St Botolph Bishopsgate

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

Portion of sixteenth-century “Agas” Map/Map of early Modern London, showing St Botolph’s, immediately without Bishopsgate

St Botolph Bishopsgate was probably originally built in the  Saxon or early Medieval period. It was subsequently rebuilt in the later Medieval, at least as long ago as the thirteenth century, and again in the  sixteenth, and yet again in the early seventeenth.   In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as a “parish church … without Bishopsgate, in a fair churchyard, adjoining the town ditch, upon the very bank thereof, … lately repaired by Sir William Allen, mayor, in the year 1571, because he was born in the parish, where he was also buried”.

Bowyers’ Window

The church was undamaged in the Great  Fire, but essentially completely rebuilt by George Dance the Elder and James Gould, in the eighteenth century,  and restored in the nineteenth and again in the twentieth, once after the Blitz, and once after an IRA bomb blast in 1993. 

The interior contains a memorial to Sir Paul Pindar,   sometime ambassador to the Ottoman Emperor, who died in 1650.  Pindar lived nearby in a splendidly-appointed house that survived until 1890. When it was demolished, its carved oak facade was salvaged, and may seen in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

St Botolph Aldgate

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

A portion of the sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of early Modern London, showing St Botolph without Aldgate (to the right), and also part of Holy Trinity Priory (to the left)

St Botolph Aldgate is thought to have been originally built by the Cnihtengild in the tenth century, in the reign of the Saxon King Edgar (957-75). It was subsequently rebuilt by Holy Trinity Priory, who had acquired in it the early twelfth century, in the early sixteenth (just before the  Dissolution of the Monasteries), and restored in the early seventeenth.

Interestingly, surviving records indicate that as long ago early Modern times the parish was conspicuously ethnically diverse, with persons of colour accounting for perhaps 5% of the parishioners.

The church was undamaged in the Great  Fire of 1666, which did not reach this far east. It was nonetheless essentially completely rebuilt by George Dance the Elder in the eighteenth century, and further modified in the nineteenth and twentieth. 

The interior contains a late sixteenth-century memorial to Thomas Darcy and Nicholas Carew, two prominent Catholics who were executed by Henry VIII in the early sixteenth century.  Darcy was executed for his supposed involvement in the so-called “Exeter Plot”, and Carew for his in the “Pilgrimage of Grace”.

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Also that of Robert Dow, Citizen, Merchant-Tailor and sometime Master of the Merchant-Taylors’ Company, who died in 1612.

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And that of John Cass (1661-1718), the founder of the local school that still bears his name.

A large number of victims of the “Great Plague” of 1665 were buried in a “plague pit” adjacent.

St Botolph Aldersgate

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

St Botolph Aldersgate was probably originally probably built during the Saxon or early Medieval period, and subsequently rebuilt in the later Medieval.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow referred to it as St Botolph Britain Street, meaning Little Britain, and described it as a “proper parish church”. He also recorded a large number of memorials in the church, including those of “I. Hartshorne, esquire, servant to the King 1400” and “the Lady Anne Packington, late wife to Jo. Packington, knight, chirographer of the court of the common pleas”, who “founded almshouses near unto the White Friars’ church in Fleet Street”.

The church was undamaged in the Great  Fire of 1666, protected from it by the City Wall, but was nonetheless essentially completely rebuilt by Nathaniel Wright in the eighteenth century, in 1725, and further modified in the nineteenth. 

The aforementioned memorial to Lady Anne Packington still survives. It is dated 1563.

Bridewell Precinct

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

According to the antiquarian John Stow, writing in his “Survey of London” of 1598, “King Henry VIII. built … [in the area known as the Bridewell] … a stately and beautiful house of new, for the receipt of the Emperor Charles V., who, in the year of Christ 1522, was lodged himself at the Blackfriars [on the opposite, eastern, side of the River Fleet], … a gallery being made out of the house over the water [of the Fleet], … into the emperor’s lodging”.

Later, in 1529, Henry VIII again stayed in Bridewell Palace, as it had come to be known, and the Papal Legate, Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio, in the Blackfriars. This was on the occasion of the Legatine Court in the Parliament Hall in the Blackfriars, convened to address the King’s “Great Matter”, his proposed annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon (which would enable him to marry Anne Boleyn). The Court ruled out the proposal. The rest is history.

When Henry VIII died in 1547, the Palace passed to his son Edward VI, and when Edward died in 1553, he gave it to the Mayor, George Baron, “for the commonalty and citizens, to be a workhouse for the poor and idle persons of the city”, as Stow put it. According to “The London Encyclopaedia“, the former palace was also used “for the reception of vagrants and homeless children and for the punishment of petty offenders and disorderly women”. There are records, too, of a hospital in the precinct as well as the workhouse and prison building, and later of a school. And there would undoubtedly have been some form of place of worship. The Parish Clerks included “Bridewell Precinct” in their register of deaths (the “Bills of Mortality”).

