St Peter le Poer

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-le-Poer, also known as St Peter Broad Street (“24” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London), was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, the earliest written record of it dating to 1181. The church was incorporated into Austin Friars Priory Church, as a private chapel, in around 1265,  then separated from it again after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 (the remaining part of the priory church then becoming the Dutch Church). It was subsequently partially rebuilt and extended  in 1615-31.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow noted that the church was “so called for a difference from another of that name” and “sometime peradventure … poor”, adding that “at this present there be many fair houses, possessed by rich merchants and other [in the parish]” (*). Stow also recorded a number of monuments in the church, including those of “Sir William Roch, mayor 1540” and “Martin Calthrope, mayor, 1588”. Also buried there was the sometime Rector, and Gresham Professor of Divinity, Richard Holdsworth, who died in 1649. In 1643, in the midst of the Civil War, Holdsworth been imprisoned in the Tower for his support of the King, Charles I (he had later been released, and allowed to attend the King in his captivity in Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight in 1647-8)

The church was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666 (although ash from the fire settled on an open prayer book in the church, and obscured the text), but later fell into disrepair, and had to be repaired in 1716 and rebuilt in 1788-92.  It was demolished in 1907-08, when the parish was merged with St Michael Cornhill. 

Nothing now remains of it  at its former site, …

… although parish boundary markers survive on Throgmorton Avenue and Throgmorton Street.  The salvaged pulpit and font also still survive, in St Peter-le-Poer in Friern Barnet.

(*) Others believed the suffix “poor” to refer to the Augustinian Eremites rather than to the parish.

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