have been cast into gloom by this form of decoration, St Olave's maintains brightness. The pulpit is 17th century, originally came from the now destroyed St Benet's Gracechurch and may be a Gibbons work, and there are swordrests and Communion rails which date to the same period. However, despite its ingrained sense of intimacy, there is one other aspect of St Olave's which adds to its atmosphere, and that is its most important historic connection: the parishioner Samuel Pepys. If ghosts really exist, then the spirit of this colourful Restoration figure surely blesses the church with his presence. Pepys lived and worked for the Admiralty, and he lived in Seething Lane. The site of his home is now a small garden adorned with a bust of the Diarist. He would dutifully visit the church on Sundays, strolling with other Admiralty staff up the steps that led to the Gallery on the south wall. The sermons did not always please him, he is honest enough in his Diaries to admit that he sometimes slept soundly through them. Although he also admitted impure thoughts about his maid, and had an affair with his wife's best friend, there is little doubt that he thought the world of his spouse Elizabeth. She died in 1669 at a sadly young age, but Samuel ensured that her memory would continue. After her burial in a vault below the altar, he commissioned the sculptor John Bushnell - who was known for carving figures in animated poses, for example in conversation - to carve a bust which now adorns the wall high over the Sanctuary. Pepys died in 1703 and was also interred below the altar. And this is what I mean by intimacy. Why is the bust set so high? Stand against the south wall of the church. Directly above your head is a memorial to the Diarist, set where the Admiralty pews were once fixed. This is where Pepys would have sat. And now see what he would have seen. Every Sunday, when he sat in that pew, he would have been able to gaze across the church straight into the eyes of his much-mourned Elizabeth. When I first noticed this, I smiled to realise that such affection could still be traced after three centuries, and I could almost feel the ghost of Samuel Pepys standing at my shoulder and saying, "Yes, I know, I'm a sentimental fool!" But it won't be Pepys I finish with, it'll be Dickens, and his own amusing anecdote: "I once felt drawn to it in a thunderstorm at midnight. 'Why not?' I said, in self-excuse, ' I have been to the Colosseum by the light of the moon; is it worse to go and see St Ghastly Grim by the light of lightning?' I repaired to the Saint in a hackney cab and found the skulls most effective,
having the air of a public execution and seeming, as the lightning flashed, to wink and grin with the pain of the spikes. Having no other person to whom to impart my satisfaction I communicated it to the driver. So far from being responsive, he surveyed me - he was naturally a bottle-nosed, red-faced man - with a blanched countenance. And as he drove me back, he ever and again glanced in over his shoulder through the little front window of his carriage, as mistrusting that I was a fare originally from a grave, in the churchyard of St Ghastly Grim, who might have flitted home again without paying."
St Pancras Old and New
Behind the British Library, situated between the extensive works of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and a housing estate, lies St Pancras Gardens. This public patch of peace, still scattered with monuments of all shape and fashion, contains towering trees, stunted grass, a network of carelessly meandering paths and a curious air of melancholy. A tall brick wall at the rear divides it from the encroaching railway works; a powerful iron fence at the front, through which The Beatles once peered for a photo opportunity, firmly separates it from the busy thoroughfare of St Pancras Road. The Gardens are the combination of two burial grounds, although the boundary between them can no longer be traced: the northern section was an extra-parochial ground for St Giles In The Field, the southern section the ground of St Pancras itself. Here the Old Church remains, one of the most historic sites in Camden and, believed by some, to be one of the oldest church sites in Britain. Pancras was a Phrygian orphan raised at the court of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. He was beheaded on the Aurelian Way in 304 AD for refusing to offer incense to the Emperor as a symbol of worship. He was 14 years old. Some believe that the first church was raised in this spot only ten years later, on the site of a Roman encampment and on the banks of the River Fleet. Others claim that the church was actually consecrated after the arrival of St Augustine in 597, as the monk was known to have an interest in the cult of Pancras. In truth, either theory may be correct or, indeed, completely wrong. The origins of St Pancras Church are lost in time. It was certainly restored or rebuilt in Norman times, as the church still contains material from that period, and a chapel of ease - later dedicated to St John The Baptist was built not far away in Kentish Town. The chapel in Kentish Town proved a touch too convenient. St Pancras, due to its position on the banks of the Fleet, was prone to flooding and this seems to have encouraged the congregation to favour the firmer ground at Kentish, leading to the virtual abandonment of the Old Church which, not surprisingly, fell into disrepair - although the ground surrounding it remained the burial ground for the parish. For centuries, the building deteriorated while the burial ground continued to fill. Obscurity did not accompany this abandonment, and writers scribbled of St Pancras and its ancient connotations with a tone of awe: Norden, in his Elizabethan 'Speculum Britanniae', describes it as 'all alone, utterly forsaken, old and weatherbeaten' although it did not 'yield in antiquitie to Paules in London'. He later added this curious anecdote: 'Although this place be, as it were, forsaken of all, and true men seldom frequent the same, but upon deveyne occasions, yet it is visayed by thieves, who assemble not there to pray, but to waite for prayer; and many fall into their handes, clothed, that are glad when they are escaped naked. Walk not there too late.' Oliver Goldsmith's 1794 'Citizen Of The World' claims that 'if you except the parish church and its fine bells, there is little in Pangrace[sic] worth the attention of the curious observer.'
