St Mary Bothaw

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. 

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St Mary Bothaw, also known as St Mary Botolph (“T”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the twelfth  century, around 1150. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow gave the name as St Mary Boathaw, meaning “adjoining to a haw or yard, wherein of old time boats were made, and landed from Downgate to be mended, as may be supposed”. He also noted that “within this church, … divers noblemen and persons of worship have been buried, as appeareth by … defaced tombs … “. Indeed, at least two Mayors of London are known to have been buried here, including the very first, Henry Fitz Ailwyn of London Stone, Mayor from his appointment in 1189 until his death in 1212, and Richard Chicheley, Mayor in 1422. Chicheley’s will, incidentally, provided for a good dinner and two pence to be given to 2400 poor men of the City each year upon the anniversary of his birthday.

The church was gutted in the Great Fire of 1666, and never rebuilt, the former parish uniting with that of St Swithin London Stone.   Some materials salvaged from the shell of the church were used in the rebuilding of St Swithin’s.

Some parish boundary markers and a Corporation “Blue Plaque” mark its former site, on what is now Cannon Street. There are also registers of Christenings, Marriages and Burials in the Guildhall Library that date back to 1536 – three years before registration was officially mandated in 1539. 

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