St Margaret Westminster

The last in the series on historic churches in the City of Westminster …

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. There were a further five in the City and Liberties of Westminster.

St Margaret Westminster was originally  built in the late eleventh century, and subsequently rebuilt in the fourteenth, and again in the late fifteenth to early sixteenth, between 1482-1523 (although it has been much modified since).  As Stow put it, in his “Survey of London” of 1598, the church, “sometime within the abbey, was by Edward the Confessor [r. 1042-66] removed, and built without, for ease of the monks. … [It] continued till the days of Edward I [r. 1272-1307], at which time the merchants of the staple and parishioners of Westminster built it all of new, … and … remaineth now a fair parish church”.

It became the unofficial the “parish” church of the House of Commons in 1614.   In 1647, under the Puritans, the wardens were fined for celebrating Christmas!  Among those buried here are William Caxton (d. 1491/2) (whose printing press was nearby, at the sign of the “Red Pale”), Walter Ralegh (d. 1618) (who was executed nearby, in New Palace Yard), John Pym (d. 1643) and Wenceslaus Hollar (d. 1677).  And among those married here, Samuel  Pepys (in 1655) and John Milton (in 1656) – not to mention Winston Churchill.  

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