Maximilian Missom compared it in importance to St John Lateran in Rome, and Charles Dickens mentioned it in 'A Tale Of Two Cities' (appropriately enough, the ground had become a major burial site for French refugees), but it was not to be until the nineteenth century, with the explosion of the local population which rose in half a century from 600 to 35,000, that the parish was to receive a new chance of glory. The delapidated building on the site of the parish burial ground was considered too 'unworthy' of some of the area's more opulent residents (in truth, it was probably too small!), and in 1818 a plot was purchased on the Euston Road for the erection of a replacement. The architects were to be a local father and son team, William and Henry Inwood. The New Church was consecrated in 1822, its cost £89, 296, the largest amount spent on a church in London since Wren's rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral. Its vaults were used for burials - for those who could afford it - while the majority of burials continued at the Old Church. By the time the burial grounds of St Pancras were closed in 1854, replaced by the St Pancras & Islington Cemetery, 476 burials lay in the crypt, including Wiliam Prowse who captained HMS Sirius during the Battle of Trafalgar However, this was still not enough for the burgeoning population, and in 1848 St Pancras Old Church was restored in a heavily Victorianised fashion, although traces of its ancient fabric can still be seen. The tower was replaced and the building lengthened. The churchyard was closed to new burials, and before long faced a new problem: the rise of the Railway. The Midland Railway Company would have happily obliterated the ground as it constructed its tracks into St Pancras Station, but due to public outcry and articles in periodicals such as the Builder, the damage was reduced to some curtailment on the eastern part of the grounds, an area that had been popular with local Catholics and had provided the last resting places of many French notables fleeing from the Revolution. One of the trainee architects involved in the repositioning of graves was Thomas Hardy. Many gravestones were piled together in a spot where they have become intertwined with the roots of a tree; this curious reminder of the march of technology in Victorian London is now known as the 'Hardy Tree' and remains one of the more unusual curiosities to be found in a London churchyard. The churchyard was landscaped into a garden in 1891, and today is the largest public space in Camden. The Victorian period was damaging to many of the churches and church grounds of London, but of course this was not to be the end of the troubles. World War II saw the Old Church being renovated once again following bomb damage, and in recent times the churchyard was further curtailed by the Eurostar workings which still continue today. On this occasion, however, archaeologists were on hand to help with the removal of some 1500 sets of remains, and the scientific study of these exhumed remains have revealed that Arthur Richard Dillon, the colourful Archbishop of Narbonne, was interred with a set of false porcelain teeth! These are now on display at the Museum of London. A perambulation of the two sites provides a remarkable contrast. St Pancras New Church is a magnificent edifice, standing firm against the constant roar of traffic from the neighbouring Euston Road (this traffic means that the Church faces a perpetual battle to keep the white Portland stone clean). The Inwoods turned to the Classical world for inspiration. They based their design for the church building upon the Ionic Temple of the Erectheum at the Acropolis.
This building is famous for its caryatids, sculptered female supports taking the place of pillars and the most eye-catching feature of the New Church are the caryatids, four on the north and four on the south, built of terracotta around cast-iron columns by John Rossi, guarding the entrances to the crypts. An error during their construction meant that they were too tall, and they had to be truncated at the waist. The tower is an inflated copy of the 'Tower Of The Winds', by Andronicus Cyrrhestes, found on the Roman agora in Athens. The impressive entrance portico dwarfs the entrance to an octagonal vestibule, and a clear view down the axis of the church displays the apse at the other end, ringed with six magnificent Ionic columns. Remarkable apses seem to be a feature along this road - further west, the broadly contemporary church of St Marylebone also boasts an impressive apse. The interior of St Pancras is very spacious and very high. Extensive galleries exist above the aisles and the pulpit, veneered in mahogony, towers over the pews. It was created from the 'Fairlop Oak' in Hainult Forest, toppled by wind in 1820. The windows, originally clear, have been gradually replaced by stained glass, most notably the three panels by Clayton and Bell in the apse. More recent innovations can be seen in the North Chapel, which has a screen of etched glass dating from 1970. The church is still a vital part of the community. During the War, the cleared crypts were used to shelter the local populace from the bombs which damaged the Old Church, and more recently flowers were laid at the entrance after the 7/7 bombings, one of which happened close by at King's Cross. The sculptor Emily Young created a memorial, an onyx head of the Archangel Michael, its plaque inscribed with 'In memory of the victims of the 7th July 2005 bombings and all victims of violence. 'I will lift up my eyes unto the hills' Psalm 121'. Sir John Summerson stated, 'St Pancras is the Queen of the early 19th century churches; its architecture earns it the title as much as its size and cost'. In marked contrast, the older Church, tucked away to the north-east, may seem humble and sidelined, but it is certainly no less venerable. The length of its history alone guarantees equal worth with its formidable descendant. New Church has been listed Grade I, the Old Church Grade II, but the elder stateman sits quietly above Pancras Road, course of the now subterranean Fleet, seemingly oblivious to the hum of the traffic and the cacophony of construction. It is indeed curious to notice just how peaceful the old churchyard seems, considering that it surrounded by top representatives of 21st Century urban noise. To meander through the gardens is to wander through the faded glory of history itself. Various features catch the eye. A range of monuments, of varying styles and antiquity, culminating in the fence-ringed Mausoleum of the architect John Soane. This structure, designed by Soane himself and crowning the family vault, is one of only two grave memorials in London that has been listed (the other is Karl Marx at Highgate). Its shape was the inspiration for the famous red telephone boxes. The Hardy Tree, sitting snugly behind the church and almost seeming to defy the encroachment of the huge brick wall separating it from the Eurostar works. The Burdett-Coutts memorial sundial, holding the names of many of the notables who rest in this grouns, with particular emphasis on the French emigres. At the base of its protective fence can be found a supine memorial to Johann Christian Bach, the composer and son of the composer Johann Sebastian. Known as the 'English Bach', he rests nearby.
Other notable memorials can be traced. A squat block stands above the burial site of the authors William Godwin and his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft. Their daughter, Mary Godwin, used to meet her beau Shelley at this spot. The Godwins were removed to St Peter's, Bournemouth in 1851, to rest alongside their daughter, yet the original memorial remains here. Not far from this, right by the side of a path, can be seen two ledgers with faded inscriptions, that cover the vault of sculptor John Flaxman and members of his family. A plaque fixed to one gravestone reveals it to be the marker of William Jones, schoolmaster to Charles Dickens. Behind the church, close to the Hardy Tree, can be seen a stone for Samuel Webbe the church musician. In the church itself lies Samuel Cooper, considered by many to have been the greatest painter of miniatures. Many others lie in spots now unmarked, some of them memorialised on the Sundial, others not:
• • • • • • • • • • • •
James Barenger, painter of animals Tiberius Cavallo, scientific essayist Jeremy Collier, clergyman and polemicist against the stage Chevalier D'Eon, French diplomat, spy and transvestite William Franklin, Colonial Governor and son of Benjamin Giacomo Leoni, architect of Lyme Park John Mills, last survivor of the Black Hole of Calcutta John William Polidori, Lord Byron's doctor and author of 'The Vampyr' Simon Francois Ravenet, engraver Thomas Scheemakers, sculptor William Woollett, engraver Mary Young, the infamous pickpocket 'Jenny Diver'
Jonathan Wild, the notorious thieftaker turned criminal, was also buried here following his date with the gallows; however, he was stolen by Resurrectionists and apparently ended up in the hands of the dissection lobby. Once sited in liminal areas, the Churches of St Pancras now stand surrounded by the bustle of Camden, yet still they dominate. The history of the entire area begins with these buildings, and they have proved obstinately resistant to the ever-changing landscapes around them. The grime on the New Church will continue to be removed, the Old Church will continue to cast its faded gentility across its environs. Without the Churches of St Pancras, there would BE no area named St Pancras in London. They have been here possibly since Roman times, the first significant buildings in the locality, and they will endure.
