St Margaret Pattens

Another in the series on historic churches of 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 Margaret Pattens, Eastcheap (“S. Margarits Patens” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the twelfth century, and subsequently rebuilt in the sixteenth, and repaired in the early seventeenth.  A rood or cross was set up in the churchyard while the church was being rebuilt in 1538, which, according to the antiquarian John Stow, “about the 23rd of May, in the morning, … was found to have been in the night preceding, by people unknown, broken all to pieces, together with the tabernacle wherein it had been placed”. The street on which the church stands is now known as Rood Lane.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt again by Wren between 1684-7, and restored in the twentieth century, following bomb damage sustained during the Blitz. 

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The very fine tondo in the interior is attributed to the fifteenth-century Italian sculptor Della Robbia. 

The church has long had an association with the Patten-Makers Guild or Livery Company (whence, presumably, its suffix), and there is an interesting exhibition of pattens in the interior. Pattens were under-shoes slipped on to protect the wearer’s shoes or clothing – not the least from the filth on the streets in the Middle Ages!

Jan van Eyck’s “Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife” of 1434 depicts a pair of pattens designed to protect “Poulaines”. “Poulaines” were sorts of shoes with elongated and pointed tips which originated in Poland and became popular throughout Europe, including in England, after Richard II’s marriage to Anne of Bohemia in 1382. According to one chronicler, these “accursed vices” were “up to half a yard in length”, such that “it was necessary for them to be tied to the shin with chains of silver”. Their use was restricted by a “Sumptuary Law” in 1463, and banned in 1465.

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