St Matthew Friday Street

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 Matthew Friday Street (church with wooden façade  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as 1261, the first written reference to it being from that date. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow noted few monuments in the church, including those of two former sheriffs, “Ralph Allen, grocer, … deceased 1546” and “Anthony Gamage, ironmonger, … deceased 1579”. In 1636, the rector, Henry Burton, a Puritan, was deprived of his benefice, heavily fined, and put in the pillory, for preaching against the “popish innovations” of the bishops (one source maintains that he also had his ears cut off). And in 1662, the then rector, whose name is unknown, was ejected from his post for his refusal to use the “Book of Common Prayer” in accordance with the newly instituted Act of Uniformity.

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The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt by Wren in 1681-7, only to be demolished     in 1881, when the parish was merged with St Vedast-alias-Foster. 

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It is one of the twenty-one “lost” Wren churches, and one of the ten lost between 1880 (“Union of Benefices Act”) and 1900.

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Only some parish boundary  markers survive at its former site.   Some salvaged interior fittings also survive, in St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe and St Vedast-alias-Foster. 

Sir Hugh Myddelton (1555-1631), one of the architects of   the “New River”, was buried in St Matthew’s, where he had served as a warden.  Concerted  attempts to locate his coffin and monument following the church’s demolition were ultimately unsuccessful. 

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