St Pauls Covent Garden
In the 1630's, the King's Surveyor of Works was Inigo Jones, and he was commissioned by Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford, to build London's first planned residential square on the site of what was once the 'convent garden' of the Abbey of St Paul's. Jones, a follower of the neoClassical architect Palladio, modelled the new 'Covent Garden' piazza on Livorno in Italy. During the Restoration years, the piazza became the most fashionable place to live in London, before the coming of the fruit and vegetable market. The Theatre Royal, around the corner in Drury Lane, was constructed and the area became a magnet for performers just as Shoreditch and Southwark had done in late Elizabethan times.
Russell knew that if he were to attract the great and the good to his flash new piazza, he would have to erect a church for them; however, he was mindful of the cost, and warned Jones: 'I would not have it much better than a barn.' 'Well then,' the architect responded, 'You shall have the handsomest barn in England!'
Built between 1631-33 yet not consecrated until 1638, the church was a simple oblong, towerless, with an overhanging roof and tall arched windows. At the east end, overlooking the piazza, Jones designed an outstanding Tuscan portico with two square and two round columns. He intended this to be the main entrance so, to allow for this, he attempted the unorthodox approach of placing the altar at the east end of the church. This arrangement, however, was disallowed by the Archbishop William Laud, so Jones moved the altar to the east end but kept his Tuscan facade as a false entrance. The proper entrance is now at the west end of the church. Both founder and architect are remembered in local street names: the address of the church is Bedford Street, and it's western approach is Inigo Place, apparently once the site of an Eleanor Cross.
The second great rise of the theatre, in Restoration years, saw the area at its zenith and St Paul's took over from St Leonard's Shoreditch as the 'Actor's Church'. Samuel Pepys was a regular visitor and his Diary records his ecstasy at visiting the dressing room of the Theatre Royal and meeting Nell Gwynne face to face. He also records watching, in the shelter of St Paul's Tuscan portico, the first ever Punch and Judy show. This is another of those touching examples of historical continuity; any visitor to this vibrant part of London today can still see the street performers strutting their stuff under Inigo Jones's impressive construction. [It is worthy of note that Pepys, an ardent theatregoer, was not much of a critic. Twelfth Night? 'One of the weakest
plays that ever I saw on stage.' Romeo & Juliet? 'The play of itself the worst that ever I heard in my life.' On the other hand, he was quite fond of Hamlet!] I approached St Paul's from the west, through a churchyard landscaped with rose bushes, and stopped to admire the red-brick facade, so utterly different from the grey, towering portico on the east, yet somehow a lot more welcoming. The church interior is now different from Inigo's original design, thanks to careless workmen causing a serious fire in 1795. Although it was redesigned close to the original, this was changed in 1870 by William Butterfield, who removed the galleries on the north and south and raised the east end to make the altar more prominent. The most striking feature of St Paul's interior is the wood panelling, the most important of which is a 17th century carving by Grinling Gibbons on the west screen, an image - and monument to Inigo Jones. The rest of the panelling is adorned with memorials to actors who, although not buried here, had their memorial services held here. Not for nothing is this the Actor's Church. Charlie Chaplin, Hattie Jacques, Vivien Leigh, many others. On the south wall can be seen an urn. This holds the ashes of Ellen Terry, whose home at Smallhythe Place was recently the site of a Cantiaci visit. St Paul's was one of many churches I visited on this day, and it was the one where I performed my good deed for the day. An elderly gentleman was tuning the piano, and lacked the strength to replace the piano lid. Yours truly flexed his feeble muscles, and managed to perform the task without crushing any fingers. Although their tombs are long gone, swept away by Victorian zeal, the bones of many known figures rest in the churchyard and the crypt: *Claude Duvall, the original gentleman highwayman, 1670. *Sir Peter Lely, Court painter, 1680. *Samuel Butler, author of the burlesque satire 'Hudibras'. *Edward 'Ned' Kynaston, actor who was the main character in the recently released comedy film 'Stage Beauty', 1706. *William Wycherley, poet and dramatist, 1716. *Grinling Gibbons, Wren's master woodcarver whose astonishing work can be found in many churches, including this one, 1721. *Dr Thomas Arne, whose home is marked by a blue plaque just around the corner, 1778. He gave us the patriotic words that everyone knows: 'Rule Brittania, Brittania rule the waves. Britons never never never shall be slaves!'
So if ever you visit Covent Garden, as I often do, and buy a hot potato from one of the local outlets before sitting in St Pauls Churchyard to eat ( while being bothered by hopeful pigeons),
listen to the distant noises of the street performers on the other side of the building, the rhetoric of the actors, the laughter of the assembled crowd, and recall that these ragamuffins under Inigo Jones's great portico are continuing a tradition that began a third of a millenium ago!
St Saviours Southwark
Southwark began as a Roman settlement, situated at a junction of roads leading to the south bank of the Thames and the bridge into Londinium. Several London Bridges have now occupied this site, and plans are afoot to open a museum celebrating the earliest principal route into the City. The museum will be the latest among many developments over the past two decades, that have seen the South Bank from Southwark to Westminster become, after centuries in the shadow of the great City, a vivid and colourful part of the metropolis.
