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 Gabriel Fenchurch (“Fen church” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built sometime before 1291, being mentioned in Pope Nicholas IV’s “Taxatio Ecclesiastica” of that year as “Omn Scor’ de Fanch’” (All Saints), and also being known as S. Mary’s until 1517, when it became known as S. Gabriel’s. As Stow has it, the suffix probably alludes to “fenny or moorish ground, so caused by means of this bourne which passed through it”. Rather wonderfully, what is now known as Langbourn Ward was once known as “Langborne Ward and Fennie About”. In 1603, the church featured in the pageant commemorating the accession to the throne of James I, Ben Jonson noting that at that time it was decorated to look like “the side of a Citie; … with houses, towers and steeple in perspective”. It was enlarged in 1631. Samuel Pepys visited what he described as “the little church in the middle of Fenchurch Street” in 1665, where were “very few people”.
The church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and was never rebuilt, and the parish was merged with that of St Margaret Pattens.
A Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks its former site.
The site of the past churchyard is in the present Fen Court. Benedict Spinola, a prominent Genoese banker, was buried in the choir of the church after he died of the plague in 1580.