The Bridewell Prison in 1720 (from John Strype’s revised edition of Stow’s “Survey … “)

The Bridewell was burned down in Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt in 1667. It went on to be demolished between 1864-71. 

The new building on the old site of Bridewell Palace
Entrance to new building
Bust of Edward VI
Commemorative Plaque

The new building on the old site  bears  a commemorative plaque. 

St Bride Fleet Street

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

St Bride Fleet Street (“C” on “Agas” map/Map of early Modern London) was possibly originally built as long ago as the sixth century (*), on a former Roman site, and extended in the eleventh, early twelfth (twice), thirteenth to fourteenth, and fifteenth.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “of old time a small thing, which now remaineth to be the choir, but since increased with a large body and side aisles toward the west, at the charges of William Venor, esquire, warden of the Fleet, about the year 1480”. John Caxton’s apprentice Wynkyn de Worde, who had himself set up a printing-press nearby, was buried in the church in around 1535; Richard Lovelace, the poet, in 1657. Richard Baker, who had died in the Fleet, where he had been imprisoned for debt, was buried here in 1645. He had previously written a chronicle of his times, which had ended abruptly at the start of the Civil War, as follows: “Yet our hope is it will be but a fit and the storme once passed faire weather againe and fairer perhaps than it was before and then with joy we shall resume our stile”. Samuel Pepys was christened in the church in 1633. 

The church was burned down in the  Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt by Wren between 1670-75.  It was then gutted by bombing on the night of  29th December 1940, and rebuilt again  in 1955-7.  The church   is perhaps best known  for its steeple of gracefully diminishing octagons, once memorably described by the poet W.E. Henley as “a madrigal in stone”, and  said to have influenced the design of the modern wedding cake. It also has many important literary and artistic associations, unsurprisingly in view of its proximity to Fleet Street and its printing presses. John Dryden, John Milton, the “Compleat Angler” Izaak Walton and the antiquarian Elias Ashmole were parishioners here in the seventeenth century; Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Oliver Goldsmith, Alexander Pope, Joshua Reynolds and William Hogarth, in the eighteenth.

Roman Tessellated Pavement
Pre-Eleventh Century Saxon Stonework
Saxo-Norman Stonework
Medieval Stonework

The Saxon and Medieval crypts survive, and are home to a fascinating exhibition of the church’s long and rich history, and its extraordinary eight incarnations. 

There is also a rather gruesome charnel house.

(*) There is some imprecisely-dated pre-eleventh century Saxon stonework that has been postulated, although not proven, to date to the sixth century, the church’s purported founder Bride, or Bridget, the Abbess of Kildare in Ireland, living from 450-525.

St Bartholomew the Less

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

St Bartholomew the Less was originally built,  as one of five chapels attached to the Priory of St Bartholomew  in the twelfth century, and subsequently extended in the fifteenth (see also previous posting on St Bartholomew the Great). It became a parish church after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the early sixteenth century.  Inigo Jones was baptised in the church  in 1573, and John Lyly was buried there in 1606.

Stained-glass window depicting founder Rahere as a jester

The church was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, although nonetheless requiring to be substantially rebuilt by George Dance the Younger between 1789-93, and again by Thomas Hardwick between 1823-5, and restored by his grand-son Philip Hardwick between 1862-3.  Damaged in the Blitz, and repaired in 1950-1.  The oldest surviving part is the  fifteenth-century tower, located just inside the eighteenth-century Henry VIII Gate leading into St Bartholomew’s Hospital. 

Among the many treasures in the church is a – defaced – memorial brass commemorating John Markeby (d. 1439) and his wife Alice (d. 1479).

St Bartholomew the Great

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Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

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The Augustinian Priory of St Bartholomew was built by Rahere, a courtier of  Henry I,  in 1123, and much extended and modified in the thirteenth to early sixteenth centuries, before being dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539, when the prior’s lodgings became Sir Richard Rich’s, and that part of the priory church that was spared demolition became  the parish church of St Bartholomew the Great (temporarily serving as a Dominican Convent under Mary). 

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The church was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, although nonetheless requiring to be restored by Aston Webb in 1884-1921, and also  undamaged in the Blitz, such that   much  of its ancient  fabric still survives. The west porch, with its characteristic dog-tooth mouldings, is early thirteenth-century, although incorporated into a later, late sixteenth-century, gate-house.  The brick tower is early seventeenth-century, dating to 1622-8. 

