The church of St Olave Hart Street was originally built in wood in the eleventh century, sometime after the martyrdom of St Olave in 1030, and rebuilt in stone in the late twelfth to early thirteenth, and again in the mid-fifteenth, around 1450, and extended in the sixteenth to seventeenth.
It was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, thanks to the action of William Penn Senior and Samuel Pepys, who demolished some surrounding buildings to create a firebreak, but gutted by bombing on the night of 10th May, 1941, and rebuilt again between 1951-54.
The thirteenth century crypt, some thirteenth and fifteenth century walls, the fifteenth century tower, the gateway, dating to 1658, and the vestry, dating to 1662, survive, as do a number of sixteenth and seventeenth century memorials, including ones to not only Samuel Pepys but also his long-suffering wife Elizabeth, whose expression suggests she is “admonishing her wayward husband”.
The gateway to the churchyard is especially memorable for its adornment of skulls and cross-bones, from a design by Hendrik de Keyser. Some of the interior fittings were salvaged from All Hallows Staining, St Benet Gracechurch and St Katharine Coleman.
St Olave is one of only seven City of London Churches with surviving Medieval features. This blog is one of an occasional series, now completed, with blogs on each of these seven – see below for links to the other six blogs:
St Olave church is visited, although not generally entered, on our “London Wall” standard walk, and on our “Dark Age London”, “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights” and “Lost City Highlights” themed specials.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site. Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by phone (020-8998-3051).