St Michael Crooked Lane

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 Crooked Lane, also known as St Michael Candlewick Street (reversed “K”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the thirteenth century, the first written record of it being from around 1270, and subsequently substantially rebuilt and enlarged in the fourteenth, in part by the sometime mayors John Lofkin and William Walworth. It was one of thirteen churches in London in the Middle Ages known as “peculiars”. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as a “fair church”, although “sometime but a small and homely thing”. He also recorded a number of important memorials in the church, including those of the aforementioned Lofkin and Walworth, which latter died in 1385. Lofkin’s tomb bore the inscription: “Worthy John Lovekin, Stock-Fishmonger|Of London, here is leyd,|Four times of this City Lord Maior hee|Was “|if Truth be seyd”. Walworth’s: “Here lieth entombed in a Chappell of his own foundation, Sir William Walworth, Knight, Lord Maior of London, whose manfull prowesse against the Arch-Rebel Wat Tyler and his conferederates [in the so-called “Peasants’ Revolt” if 1381] is much commended”.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt by Wren, or Hooke,  in 1684-98, only to be demolished     in 1831, to allow for widening of the approach to the rebuilt  London Bridge, when the former parish was united with that of St Magnus the Martyr. 

It is one of the twenty-one “lost” Wren churches.

Essentially nothing now remains of it  on its former site, although there  is a parish boundary marker on the tower of St Magnus the Martyr.  The so-called “Falstaff” Cup of 1590 was salvaged from St Michael’s, and still survives, in the Treasury of St Paul’s.  According to legend, this is the cup on which, in the “Boar’s Head” Tavern (where St Michael’s held its vestry meetings), Sir John Falstaff swore to wed Mistress Quickly.  The inscription on one of the graves in the churchyard  was immortalised  by the antiquarian John Weever in a book of 1631.  It reads, most  succinctly:  “Here lyeth, wrapt in clay|The body of William Wray|I have no more to say”. 

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