St Andrew Holborn

Resurrection Scene …

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. 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 Andrew Holborn was originally built in timber at least as long ago as the mid-tenth century  (being referred to as an “old wooden church” in a Charter of Westminster Abbey of 951), and subsequently rebuilt in stone in the fifteenth.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow recorded a number of monuments in the church, including those of “Thomas, Lord Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, buried 1550” and “Ralph Rokeby of Lincoln’s Inn, esquire, Master of St Katherine’s, and one of the masters of requests to the queen’s majesty, who deceased … 1596”. In his will, Rokeby left “to Christ’s Hospital in London one hundred pounds, to the college of the poor of Queen Elizabeth in East Greenwich one hundred pounds, … to the prisoners in the two compters in London two hundred pounds, to the prisoners in the Fleet … , … in Ludgate … , … in Newgate … , … in the King’s Bench … , … [and] … in the Marshalsea one hundred pounds, to the prisoners in the White Lion twenty pounds [one wonders what they must have done to deserve such discriminatory treatment], to the poor of St Katherine’s twenty pounds, and to every brother and sister there forty shillings”. At the time, £100 was approximately six times the annual wage of a skilled tradesman.

According to most sources, the church was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666.  Note, though, that there is a building on Hatton Garden that was, according to a plaque affixed to the outside,  erected as a church  “to serve the needs of the neighbourhood after St Andrew’s Holborn had been destroyed in the Great Fire”.  In either case,  the church was rebuilt by Wren ?and Hawksmoor between 1684-7.  It was later  restored in the nineteenth century, and again in the twentieth, after sustaining bomb damage during the Blitz.  The stone arches leading to the altar in the chapel are original, fifteenth-century.  Thomas Coram, the founder of the Foundlings’ Hospital in Coram’s Fields, is buried in the church.  The Renatus Harris organ presented by Handel  to the same Foundlings’  Hospital can now be seen in the church.

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