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 Augustine Watling Street, also known as St Augustine-by- St Paul’s or -St Paul’s Gate (“11” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, and possibly as long ago as the eleventh, and extended in the thirteenth. Writing at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, John Stow described it as “a fair church, and lately well repaired, wherein be monuments remaining.” It was subsequently partially rebuilt, and “every part of it richly and very worthily beautified” in 1630–1.
The church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt by Wren between 1680-95, and further altered in the late nineteenth century. It was later damaged by bombing on the night of 29th December, 1940, again on 11th/12th January, 1940, and yet again on 10th/11th May, 1941, in what the Rector, Henry Ross, described as a “Ghastly raid”, which left the “Vestry gone; tower gone [and] everything burnt out” (after which the parish was merged with St Mary-le-Bow). After the war, the burials were removed from the churchyard, and some of the foundations of the Medieval church came to light.
Only the restored tower survives at the site, as part of the Cathedral Choir School of St Paul’s. The salvaged pulpit survives in the church of St Anne and St Agnes, and the – somewhat charred – Service Register in the Guildhall Library.
The dedication is to St Augustine of Canterbury, who was sent to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity in 597.