St Michael Bassishaw

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 Michael Bassishaw (“22” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as 1141. It was referred to in Pope NIcholas IV’s “Taxatio Eccelasiastica” of 1291 as “S Michalis de Basingshawe“, from its proximity to Basing’s Hall, the great house of the prominent Basing family (it is recorded that, in 1246, Henry III confirmed the advowson to one Adam de Basing). In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow describes it as “a proper church lately re-edified or new built”, at the expense of John Barton, mercer, and Agnes his wife, “great benefactors, as appeareth by his mark placed throughout the … church”. John Barton died in 1460, and was buried in the choir of the church, with this epitaph: “John Barton lyeth vnder here.|Sometimes of London, citizen and mercere,|And Ienet his wife, with their progenie,|Beene turned to earth, as ye may see.|Friends free what so ye bee,|Pray for vs we you pray,|As you see vs in this degree.|So shall you be another day”. A number of other notable memorials were also noted by Stow, including those of “James Yarford, mercer, mayor, deceased 1526, buried … with his lady in a special chapel by him built on the north side of the choir”, and “John Gresham, mercer, mayor, deceased 1554”. In the “Plague Year” of 1665, the Rector, Francis Hall, a Chaplain to Charles II, fled London for the country, and only returned to claim his dues when the tithe was inaugurated in 1670, much to the disgust of the parishioners. His replacement, a priest named Philips, died of the plague in September 1665, together with his wife and three children.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt by Wren in 1676-9. It eventually fell into disrepair, and was  declared an unsafe structure in 1892, and demolished     in 1900, when the parish was merged with St Lawrence Jewry. 

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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A Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks the  former site of the church.   The weather-vane salvaged from the church still survives, atop St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe. 

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