St Stephen Coleman Street

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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 Stephen Coleman Street (not shown  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London), also known as St Stephen in the Jewry, was originally built at least as long ago as the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the oldest written reference to it dating to sometime in the reign of King John (1199-1216); and it was subsequently repaired and extended in the early seventeenth. In the early Middle Ages, it may only have been a chapel-of-ease to St Olave Jewry, but by the middle of the fifteenth century was evidently a parish church in its own right. In 1431, John Sokelyng, who owned a neighbouring brewery called “La Cokke on the hoop”‘, bequeathed a sum to the church on condition that it perform a Mass on the anniversary of his death and those of his two wives. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow found many of the monuments in the church “defaced”, but nonetheless was able to recognise a number, including that of “Thomas Bradbery, mercer, mayor, the 1st of Henry VIII. [1509]” Also buried in the church was the playwright, anti-Catholic propagandist and “pursuivant” Anthony Munday, who continued Stow’s “Survey”, and who died in 1633. In the early seventeenth century, St. Stephen’s was something of a stronghold of Puritanism. In 1624, John Davenport was appointed Vicar, and in 1637 he set sail for the Americas, with some of his parishioners, there – eventually – to found the colony of New Haven in Connecticut.

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The church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt again, by Wren, in 1674-81.  It was destroyed by bombing on  the night of 29th December, 1940 (the night of the “The Second Great Fire of London”). 

It is one of the twenty-one “lost” Wren churches, and one of the four lost during the Blitz of the Second World War.

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Nothing  of it remains at its original site, other than   some parish  boundary markers bearing the insignia of the “cock-a-hoop”. 

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A replica of the carved panel depicting the Last Judgement, that once stood above the entrance to the church, may be seen in the Museum of London. 

St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, put to death by stoning in Jerusalem in or around the year 35AD.

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