Christ Church Greyfriars

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.


Christ Church Greyfriars or Christ Church Newgate Street (“Gray Fryers” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally founded as the priory church in Greyfriars Priory  in around 1225.  Exactly two hundred years later, in 1425, a library, valued at £400,  was added by Dick Whittington.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it was refounded  as a parish church, also incorporating the former parishes of St Audouen or Ewen and – get this – St Nicholas Shambles, in 1552.  Also at this time, the rest of the priory precinct became Christ’s Hospital and School (the school relocating to Horsham in 1902).

Three Queens, Edward I’s Margaret, Edward II’s Isabella, and Joan de la Tour of Scotland, and the heart of a fourth, Henry III’s Eleanor of Provence, were buried in the Medieval church, along with a total of 663 nobles (according to some sources, the heart of a King, Edward II, was buried here, too).  After the Dissolution, the majority of their tombs and memorials were sold for as little as £50.


wren exterior

wren interior

The church was badly damaged   in the Great Fire of 1666, although the glazed windows were “very little damnified”, and some reportedly rather beautiful choir stalls, built with timber salvaged from a Spanish warship of  the Armada of 1588, also survived.  It was subsequently rebuilt by Wren between 1677-1704.


It was gutted during the “Second Great Fire of London” in the Second World War, on the night of 29th December, 1940, when tens of thousands of incendiary bombs were dropped on London during an air raid.

Christ Church ruins 4

Old Christ Church informative plaque 2

Only the tower, with its impressive  steeple, restored in 1960, survives today (as a private residence), alongside  the partial shell of the rest of  the building.  The former nave was made into  a city garden in 1989.

A Museum of London Archaeology Service monograph describes in detail the findings of recent archaeological excavations at the site.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s