Perhaps because of Southwark's lack of status in former times, its most important church has been overlooked and overshadowed by local development - it is hemmed in by roads, railways and huddled wharfside buildings. The best view is actually from the Thames' northern bank, although its most famous historic representation sees it dominating the foreground of the famous 1614 engraving by Visscher. The earliest mention of religious activity on the site comes from the Domesday Book which mentions a 'monasterium' of which little is known, although Saxon foundations have been recovered during archaeological exploration. The site's proper recorded history begins in 1106. Falling under the diocese of Winchester (which covered a huge swathe of Southern England at the time), it was refounded by the then Bishop of Winchester, William Giffard, as the Priory Church of St Marie. It became more informally known as St Marie Over-The-River (meaning over the river from the City), and later during the medieval period the name gradually truncated to St Marie Overie. It was an Augustinian foundation, but perhaps fate would have been kinder if it had been Benedictine for, on St Benedict's Day 1212, much of it burned down - the first of several fires that were to afflict
it over the centuries. Repairs in the Early English style were carried out under Winchester's Bishop Peter Des Roches. Winchester Palace, the London residence of the Bishop, stood close by and the Bishops were to remain responsible for repairs. This Gothic Priory entertained poets such as Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower, the first associations with poets that would extend and grow stronger in the later Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. More important structural changes occurred in 1420 when the powerful Cardinal Beaufort, a relative of royalty, heightened the tower and restored transepts and chapels. At the Dissolution in 1539, the Priory was surrendered with little fuss. The hospital buildings to the north were refounded as St Thomas Hospital and the remainder passed to Sir Anthony Browne, Master of the King's Horse. He appeared to have little interest in the defunct Priory other than a convenient base near London - after all, he had also inherited the more distinguished Battle Abbey - and he sublet the Priory Church to local tradesmen. Thus the former Priory of St Marie Overie became the Parish Church of St Saviour's. The area was seeing other changes. Winchester Diocese was doing very nicely out of leasing its riverside land in Southwark, but this land was being used for the sort of insalubrious activities associated with most of the Liberties surrounding the City. Brothels, known as 'stews', were proliferating, prisons such as the Marshalsea were lurking nearby, and areas of public entertainment such as the Bear Garden were drawing rowdy audiences. An enterprising businessman named Philip Henslowe opened a theatre which he called The Rose. The church authorities condemned the playhouses, but were won over by charitable donations from the theatre box office. The association of St Saviours with Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre had begun, taking its place as the Actors' Church, the South Bank equivalent of St Leonard Shoreditch and preceding the later Jacobean St Paul Covent Garden. Henslowe and his son-inlaw, the great actor Edward Alleyn, became churchwardens of St Saviours and the builder of the Rose is today buried in an unmarked spot somewhere in the church precints. Much of the church's importance during Jacobean times can be seen from a perambulation of the site, of which more later. By 1830, the playhouses long gone, the area had once more become neglected. St Saviours was once again in disrepair, and the construction of a new London Bridge threatened its existence. Its ratepayers voted for its demolition but it was saved by the energies of the architects George Gwilt and Henry Rose, who completed major repairs which, although slated by the neo-Gothic architect Pugin, restored the fabric of the building that now stands today. Despite the saving of Saviours, Southwark remained an unhealthy area, described grimly by Dickens and Booth. Winchester was too remote to be able to cope adequately with the area's social problems, and responsibility was briefly passed to the Diocese of Rochester before the proposal rose for a new Diocese of Southwark. The idea received eager support and the nave was spruced up in preparation for the building's coming change in status. 1905 saw the passing of the Bill creating the new Diocese and this surely must have been the proudest and most triumphant year of the site's history. After facing destruction by fire, Dissolution and Regency period lethargy, St Saviours now emerged as Southwark Cathedral. It now had collegiate status and its own Bishop, the first being Bishop Talbot of Rochester. New buildings have been constructed on the Cathedral's north side, reflecting the regeneration of the Southwark waterfront that has also
seen the rebuilding of The Globe theatre and the opening of the Tate Modern. It is the building most used by the Archbishop of Canterbury to enthrone new Bishops, and is the Anglican mother church as far south as Gatwick Airport. A tour of Southwark Cathedral takes in virtually every aspect of the site's history, and begins at the SW door. The late Victorian nave to the visitor's right was constructed on the foundations of the original and has roughly the same proportions. However, the real Glory of the Cathedral lies not in its capaciousness but its wealth of smaller, more personal details. Directly to the right of the entrance is a stretch of arcading, the oldest part of the building, as this is Norman work dating back to the first priory of St Marie. On the other side of the nave can be seen an arch and a doorway from the same period, and the Victorian arcading faithfully follows the pattern of this early fabric. Other notable sculpture at this west end are medieval roof boses, displayed along the wall, and a lovely canopied font. A memorial tablet here, shaped like a ship's wheel, recalls a local and recent tragedy. On an August evening in 1991, within sight of the Cathedral, the dredger Bow Belle collided with the pleasure craft Marchioness, causing the loss of 51 lives. Ambling along the south aisle of the nave, one comes across the most impressive of all memorials to a certain Mr W Shakespeare, a wonderful sculpture showing the poet in repose, with images of St Saviours, Winchester Palace and the theatres Rose and Globe behing him. Above the memorial is a stained glass window depicting characters from his plays, and a visual representation of the famous Seven Ages Of Man speech from As You Like It. Right next to it, touchingly placed, is a memorial to the actor Sam Wanamaker who contributed a great deal to the area's current popularity by campaigning for many years for The Globe to be rebuilt. It is fitting that his memorial should be next to Shakespeare, perhaps representing the new and the old, the historic and modern Globe theatres. A plaque opposite these memorials remembers Wenceslas Hollar, the 17th century engraver. Although he was buried at St Margarets Westminster and also has a small memorial there, Hollar is commemorated here because of his engravings of Bankside and the Thames, images which were sketched in 1638 from the top of the tower. The south transept, like its equivalent in the north, is practically a small museum of memorialarchitecture, showing varied and colourful styles of remembrance. The most impressive is a painted bust of Thomas Jones, a chaplain of St Saviours and a founder of the Royal Academy. Also commemorated in this transept are John Bingham, saddler to Elizabeth I and James I, and Isabella Gilmore, who was Head Deaconess and sister of the artist William Morris. The organ case is here and so is a blocked entrance to a now demolished chapel, notable for the Plantagenet arms of Cardinal Beaufort who constructed the chapel in 1426. Moving into the south choir aisle, one sees the first connection to an Shakespeare-era actor: Richard Benefield, a lawyer cousin of one Robert Ben(e)field, a player whose name appears on the First Folio of the Bard's work and also in the cast list for John Webster's most celebrated play The Duchess of Malfi. Set in the floor here are some Roman tesserae, a reminder that the antiquary of this site matches that of the City across the river. A cenotaph tomb to the first Bishop of Southwark, Bishop Talbot, is here, and so is the proper tomb of one of the most celebrated Bishops of Winchester: Lancelot Andrewes. He was an extremely learned man, holding no less than three important Bishoprics during his life and apparently mastering twenty-
