St Benet Sherehog

St Benet Sherehog (2)

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.

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St Benet Sherehog (shown at northern end of “S. Sythes lane” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the early twelfth century, the first reference to it dating to between 1111 and 1138.  It was subsequently extended in the thirteenth century, and substantially rebuilt in the fourteenth, possibly in or around 1356, at which latter time it came to be commonly referred to as  either St  Sithe or Sythe (not to be confused with Osyth), or St Benet and St Sithe – whence “S. Sythes lane” and, eventually, Sise Lane.    Benedict or Benet of Nursia (420-80) was a religious reformer and the founder of western Christian monasticism.  The suffix “sherehog” could either come from a founder or benefactor, Alfwinus Scerehog having been suggested as one such, or from “shere hog”, meaning a ram castrated after its first shearing (the church being in the centre of the old wool district).  Zita of Lucca died in the late thirteenth century, in 1272, and her  cult spread to England by the fourteenth.

A one-time curate, William Sawtre, was a “Lollard”, and was executed as a heretic  in 1401.  The sometime Mayor of London John Fresshe was buried in the church in 1397, the lawyer, politician and historian Edward Hall in 1547, and the poet Katherine (Fowler) Philips  in 1664.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, after which it was  not rebuilt, and its parish was merged with that of St Stephen Walbrook, although its  burial ground  remained open until 1853.

Two Museum of London Archaeology Service monographs  describe in detail the findings of an   archaeological excavation at the site in the 1980s (preparatory to the construction of No. 1 Poultry).

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These included the foundations and several courses of walls, together with a number of burials associated with the pre-fire church, including  one marked by  a Purbeck Marble headstone bearing the Latin inscription “+HIC : IACET : IN : TUMULO : CONIUX : ALICIA : PETRI” (“Here lies in the tomb Alice the wife of Peter”), and probably dating to sometime between 1190-1350.

St Benet Sherehog

A Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks the  site.

 

 

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