Category Archives: London History

St Swithin London Stone

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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. 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 Swithin London Stone (“S” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the thirteenth century, the oldest written reference to it being in Pope Nicholas IV’s “Taxatio Ecclesiastica” of 1291.  It was subsequently rebuilt in 1420. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow recorded a number of monuments in the church, including those of “Sir John Hend, draper, mayor [1391 and 1404]”, and “especial” benefactor, who “lieth buried … with a fair stone upon him, but the plates and inscriptions are defaced”, and “Ralph Jecoline, mayor [1464]”, another benefactor, “buried in a fair tomb”. Later, at some point during the inter-regnum (1649-60), the Rector, Richard Owen, was ejected from his post for his support of the Royalist cause, evidently going on to hold clandestine services in the home of the diarist John Evelyn. John Dryden was married to Lady Elizabeth Howard in the church in 1663.   

The church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt again, by Wren, in 1677-86, using materials salvaged from St Mary Bothaw.  It went on to be severely damaged by bombing in 1941, and to be demolished in 1957. 

It is one of the twenty-one “lost” Wren churches, and one of the four lost during the Blitz of the Second World War.

Essentially only the so-called “London Stone”, that had been built into the south wall of the church in 1798, still   survives at its former site, as stipulated in the conditions for its redevelopment. 

Note, through, that there are also parish boundary markers on Cannon Street and in Oxford Court.  

The churchyard  also survives,  between Oxford Court and Salters Hall Court.  The Welsh freedom fighter Owain  Glyndwr’s daughter Catrin and her  daughters were buried here after dying in captivity in the Tower of London  in 1413, the year in which Henry IV died.  (The circumstances were suspicious, as Catrin’s daughters, by Edmund Mortimer, had a claim to the throne at the time). 

A modern Gelligaer bluestone sculpture by Nic Stradlyn-John and Richard Renshaw, inscribed with a Welsh englyn by Menna Elfyn, marks the spot.  (Freely) rendered into English, by me, the  englyn reads: “In the Tower, now her home,|Her heart-song turns to longing:|The exile’s silent lament”.  

Swithin was Bishop of Winchester in the ninth century.

St Stephen Walbrook

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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. 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 Stephen Walbrook (“R”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built on the west side of the street at least as long ago as the eleventh century, the oldest written reference to it dating to around 1096. It was subsequently rebuilt on the east side of the street, on a plot provided by the sometime mayor, Sir Robert Chichley, in 1439, and repaired in the early seventeenth century, in or before 1615. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as a “fair church”, and recorded a number of its monuments, including those to “Sir Richard Lee, mayor [1460 and 1469]”, “Sir John Cootes, mayor 1542” and “Rowland Hill, mayor 1549”, not to mention “John Dunstable, master of astronomy and music”, [who died] in the year 1453″, “Dr Owyn, physician to King Henry VIII.” and “Sir Thomas Pope, first treasurer of the augmentations”.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt by Wren between 1672-9, in the Baroque style, and with a dome that was a prototype for that of St Paul’s. It was then modified in the eighteenth century, when the spire was added, modified again in the nineteenth, damaged during the Second World War of the early twentieth,  and restored in the post-war period, and again, to redress subsidence into the soft sediments of the River Walbrook, between 1978-87.  The interior, approached up a flight of steps, is domed and filled with light, very much “in the spirit of St Paul’s”, and very beautiful (although, according to one critic, “worthy not of    Purcell, who never forgot his heart, but of J.S. Bach, who sometimes mislaid his”).  Vanbrugh is buried here, although he has no monument.

Nathaniel Hodges, a  local doctor who had dedicated himself to the treatment of those afflicted by the “Great Plague” of 1665,  is also buried here, and commemorated by a plaque.  Twice Hodges had thought himself succumbing to the symptoms of the disease, and twice he had kept it at bay by drinking increased draughts of sack (he had also taken a preventive electuary as large as a nutmeg each day). He had then gone on to write an account of his experiences, entitled “Loimologia … “, in 1672, lamenting therein the uselessness of bezoar stone, unicorn horn and dried toad as anti-pestilential treatments. Tragically, he had died a pauper in Ludgate Prison in 1688.

