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 Lawrence Jewry (“23” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the Saxon period, a large number of timbers from coffins in the churchyard having been dendrochronologically dated to the late tenth to early eleventh centuries, and an admittedly much smaller number even to the seventh to ninth. It was subsequently rebuilt in the Norman period, in 1136, and repaired in 1618.
The church burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and was rebuilt again, by Wren, between 1670-87. The font of 1620 was salvaged from Holy Trinity Minories.
It was later gutted by German bombing during the Second World War – to be precise, during the “Second Great Fire of London”, on the night of 29th December, 1940 – and rebuilt yet again between 1954-57.
The weather-vane in the shape of a grid-iron honours the story that Saint Lawrence was put to death in 258 by being roasted alive on one such. The upright is in the form of a German Second World War incendiary bomb.
The grid-iron motif also features on the parish boundary markers.
The church was described by Sir John Betjeman as “very municipal, very splendid.” It is the official church of the City of London Corporation, and also has strong links with the Livery Companes. The so-called “Spital Sermons”, originally given in the priory church of St Mary Spital, are currently given in St Lawrence Jewry, and are attended by the Mayor, Aldermen, and other civic dignitaries.