St Olave Jewry

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 Olave Jewry, so named for its situation in the old Jewish quarter, essentially of the twelfth to thirteenth centuries, was probably originally built sometime in the  eleventh, at which time it appears to have been known as St Olave Upwell. It was added to in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “a proper parish church”, and added that “in this church, … the monuments of the dead remain less defaced than in many others”. The monuments included those of “T. Morsted, esquire, chirurgeon to Henry IV., V. and VI., one of the sheriffs 1436 – he built a fair aisle to the enlargement of this church, on the north side thereof, wherein he lieth buried”, “Robert Large, mercer. mayor 1440 – he gave to that church two hundred pounds”, and “Giles Dewes, servant to Henry VII. and to Henry VIII., clerk of their libraries and schoolmaster for the French tongue to Prince Arthur [Henry VIII’s elder brother] and to the Lady Mary, 1535”.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt by  Wren between 1670-9. 

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It was substantially demolished sometime between 1887 and 1892 (sources differ), when the parish was merged with St Margaret Lothbury. The tower still stands, although modified from its original form in  1892 and again in 1986-7, and now serving as an office.  The topping weather-vane in the shape of a ship was salvaged from St Mildred Poultry. 

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