Category Archives: Buildings that survived the Great Fire

St Andrew Undershaft

Another in the  series on City of London buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666, and that still survive to this day …

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The church of St Andrew Undershaft was originally  built in the twelfth century, and rebuilt in the fourteenth, and again, in the Perpendicular Gothic style, in around 1520-32.  It was undamaged in the Great Fire, although the seventeenth-century stained-glass windows were destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1992.

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The artist Hans Holbein was a parishioner here.  Among the many memorials inside is   one to the Merchant Taylor and amateur antiquarian John Stow (d. 1605), the author of “A Survay of London” (the famous last  words of which were “And so I end, wanting time to travel further in this work”).

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Stow appears  with a quill-pen in his hand.  Every third year, on or around the anniversary of his death on April 5th, as part of a special service in his memory, he   is ceremonially presented  with a new quill (and his old one is given to the  winner of an essay competition for local children, with London as its subject).

 

St Alphage London Wall

Another in the  series on City of London buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666, and that still survive to this day …

The church of St Alphage London Wall was originally built a little to the north of its present location sometime before 1108, and moved to its present location, on the site of the dissolved priory church of Elsing Spital, in 1536.  It was undamaged in the Great Fire,  although it was  substantially rebuilt in the eighteenth century, and further restored in the early twentieth.   It then fell into disrepair, and indeed was partially demolished, following the merger of the parish with that of St Mary Aldermanbury in 1924, and was substantially destroyed during the Blitz, with only a partial shell surviving to this day.

 

All Hallows Staining

Another in the  series on City of London buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666, and that still survive to this day …

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The church of All Hallows Staining was originally built  in around 1177, and rebuilt in the fourteenth  or fifteenth century (sources differ).  It was undamaged   in the Great Fire.  However,  most  of the church   fell down in 1671, due to undermining of the foundations by – Plague – burials,   and it had to be rebuilt in 1674-5, before being substantially demolished in 1870, when the parish was merged with St Olave Hart Street.

The  fourteenth- or fifteenth- century tower still stands, thanks to the initiative of the Clothworkers’ Company, who were also responsible for restoring it in 1873.  The foundations are  original, twelfth-century.  The crypt is also twelfth-century, although it has been transported from its original location in the chapel of St James-in-the-Wall.  Two sword-rests salvaged from the church can be seen in St Olave Hart Street, a third in St Andrew Undershaft.

 

All Hallows Barking

The first in a series on City of London buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666, and that still survive to this day …

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The church of All Hallows Barking, also known as All Hallows-by-the-Tower, was originally   built in the Saxon period, and considerably added to in the later Medieval and post-Medieval.  It was undamaged in the Great  Fire, thanks to the action of Admiral William Penn (*), who ordered  his men to blow up some  surrounding buildings to create a  firebreak; although it was nonetheless partially rebuilt in the late nineteenth century.

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It was then gutted in the Blitz, when “the tower of the church acted like a chimney, drawing the flames upwards and intensifying them” and “wood blazed, stones calcinated, lead poured down walls and the bells melted”, and rebuilt again by Lord Mottistone in a “happy blend” of Ancient and Neo-Perpendicular styles, and rededicated in 1957.

A Saxon arch of around 675 survives in the nave; together with  two Saxon crosses, of 900 and 1000, in the crypt.  The cross of 900 bears a Saxon Runic inscription.  The one of 1000 features on one of its faces a depiction of Christ trampling beasts, a common motif in Dark Age iconography.

Among the  many surviving Medieval – to Post-Medieval – features are an  altar table of stone from the thirteenth-century Crusaders’ castle at At(h)lit below Mount Carmel in the Holy Land; numerous monuments, including brasses to William Tong (d. 1389) and John Bacon (d. 1437), and a canopied tomb to John Croke (d. 1477); a fine Flemish painted panelled altar-piece, known as the Tate Panel, dating to at least the fifteenth century; numerous sculptures, including a carved wooden one of St James of Compostela, dating to the fifteenth century, and a carved ivory one of Christ salvaged from the flagship of the Spanish Armada in 1588; and the seventeenth-century tower, from which Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire.

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Also of note are the pulpit, originally from St Swithin London Stone, dating to 1678; and the exquisitely intricately carved lime-wood font-cover by Grinling Gibbons, dating  to 1682.

On a macabre note, the headless bodies of Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More, beheaded on nearby Tower Hill in 1535, and that of Archbishop William Laud, beheaded  in 1645, were once temporarily buried here before being moved to their  final resting places (Fisher’s and More’s in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London).

(*)  Admiral William Penn’s son, also named William, was baptised here in 1644.  Famously, he went on to found Pennsylvania in 1681.