one languages! He was part of the team that translated the Bible for King James' Authorised version and is personally credited with translating the five books of Moses. A further monument here, designed by John Soane whose greatest triumph was the Bank of England, is that of Abraham Newland, the Bank's Chief Cashier who oversaw the first issue of the one pound note. The retrochoir, at the end of the aisle and the east end of the building, contains a series of chapels and is the oldest intact part of the building, dating to te rebuild of 1215 that followed the fire which devastated the Norman Priory. Heresy trials, presided over by Bishop Gardiner, took place here during Mary Tudor's reign and many prominent martyrs were condemned on this spot. Even today, the retrochoir has a dark and haunting quality. In the north choir aisle are a series of monuments that differ in style from those on the south, due to their European quality - they were locally designed by immigrants from Germany and Flanders, and of are impeccable quality - the best being to Richard Humble and John Trehearne, two of the so-called 'Bargainers' who purchased the church for the parish. Also here is the entrance to the Harvard Chapel, named after the founder of the famous US university, John Harvard who was baptised in St Saviours in 1607. Move into the chancel, dominated by a Great Screen dating from 1520 and containing three bands of statuary.Here on the floor are tablets commemorating three notable figures of the Southwark Playhouse heyday, all of whom were buried here.The first - and least celebrated - is Edmond Shakespeare, younger brother of the playwright and a fellow actor, who died in 1607. Next is John Fletcher, a prolific dramatist who collaborated with Shakespeare on Henry VIII and succeeded him as chief playwright of The Globe. He died in 1625, and the third slab commemorates Philip Massinger, another collaborative Jacobean playwright who had a hand in 55 plays. He succeeded Fletcher and died in 1640. One of the famous comedians of the Elizabethan stage, Will Kempe (who once Morris-danced from London to Norwich then published a pamphlet about his exploit) may also have been buried here, as he disappears from the historical record around the same time in 1603 that a record in the Burial Register mentions 'Kempe, a man'. The north transept is a century older than the south and is also full of monuments, the most interesting being the reclining figure of Lionel Lockyer, a local quack who was buried here in 1627. The amusing epitaph praises the pills he sold, which were reputed to have contained sunlight. Judging by the size of his monument, those pills must have sold extremely well. The windows of the north aisle commemorate historic figures who have been connected with the parish at some time. One of them, Alexander Cruden, wrote a Concordance to accompany King James Bible, and his work is still used today. He is buried somewhere in the grounds. Another, John Gower, has a tomb in this aisle: he was the earliest court poet, serving Richard II before jumping on board with Henry IV when he sensed which way the wind was blowing. He wrote a collection of verse called Confessio Amantis, which influenced his contemporary Chaucer (who dedicated his Troylus and Criseyde) to Gower, and Shakespeare who had Gower appear in the prologue of Pericles. The door in this aisle leads to a corridor separating the church from the new buildings of its
annexe. Named Lancelot's Link in honour of Bishop Andrewes, it is paved with the names of churches in the Southwark Diocese. At the east end of the Link, and very easy to miss, is an archaeological display, showing a trench dug by the side of the church's north-eastern corner. This trench falls through the ages, showing road surfaces of the last few centuries, a 17th century kiln, the foundations of the Saxon minster and, right at the bottom, the surface of the Roman road that led to London Bridge. Two thousand years of history in a single pit. The visitor to Southwark has a choice after leaving the church. Head east, across the road to visit the dark attractions of the London Dungeon. Or head west, through ancient Southwark, still atmospheric despite the tourist revival. The replica of Golden Hinde is here, the Clink Prison museum, the grey remains of Winchester Palace, the rebuilt glory of the Globe and the towering walls of Tate Modern - the area that saw the first performances of some of the greatest literature of the Renaissance. Even the old name, St Saviours Southwark, hisses with sibilants that an alliterative poet would appreciate. No more is it a decaying, half-forgotten edifice in an untidy and unhealthy area. A true example of resilience and antiquity, St Saviours has emerged from centuries of uncertainty to become the great survivor in one of the most vibrant areas of London
'When will you pay me, say the Bells of Old Bailey'
The City of London's largest parish church, this was dedicated to St Edmund the King at its earliest recorded mention in 1137, but later became the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or St Sepulchre-without-Newgate. This is because it sits just outside the City walls, like the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and the similarity was not lost on the Crusaders who prayed at the church before journeying to the Holy Land. Its status as the City's largest church is due to its siting - more room was available to build here than existed within the crowded confines of the walls. The benefice belonged, in 1137, to the Prior of St Bartholomews, Rahere, but he granted it to Hagno the Clerk. This early church was rebuilt in the middle of the fifteenth century, although Stow cannot be clear if the King at the time was Henry VI or Edward IV as the Wars of the Roses were raging. Much of the medieval fabric is still visible. Although the walls, tower and vaulted porch survive from this period, the rest of the church was gutted by the Great Fire; an unfortunate circumstance, as the Fire stopped only a few yards beyond the building. Around the corner, in Giltspur Street, can be found the effigy of a slightly obese boy, marking the spot where the Fire burned itself out. The statue's portliness represents Gluttony, the sin for which many believed the City was destroyed. Rebuilt in the 1670's by architects unknown, the layout was altered twice during the nineteenth century and the roof in 1932, making St Sepulchres today a mixture of styles. The social history of the Church is dark, thanks principally to the presence of Newgate Prison just across the road, sited where the Old Bailey now stands. A tall, dark brick wall can be seen around the corner in Amen Court, and this is the last remaining section of the Prison. Sir Thomas Malory would have heard the bells pealing as he sat in his cell during the 1480's, writing 'Le Morte D'Arthur'. However, St Sepulchre's earliest notoriety is due to its Rector in Tudor times, the celebrated John Rogers. He helped William Tyndale translate the Bible into English during the Reformation. However, at the counter-Reformation, he was tried for heresy in the church which is now Southwark Cathedral, and consequently earned the dubious distinction of being the first Protestant Martyr of Mary I's reign, being burned at Smithfield in 1555.
