Another in the series on the historic churches of the out-parishes 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. There were a further twelve in the out-parishes of Middlesex (north of the river) and Surrey (south of the river).
St James Clerkenwell began its life as a priory church attached to the Augustinian Priory of St Mary, originally built in the twelfth century. It became a parish church after the Reformation and Dissolution of the Monasteries in the sixteenth century.
It was subsequently rebuilt in the early seventeenth century, in 1625, and thereafter occasionally attended by Samuel Pepys. It was rebuilt again in the eighteenth century, in 1792, and restored in the nineteenth, in 1849 and 1882.
The names of many “heretics” who who burned at the stake in nearby West Smithfield are inscribed on a wooden plaque.
Also memorialised in the church are innocent by-standers killed when members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, “seeking to release one of their confederates”, blew up part of the nearby House of Detention in 1867. The incident came to be known as the “Clerkenwell Outrage”.