St Stephen Coleman Street

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is st-stephen-coleman-street.jpg

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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. 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 Stephen Coleman Street (not shown  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London), also known as St Stephen in the Jewry, was originally built at least as long ago as the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the oldest written reference to it dating to sometime in the reign of King John (1199-1216); and it was subsequently repaired and extended in the early seventeenth. In the early Middle Ages, it may only have been a chapel-of-ease to St Olave Jewry, but by the middle of the fifteenth century was evidently a parish church in its own right. In 1431, John Sokelyng, who owned a neighbouring brewery called “La Cokke on the hoop”‘, bequeathed a sum to the church on condition that it perform a Mass on the anniversary of his death and those of his two wives. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow found many of the monuments in the church “defaced”, but nonetheless was able to recognise a number, including that of “Thomas Bradbery, mercer, mayor, the 1st of Henry VIII. [1509]” Also buried in the church was the playwright, anti-Catholic propagandist and “pursuivant” Anthony Munday, who continued Stow’s “Survey”, and who died in 1633. In the early seventeenth century, St. Stephen’s was something of a stronghold of Puritanism. In 1624, John Davenport was appointed Vicar, and in 1637 he set sail for the Americas, with some of his parishioners, there – eventually – to found the colony of New Haven in Connecticut.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is st_stephen_coleman_street.jpg

The church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666, and rebuilt again, by Wren, in 1674-81.  It was destroyed by bombing on  the night of 29th December, 1940 (the night of the “The Second Great Fire of London”). 

It is one of the twenty-one “lost” Wren churches, and one of the four lost during the Blitz of the Second World War.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is st-stephen-coleman-street-1.jpg

Nothing  of it remains at its original site, other than   some parish  boundary markers bearing the insignia of the “cock-a-hoop”. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is entrance-gate-with-last-judgement-panel.jpg

A replica of the carved panel depicting the Last Judgement, that once stood above the entrance to the church, may be seen in the Museum of London. 

St. Stephen was the first Christian martyr, put to death by stoning in Jerusalem in or around the year 35AD.

St Peter le Poer

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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. 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 Peter-le-Poer, also known as St Peter Broad Street (“24” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London), was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, the earliest written record of it dating to 1181. The church was incorporated into Austin Friars Priory Church, as a private chapel, in around 1265,  then separated from it again after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 (the remaining part of the priory church then becoming the Dutch Church). It was subsequently partially rebuilt and extended  in 1615-31.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow noted that the church was “so called for a difference from another of that name” and “sometime peradventure … poor”, adding that “at this present there be many fair houses, possessed by rich merchants and other [in the parish]” (*). Stow also recorded a number of monuments in the church, including those of “Sir William Roch, mayor 1540” and “Martin Calthrope, mayor, 1588”. Also buried there was the sometime Rector, and Gresham Professor of Divinity, Richard Holdsworth, who died in 1649. In 1643, in the midst of the Civil War, Holdsworth been imprisoned in the Tower for his support of the King, Charles I (he had later been released, and allowed to attend the King in his captivity in Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight in 1647-8)

The church was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666 (although ash from the fire settled on an open prayer book in the church, and obscured the text), but later fell into disrepair, and had to be repaired in 1716 and rebuilt in 1788-92.  It was demolished in 1907-08, when the parish was merged with St Michael Cornhill. 

Nothing now remains of it  at its former site, …

… although parish boundary markers survive on Throgmorton Avenue and Throgmorton Street.  The salvaged pulpit and font also still survive, in St Peter-le-Poer in Friern Barnet.

