St Mary Colechurch

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 Mary Colechurch (not shown on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built in the twelfth  century. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow wrote “I find no monuments of this church, more than that Henry IV granted license to William Marshall and others to found a brotherhood of St Katherine therein, because Thomas Becket … [was] … baptized there [in 1120/1]”. The chaplain, one Peter Colechurch, was the man who managed the building of the “old” London Bridge between 1176-1209 (he died in 1205, and was buried in the chapel on the bridge). The bridge was an important link in the pilgrimage route from London to Canterbury, where Becket was martyred in 1170.

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The church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666, and never rebuilt, the former parish uniting with that of St Mildred Poultry, despite the former parishioners protesting that it was “perpetually disturbed by the noises of carts and coaches, and wants sufficient place for burials”. It transpired that bodies were buried in the pre-Great Fire St Mary’s below the floor of the church and above the arches on which it had been built. A Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks  the former site of the church, which was also that of the Mercers’ School from 1672-1787. A parish boundary marker also survives.

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