St Mary Magdalene Old Fish 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. 

St Mary Magdalen Old Fish Street (“13”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the late twelfth century, the oldest written record of it being from 1181, in which year “Ralph de Diceto, Dean, was in possession, but a certain ‘Richard’, a perpertual vicar, had the cure”. It was recorded as “S. Mary Magdalene in Piscaria” in Pope Nicholas IV’s “Taxatio Ecclesiastica” of 1291 (and as “S. Marie Magdalene in veteri piscaria” in Henry VIII’s “Valor Ecclesiasticus” of 1534). John Carpenter was rector of the church in 1436-8. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, John Stow described it as “a small church, having but few monuments”. John Evelyn noted in his diary that on Easter Day 1653, “a Scotchman” preached on the Gospel, and conducted an illicit communion.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt by Wren in 1683-7. It was substantially destroyed by another fire in 1886, and demolished in 1893, when the parish was merged with St Martin Ludgate. 

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

Essentially nothing now remains of it  at its former site.   The salvaged font survives in All Hallows-on-the-Wall. Some salvaged interior fittings survive in St Martin Ludgate, including a plaque of 1586 honouring a benefactor, Thomas Berrie, and bearing the following inscription: “How small soever the gifte shall be,|Thanke God for him who gives it thee.|xii penie loves to xii poor foulkes|Geve everie sabothe day for aye”.  

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