St Mary Woolchurch Haw

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 Woolchurch Haw (“Q”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built by one Hubert de Ria during the reign of William the Conqueror between 1066-1087, and subsequently rebuilt during that of Henry VI, in 1442, in part to allow for the expansion of the neighbouring Stocks Market. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow wrote that it was “so called of a beam placed in the churchyard, which was thereof called Wool Church Haw, of the tronage or weighing of wool there used”. He also recorded a number of monuments inside the church, including that of “John Winyar, grocer, mayor 1504, a great helper to the building of this church, … there buried 1505”. The rector at the commencement of the Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, one John Tireman, was compelled to retire in consequence of his loyalty to the Crown rather than to Parliament. After the war, and the Restoration of the Monarchy, an equestrian statue of the then-King, Charles II (r. 1660-1685), was erected outside the church. Andrew Marvell wrote a poem featuring an imagined dialogue between the horse in this statue and the one in the statue of Charles I at Charing Cross (which latter is still there). In this poem, the Woolchurch horse expresses an unexpected sneaking regard for Oliver Cromwell: “Though his government did a tyrant’s resemble|He made England great and his enemies tremble”.

The church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666,  and not rebuilt again afterwards, the former parish uniting with that of St Mary Woolnoth.   The churchwarden at the time, Thomas Langley, was evidently able to save some of the church’s treasures from the fire, but sadly not his personal possessions.

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A Corporation “Blue Plaque” on the wall of the eighteenth-century Mansion House marks the former site of the church.

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