St Peter Paul’s Wharf

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 Peter Paul’s Wharf (“S. Perer” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, the first written reference to it – as “St Peter Parva [the Little]” – dating to 1170, and subsequently repaired in 1625 and again in 1655. A list of the church’s possessions drawn up in around 1180 includes a fragment of the true cross housed in a specially crafted silver-gilt crucifix.

In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “a small parish church”, adding that “no monuments do remain”. Later, in his diary entry for March 25th, 1649, Evelyn noted “I heard the Common Prayer (a rare thing in these days) in St Peter’s at St Paul’s Wharf”. It appears that at this time large congregations were drawn to the church to attend services of the sort recently theoretically banned under Cromwell, and indeed even to take Communion. Newcourt noted how “its galleries were hung with Turkey carpet for the accommodation of the nobility”.

The  church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666 and never rebuilt, the former parish uniting with that of St Benet Paul’s Wharf.   Essentially nothing now remains of the church at its former site, other than the name, which lives on in that of Peter’s Hill.  However,  some headstones were saved and transferred to St Ann Blackfriars when the churchyard was built over in 1962.

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