Condemned prisoners held at Newgate were originally transported to Tyburn, now the site of Marble Arch, and condemned highwaymen were presented with a nosegay at the Church door but later the scaffold was erected in the wide street outside the Prison itself, large enough to hang 12 at once. The bells in the Church's tower (the bells of Old Bailey) started to peal dolefully at 8 o' clock in the morning, as the unfortunates were led to their doom. This tradition was paid for in 1605 by a Robert Dowe, who also paid for another service to be carried out the previous night. This consisted of a handbell, rung outside the condemned cells at midnight, twelve double strokes accompanied with the words: 'All you 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 above have mercy on your souls. Past twelve o' clock!' Presumably Dowe granted this legacy in an attempt to save souls, yet one cannot help but wonder if there was a hint of pious sadism involved. This custom continued for a century and a half. In The Rawlinson MSS exists this curious excerpt regarding a murder mystery uncovered at St Sepulchre: "Dr. Airy, Provost of Queen's College, Oxon (1599-1616), passing, with his servant, accidentally through St. Sepulchre's Church-yard: (Holborn Viaduct now almost covers this spot), where the sexton was making a grave, observing a skull to move, showed it to his servant and then to the sexton, who, taking it up, found a great toad in it; but withal observed a tenpenny nail stuck in the temple bone, whereupon the doctor presently imagined the party to have been murdered, and asked the sexton if he remembered whose skull it was. He answered it was the skull of a man who died suddenly, and had been buried twenty-two years before. The doctor told him that certainly the man was murdered, and that it was fitting to be inquired after, and so departed. The sexton thinking much upon it remembered some particular stories talked of at the death of the party, as that his wife, then alive, and married to another person, had been seen to go into his chamber with a nail and hammer, whereupon he went to a justice of the peace, and told him all the story. The wife was sent for, and witnesses were found who testified that and some other particulars. She confessed, and was hanged." Newgate Prison was demolished in 1902, and the widening of Holborn Viaduct carried away much of the churchyard on the southern side. Today this patch of land is dominated by a memorial to the Royal Fusiliers, and a watchtower which was originally erected to prevent grave-robbing. Through the entrance and a vestibule, the visitor comes upon an interior described by Betjeman as 'a forest of tall pillars', which suggests the size of the building. The font and organ both date to 1670, the year the church re-opened after the Fire, and the twin pulpits date to 1854. On the north side of the church can be found a chapel, originally dedicated to St Stephen Harding. The scholar Roger Ascham, tutor to Elizabeth Tudor and Lady Jane Grey, was buried here in 1568. Henry Wood learned to play the organ in this chapel and, at the age of 14, was appointed Assistant Organist. Best known as the founder of the Promenade Concerts, Wood's ashes were interred in the Chapel in 1944 and, every year on the Last Night Of The Proms, the
wreath that adorns his bust at the Albert Hall is brought here to his grave. It is now the Musician's Chapel, and a window shows images of Wood as a boy and a man. A case contains a Musician's Book Of Remembrance, and in the north are the remains of what is believed to be an Easter Sepulchre. Crossing to the south-east of the nave, a glass case on a pillar contains the very handbell that used to make condemned prisoners' last nights even more fraught. Nearby in the south aisle are the chapel of the Royal Fusiliers, whose City of London regiment still hold Remembrance Day services in the church, and a medieval piscina which appears darkened by fire damage, probably from the 1666 inferno. A brass plaque in this aisle marks the resting place of Captain John Smith, his 1631 epitaph reading 'Here lies one conquer'd who hath conquer'd kings'. Although he became President of the Council of Virginia and Admiral of New England, Smith is best known for having his life saved in 1607 by Princess Pocahontas. In recent times he has been portrayed by Mel Gibson in Disney's 'Pocahontas', and will return in 2005 as Colin Farrell in 'The New World'. A window of 1968 commemorates him, showing him surrounded by navigational instruments and above the three ships in which the pioneers crossd the Atlantic. In essence, then, St Sepulchre retains an air of medieval grandeur and mystery above the busy thoroughfare of Holborn Viaduct. Its presence opposite the Old Bailey recalls its long association with the country's foremost bastion of justice and, although the bells are no longer rung for the guilty, their mentions by Shakespeare, Dickens and the nursery rhyme have ensured their immortality!
