St George the Martyr, Southwark

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 George the Martyr, Southwark was originally built in the twelfth century,  and subsequently rebuilt in the fourteenth. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “sometime pertaining to the priory of Bermondsey, by the gift of Thomas Arderne and Thomas his son, in the year 1122”. He added that “There lie buried in this church William Kirton, esquire, and his wives, 1464”. Edmund Bonner, sometime Bishop of London, was also buried here, in 1569. Bonner was deprived of his bishopric by Henry VIII, but later restored to the See by Mary, only to be deposed again by Elizabeth. He died in the nearby Marshalsea prison, and was buried with other prisoners in the dead of night.

The church was rebuilt again in the eighteenth century, in the Neo-Classical style, by John Price. 

Part of the wall of the second Marshalsea prison may be seen in the churchyard. The second Marshalsea was built in 1811, and Charles Dickens’s father was imprisoned there in 1824. Dickens made extensive reference to it in his novel “Little Dorrit“, published in serial instalments between 1855-57.

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