St Botolph Aldgate

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. 

A portion of the sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of early Modern London, showing St Botolph without Aldgate (to the right), and also part of Holy Trinity Priory (to the left)

St Botolph Aldgate is thought to have been originally built by the Cnihtengild in the tenth century, in the reign of the Saxon King Edgar (957-75). It was subsequently rebuilt by Holy Trinity Priory, who had acquired in it the early twelfth century, in the early sixteenth (just before the  Dissolution of the Monasteries), and restored in the early seventeenth.

Interestingly, surviving records indicate that as long ago early Modern times the parish was conspicuously ethnically diverse, with persons of colour accounting for perhaps 5% of the parishioners.

The church was undamaged in the Great  Fire of 1666, which did not reach this far east. It was nonetheless essentially completely rebuilt by George Dance the Elder in the eighteenth century, and further modified in the nineteenth and twentieth. 

The interior contains a late sixteenth-century memorial to Thomas Darcy and Nicholas Carew, two prominent Catholics who were executed by Henry VIII in the early sixteenth century.  Darcy was executed for his supposed involvement in the so-called “Exeter Plot”, and Carew for his in the “Pilgrimage of Grace”.

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Also that of Robert Dow, Citizen, Merchant-Tailor and sometime Master of the Merchant-Taylors’ Company, who died in 1612.

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And that of John Cass (1661-1718), the founder of the local school that still bears his name.

A large number of victims of the “Great Plague” of 1665 were buried in a “plague pit” adjacent.

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