St Stephen Wallbrook
The Walbrook once divided the City of Londinium, flowing between the two hills upon which the City was constructed. Today, the river flows subterraneously, but the gradients leading down to its valley are still highly visible. At one time there were several churches upon its banks: St Mary Woolchurch Haw, now the site of the Mansion House, and St John Walbrook, both victims of the Great Fire. St Stephen, despite various traumas throughout its history, is the sole survivor. The original Saxon church stood on the west bank of the Walbrook, but in the year 1428 the Mayor Robert Chichley donated to the parish a plot of ground on the east bank for the purpose of erecting a Gothic church with its own churchyard. The foundation stones were laid the following year by various benefactors, including Chichley himself, the current Mayor Henry Barton, a contributor called William Stodden and the wealthy draper Richard Whittington, who later purchased the patronage of the church from the powerful Duke of Bedford, uncle to the youthful Henry VI. This Gothic building was completed in 1439. A notable burial took place during the building's lifetime: John Dunstable, master of astronomy and music, who was once described as 'the greatest composer in Europe', d.1453. The church was destroyed during the Great Fire and was rebuilt by Wren as his major City Church, an experimental baroque variation on his classicism. It cost £7,672, was completed in 1679 with a later tower probably by Hawksmoor, and was highly lauded. It was said to be '...famous all over Europe and justly reputed... perhaps Italy itself can produce no modern buildings that can vie with this in taste and proportion'. The sculptor Canova expressed a desire to visit London merely to see St Paul's, Somerset House and St Stephen Walbrook. Even the great Palladio himself remarked that the church was 'the finest proportioned enclosed building in the world.' In his recent publication 'The Real Wren Churches', Stephen Wheatley claims that St Stephens is 'almost impossible to describe'. I will endeavour to prove him wrong, but the sentiment is understandable - dry descriptions fail to do much credit to a building that was very much
designed as a feast for the eyes. The exterior is plain. Wren rightly refused to create anything too ornate for the exteriors of his churches, reasoning - quite correctly - that there would be little point in elaborate exterior pretensions when the churches were destined to be closed in and mostly concealed by surrounding buildings. It is ragstone, with a Portland stone steeple which rises in stages to four balls and a vane. Entering the church from its western door, one is immediately confronted with a fairly steep stone stair which leads to the lobby. On the wall to the left is a large stone tablet, carrying a Latin inscription in praise of Wren. The church interior itself is entered through a baroque screen below the organ case. It is actually a rectangle, its bays arranged to form a longitudinal Latin cross, but other architectural elements such as a Greek cross have also been observed; as Betjeman noticed, Wren showed how to make 'a plain rectangle interesting and full of vistas'. Clever design techniques actually make it feel almost circular and centrally planned. Sixteen columns create a colonnade effect, and twelve of these support the glory of the church - its Dome. Two of Wren's churches contain domed ceilings (the other is St Mary Abchurch), experimental practice runs for what would later become the great Dome of St Pauls Cathedral. Light streams into the building through the clear glass of the windows, lantern and clerestory, and together with the perfect proportions of the interior, an impression of airiness and lightness pervades. Incendiaries struck the church during the second world war, and Wren's Dome was fatally damaged. Under the auspices of a less sympathetic restorer, this could have been a tragedy but instead, Godfrey Allen reconstructed it in replica in 1951-2. Thirty years later the church was forced to close again, as the waters of the Walbrook were seeping into the foundations and threatening to collapse the Dome. Under the charge of Lord Palumbo, the church underwent extensive underpinning while, at the same time, the interior was controversially re-ordered. Traditional pews were dispensed with and a new stone altar was commisioned from the sculptor Henry Moore. Likened by critics to a 'ripe camembert cheese', it sat in a field near Moore's studio at Much Hadham while the controversy was the subject of a rare sitting of the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved. Originally carved at a quarry near Rome, the same quarry from which Michaelangelo drew his material, the altar was accepted and now forms the centrepiece of the church. The controversy did not prevent the church hosting a Royal Wedding - that of Lady Sarah Armstrong Jones, the Queen's niece, and it remains the parish church of the Lord Mayor and his Mansion House staff. Since the addition of Moore's altar, two other modern sculptures, tinted red and blue, have been added to the interior. Despite these modern additions, many of the elements are contemporary with Wren. The stone font dates from 1679 and was carved by Thomas Strong, Wren's master mason - its wooden cover is decorated with representations of Christ, Faith, Hope and Charity as well as the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance. The canopied pulpit, with elaborate panelling, is by William Newman. Over the vestry door hangs 'The Adoration of the Magi' by Lodovico Cardi. The most unusual relic is an old telephone, standing on a plinth in the corner of the church. In 1953 the Rector, Chad Varah, set up this telephone in the vestry as a hot line for the depressed and suicidal. This grew into the organisation now known as The Samaritans, with 203 branches
across the country, and in 1974 Varah founded Befrienders International in the church, to link the 350 branches which exist in 41 countries. The walls are covered with memorials, the most notable of which is an early twentieth century plaque to John Dunstable, set up by a Company of Musicians. Dr Nathaniel Hodges also has a memorial. He was a brave physician who refused to flee the Great Plague of 1665, staying in London to treat the afflicted. He was buried here in 1688.These, in my opinion, highlight the curious fact that St Stephen's most famous interment currently lacks a memorial. The playwright and architect Sir John Vanbrugh was buried in a family vault inside St Stephens in 1726, his original epitaph amusingly reading 'Lie heavy on him, earth, for he laid many heavy loads on thee!' This reflects the grand Palladian style of Vanbrugh, which is best seen today with his famous works Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace. The epitaph has since disappeared, probably during one of the refittings, and it seems a shame to me that the man who created Blenheim itself now a World Heritage Site - should be in want of a monument of his own. In essence, then, from the outside St Stephens Walbrook seems a typical Wren church, but for those with an eye for architecture the interior is a rare treat. Even those who do not concern themselves with the niceties of baroque and classicism will realise quickly that the interior is something very special. I find it impossible these days to actually walk past the building... no matter how often I visit it, St Stephen's Walbrook never fails to inspire!
The Knights Templar were an order of warrior monks who were founded in Jerusalem following the First Crusade, their headquarters on the site of Solomon's Temple. They built smaller Temples in many of Europe's capital cities, their original London site being at High Holborn. As the Order expanded, they moved to a new site between the Thames and Fleet Street. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was a circular building raised over the supposed site of Christs's tomb, and Templar churches followed this design. The London church was consecrated in 1185 by Heraclius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, in the presence of King Henry II. The Marshal family, Earls of Pembroke, were benefactors and several generations were buried in the church, including the 1st Earl who was instrumental in the negotiations that led to Magna Carta. Another effigy visible is that of the East Anglian magnate, Geoffrey de Mandeville. Henry III favoured the Templars and decided that his mausoleum would be at the church. A large choir was built for this purpose, and consecrated inHenry's presence on Ascension Day 1240. However, upon the King's death in 1272, it was discovered that he had changed his Will, and he was consequently interred at Westminster Abbey. In 1307, after machinations between the Pope and Philip IV of France, the Knights Templar were suppressed. Edward II took control of the church and gave it to that other crusading Order, the Knights Hospitaller. In turn, the Hospitallers rented the Temple to a pair of lawyer colleges who needed a base in London. Later becoming known as the Inner and Middle Temple, these groups use the church as their chapel to this day. The Hospitallers, in turn, were abolished by Henry VIII and the building became a 'royal peculiar', i.e. a church under direct control of the monarch. The King himself appointed a priest, who was known as 'Master of the Temple'. In 1585, the second Master died and his deputy Walter Travers was passed over for promotion because of his Calvinist views. Richard Hooker of Exeter College Oxford was appointed instead, but the aggrieved Travers had his day: Hooker would preach on Sunday mornings and Travers would contradict him in the afternoon sermon! This became known as the 'Battle of the Pulpit'. In 1608, James I granted a Royal Charter to the two Inns of Court, giving them perpetual use of the Temple so long as they kept up its maintenance; this Charter is still in force today. The jurist, antiquarian and legal writer John Selden, whose library occupies the 'Selden End' of the Bodleian Library, was buried in the church in 1654. Although it escaped the Great Fire, the church was restored by Wren who also designed the reredos. An organ was installed for the first time and, between 1729 and 1814, both Inns of Court appointed their own organists who played on alternate Sundays. An 1841 restoration by Smirke and Burton saw the building being decorated in Victorian Gothic style, Wren's reredos being removed and a singing choir of men and boys introduced. The round church received a 'pepperpot' roof. Incendiary bombs wrought havoc on 10th May 1941, destroying all the wood in the church. Restoration by Walter and Emil Godfrey was slow, the choir rededicated in 1954 and the round church in 1958. By good fortune, the Wren reredos - removed over a century before - was able to be restored to the church after spending the intervening years in a museum in County Durham.
