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 Vedast alias Foster (shown at southern end of “Forster lane” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the thirteenth century, and possibly as long ago as the twelfth. According to Wilberforce Jenkinson, “it seems to have been newly rebuilt in the beginning of the sixteenth century”, and, “[i]n 1614, … was repaired and enlarged”.
The church was badly damaged, although not completely destroyed, in the Great Fire of 1666. It was subsequently substantially rebuilt by the parish and by the Rebuilding Commissioners between 1669-72, incorporating parts of the surviving Medieval fabric, most notably the south wall, as revealed by recent restoration, and the tower. It was further remodelled by Wren between 1695-1712, when the old tower was taken down and a new one, with a spire, put up. The spire has a distinctive obelisk-like design reminiscent of that of St Luke, Old Street, built by Hawksmoor.
It was then gutted by German incendiary bombs during the so-called “Second Great Fire of London” on the night of 29th December, 1940, and was marked in magenta on the London County Council’s “Bomb Damage Map”, meaning that it was considered “seriously damaged”, but “repairable at cost”.
It was restored between 1953-63 by Stephen Dykes Bower, with stained glass windows by Brian Thomas.
The richly-carved pulpit was salvaged from All Hallows Bread Street, the seventeenth-century organ from St Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange, the eighteenth-century reredos from St Christopher-le-Stocks, and, among other items, the seventeenth-century communion table from St Matthew Friday Street.
Vedast was Bishop of Arras in France in the sixth century.