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The interior is darkly atmospheric and evocative. The nave is partly twelfth-century, and in the Norman Romanesque style, …

… and partly fourteenth-century, and in the later Medieval Gothic style; …

… and the oriel window, inscribed with Prior Bolton’s rebus of a bolt and tun, immediately post-Medieval, dating to 1509, and in the Tudor style.

The memorial to Rahere is  fifteenth-century; …

MIldmay memorial (1589)
Freshwater memorial (1617)
Cooke memorial (1652)

… numerous others,  sixteenth-  to seventeenth- century.  

The dedication of the priory to St Bartholomew was on account of Rahere’s recovery from malaria following a vision he had of the Saint.

St Andrew Holborn

Resurrection Scene …

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

St Andrew Holborn was originally built in timber at least as long ago as the mid-tenth century  (being referred to as an “old wooden church” in a Charter of Westminster Abbey of 951), and subsequently rebuilt in stone in the fifteenth.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow recorded a number of monuments in the church, including those of “Thomas, Lord Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, buried 1550” and “Ralph Rokeby of Lincoln’s Inn, esquire, Master of St Katherine’s, and one of the masters of requests to the queen’s majesty, who deceased … 1596”. In his will, Rokeby left “to Christ’s Hospital in London one hundred pounds, to the college of the poor of Queen Elizabeth in East Greenwich one hundred pounds, … to the prisoners in the two compters in London two hundred pounds, to the prisoners in the Fleet … , … in Ludgate … , … in Newgate … , … in the King’s Bench … , … [and] … in the Marshalsea one hundred pounds, to the prisoners in the White Lion twenty pounds [one wonders what they must have done to deserve such discriminatory treatment], to the poor of St Katherine’s twenty pounds, and to every brother and sister there forty shillings”. At the time, £100 was approximately six times the annual wage of a skilled tradesman.

According to most sources, the church was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666.  Note, though, that there is a building on Hatton Garden that was, according to a plaque affixed to the outside,  erected as a church  “to serve the needs of the neighbourhood after St Andrew’s Holborn had been destroyed in the Great Fire”.  In either case,  the church was rebuilt by Wren ?and Hawksmoor between 1684-7.  It was later  restored in the nineteenth century, and again in the twentieth, after sustaining bomb damage during the Blitz.  The stone arches leading to the altar in the chapel are original, fifteenth-century.  Thomas Coram, the founder of the Foundlings’ Hospital in Coram’s Fields, is buried in the church.  The Renatus Harris organ presented by Handel  to the same Foundlings’  Hospital can now be seen in the church.

Holy Trinity the Less

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

Holy Trinity the Less (not shown  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the thirteenth century, the earliest written reference to it being from 1266; and subsequently rebuilt in the early seventeenth, in 1606-7. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, John Stow described the church as “very old, and in danger of falling down”, adding that “collections have been made for repairing thereof, but they will not stretch so far, and therefore it leaneth upon props or stilts”. Stow also recorded a number of monuments in the church, including that of John Brian, alderman in the reign of Henry V. [1413-22], a great benefactor”. Henry Machyn, a merchant taylor or clothier who chronicled events in London between 1550-63, recounted how in 1559 the then Rector, Thomas Chambers, became involved in an unseemly brawl with a young man, breaking a bottle over his head, for which he was imprisoned “first in the Compter [given the date, either the Poultry Compter or the then newly-built one in Wood Street] and then in Bridewell”.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt again afterwards, the former parish merging  with that of St Michael Queenhithe.  Essentially nothing now remains of it other than a parish boundary marker in Great Trinity Lane.

St Thomas the Apostle

Another in the series on historic churches in the City of London …

By the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666, there were over a hundred parish churches and other places of Christian worship within and immediately without the walls of  the City, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. To be precise, according to  Parish Clerks’ records, there were 97 churches within the walls of the City, and 16 without, making a total of 113. 

St Thomas the Apostle, Great St Thomas Apostle (reversed “Z” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, the oldest written reference to it being from 1181, and at that time dedicated to St Thomas Becket. It was subsequently substantially rebuilt in the fourteenth century, in part by John Barns, mercer, mayor in 1371. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as a “proper church”, adding, though, that “monuments of antiquity there be none”. He also noted that among those known to have been buried in the church was “Sir William Littlesbery, alias Horne, for King Edward IV. so named him, because he was a most excellent blower in a horn”. Littlesbery alias Horne, salter and merchant of the staple, had been mayor in 1487.

The  church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666,  and not rebuilt afterwards, the former parish uniting with that of St Mary Aldermary.   A Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks its former site.