Temple Church can be reached from an alley leading from Fleet Street, opposite the lanterntowered church of St Dunstan In The West and below Prince Henry's Room, currently in use as a Samuel Pepys museum. The alley opens into an open plaza, surrounded by the buildings of the Inns of Court, towering over the church. The churchyard is paved but still contains a handful of Crusader tombs and, in a quiet corner, a tomb bearing the simple epitaph 'Here lies Oliver Goldsmith'. A friend of Samuel Johnson and part of the same intellectual circle, Goldsmith was a poet (The Deserted Village), a novelist (The Vicar of Wakefield) and a playwright (She Stoops To Conquer). The nearby barristers' Chambers called Goldsmith Building boasts, at its entrance, a list of tenants including one 'Horace Rumpole'. On the other side of the church, in the plaza, is a column topped by a model of two knights sharing a horse - the symbol of the Knights Templar. Visitors enter the church through the south door, with the round church to the left and the large choir to the right. Easily missed, next to the Visitor Desk, is a glass panel in the floor, protecting and displaying the sunken gravestone of Selden. The round church resembles a Chapter House, with alcoves and a seating mantle. Between the alcoves can be found humorous gargoyles, and above is a triforium. The medieval effigies, most with the crossed legs that signify their Crusader status, were laid out here during the 1841 restoration. The dark marble of the church's columns contrast pleasantly with the lighter hues of the walls and the fan-vaulted ceiling. Pews and pupit are plain, but the stained glass windows above Wren's reredos are a riot of colour, and are flanked by similar windows. As well as religious symbolism, the windows also contain plenty of Templar references: the two needy knights sharing a horse; images of Pegasus (whose inclusion alludes to a manuscript in which the former symbol was misinterpreted as the winged horse of Greek legend); a portarayal of the church, complete with the pepperpot roof not restored after 1941; images of Crusaders with the motto 'Beausean'. The window was a 1954 gift from the Glazier's Company, and was designed by Carl Edwards. Two intriguing effigies can be found in the choir. The first is the ornate effigy of Edmund Plowden, a benefactor of the Middle Temple described as having 'great gravity, knowledge and integrity'. The other effigy is that of an unknown bishop, traditionally that of Heraclius, but more probably a Bishop of Carlisle who died while visiting. Today the church is popular with visitors, due to its history, architecture, and more recently its brief inclusion in Dan Brown's popular conspiracy novel 'The Da Vinci Code'. The strong connection with the legal industry remains, and members of the Inns of Court continue to wed in the church and have their children baptised there. As a comparison to another well-known Templar site, this is no Rosslyn, but enough exists to intrigue the casual visitor or conspiracy theorist!
St Mary Aldermary
It was ten to four on a weekday afternoon when I slipped through the door of St Mary, just as its courteous and bow-tied custodian was about to lock it.
'Sorry,' I said, 'I'll come back another time.' 'Not at all,' he beamed, and gave me a guided tour. He was proud of his church, and rightly so; one needs only to glance around the interior to appreciate that there is something unique about this particular City church. t's so... gothic! his is due to the parishioners who, after the Great Fire, asked Wren to rebuild their church to exactly the same medieval design as before. Wren obliged, even using some of the fire-scarred stonework from the old building. He also created the only parish church to use fan vaulting, the ceiling a series of saucer domes and semi circles which draw the eye to a curious feature of the chancel... it's lopsided! The reason for this is that the narrow street to the east of the church runs obliquely from the main road. The east wall follows this pattern, so that one side of the chancel is longer than the other. The guide pointed out other features, such as the plasterwork which apparently is rare for Wren, and woodcarvings which were probably by the ubiquitous Grinling Gibbons. Various Lord Mayors were buried here, although Heminges and Condell were not, as erroneously attributed in a recently published work called London City Churches. The mistake is easily made, given the similarity between the words Aldermary and Aldermanbury. he foundation is old - St Mary de Eldermariechurche is mentioned as far back as 1080, and simply means 'Older Mary', to differentiate it from St Mary le Bow, a younger foundation just around the corner. Sometime around the turn of the sixteenth century, the Gothic church was built by a grocer mayor named Henry Keble, who donated the not insignificant sum of a thousand pounds for the purpose. This was the church destroyed in the Fire but rebuilt to the previous design by Wren, although many of its interior fittings were removed in 1876 when the Victorians - presumably with good intentions - attempted to 'medievalise' it. It still retains, however, a wooden swordresr and pulpit, font and font cover from the seventeenth century. The tall, thin, pinnacled tower is later than the body of the church - although surviving the Fire, it was damaged in the Great Storm of 1703. St Mary appears to have had a fairly quiet history. Milton's third marriage took place here, and one of its rectors, Henry Gold, was sentenced by the Star Chamber and executed at Tyburn. Other than this, the church never seems to have been tainted by any scandal, and has remained in its position near the Mansion House, waiting to surprise the unwary visitor with its Gothic splendour.
Other City of London Churches
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 longdemolished 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 pretarmacadam 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 postFire 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 doubleseated 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 Market.
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 1893.
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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