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 Giles Cripplegate was originally built in around 1090, by one Alfune, later the first Hospitaller of St Batholomew’s Hospital (possibly on the site of an even older, Saxon, church); and subsequently partially rebuilt in 1360 or 1394 (sources differ), by John Balancer; and again, following a fire, in 1545; and repaired and altered in 1623 and 1629. It was referred to as “S. Egidius extra Crepulgate” in Pope Nicholas IV’s “Taxatio Ecclesiastica” of 1291.
In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “at first a small thing, stood in place where now standeth the vicarage-house, but … since at divers times much enlarged, … and at length newly built in place where now it standeth. But the same new church being large, strongly built and rich with ornaments, was in the year 1545, by casualty of fire, sore burnt and consumed, notwithstanding it was again within a short space of time repaired, as now it showeth”.
The church was essentially unaffected by the Great Fire of 1666, although the churchwardens’ accounts do record some heat-damage to the windows. It was nonetheless altered in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and repaired, following another fire, in the late nineteenth. It was then severely damaged by bombing on the nights of 24th/25th August and 29th December, 1940, and substantially rebuilt by Godfrey Allen in 1960-6.
The walls are in part original, fourteenth-century.
Inside are memorials to the the explorer Martin Frobisher, who died at sea, fighting the Spanish, in 1594; …
… the map-maker John Speed, who died in 1629; …
… and the poet, man of letters, and statesman of the Civil War and Commonwealth eras, John Milton, who died in 1674.
John Foxe, the author of “Acts and Monuments“, otherwise known as “Fox’s Book of Martyrs“, was buried in the church, in 1597. Oliver Cromwell was married there in 1620.
A stained-glass window commemorates the sometime parishioner, church benefactor and Shakespearean-era actor Edward Alleyn, who was famed for his performances in the “Fortune Theatre”, which stood nearby.
Giles or Egidius is the patron saint of cripples, indigents and social outcasts.