(*) Others believed the suffix “poor” to refer to the Augustinian Eremites rather than to the parish.

St Peter Paul’s Wharf

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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. 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 Peter Paul’s Wharf (“S. Perer” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, the first written reference to it – as “St Peter Parva [the Little]” – dating to 1170, and subsequently repaired in 1625 and again in 1655. A list of the church’s possessions drawn up in around 1180 includes a fragment of the true cross housed in a specially crafted silver-gilt crucifix.

In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “a small parish church”, adding that “no monuments do remain”. Later, in his diary entry for March 25th, 1649, Evelyn noted “I heard the Common Prayer (a rare thing in these days) in St Peter’s at St Paul’s Wharf”. It appears that at this time large congregations were drawn to the church to attend services of the sort recently theoretically banned under Cromwell, and indeed even to take Communion. Newcourt noted how “its galleries were hung with Turkey carpet for the accommodation of the nobility”.

The  church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666 and never rebuilt, the former parish uniting with that of St Benet Paul’s Wharf.   Essentially nothing now remains of the church at its former site, other than the name, which lives on in that of Peter’s Hill.  However,  some headstones were saved and transferred to St Ann Blackfriars when the churchyard was built over in 1962.

St Peter upon Cornhill

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is weathervane.jpg

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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. 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 Peter  upon Cornhill (“29” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the early  eleventh  century, the earliest written record of it being in the will of Bishop Aelfric, who died in 1038. According to local lore, the church was founded in Roman times, and, interestingly, the present incarnation lies within the footprint of the disused second – to third- century Roman Basilica, possibly at least in part adopting its form, as was common early Christian practice.    It was at least partially rebuilt in the  fifteenth century, and restored  in the early seventeenth, in 1630.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “an ancient building, … lately repaired, if not all new built”, with “the roof … and glazing … finished in the reign of Edward IV. [1442-83]”. He also recorded a number of – defaced – monuments, including “Sir William Bowyer, mayor 1543; Sir Henry Huberthorn, mayor 1546; Sir Christopher Morice, master-gunner … to Henry VIII.; [and] Edward Elrington, esquire, chief butler to Edward VI.”. The patronage was at one time held by the owner of the manor of the Leaden-Hall, but in 1411 was transferred by Sir Richard [Dick] Whittington to the Mayor and Commonalty.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is interior.jpg
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is closeup.jpg

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt by  Wren, probably assisted by Hooke, between 1667-87, and restored in the nineteenth century.   The church’s weather-vane bears St Peter’s symbol of crossed keys (to the kingdom of heaven).  

St Peter Cheap or Westcheap

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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. 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 Peter Cheap or Westcheap, also known as St Peter Wood Street or St Peter by the Cross (“15” on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, the earliest record of it dating to 1196. It was subsequently partially rebuilt in 1491, at the expense of Thomas Wood, goldsmith and sheriff, and again in 1503, using moneys bequeathed by and John Shaw, sometime mayor, for “the … Church … to be bylded and made wt a flatte roofe” and also “the Stepull there to be made up in gode and conuenient manr”. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow noted that among the burials in the church was that of Nicholas Farringdon, goldsmith and four-times mayor, who died in 1361. The churchwardens’ accounts, dating to 1453, contain interesting entries relating to pre-Reformation practices and items, such as provision of a room for the morrow-mass priest, a veil to be hung in the quire during Lent, and bread and wine for the singers of the Passion on Palm Sunday, not to mention “setting up the stage for the Prophets”. My twelve-times great uncle, Simon West, stationer, was a churchwarden in the early seventeenth century.

The  church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666,  and not rebuilt again afterwards, the former parish uniting with that of St Matthew Friday Street.   The former churchyard on Wood Street survives as a city garden, containing a venerable plane tree, in which, in Wordsworth’s poem “The Reverie of Poor Susan“, written in 1797, “hangs a thrush that sings loud”. Some parish boundary markers also survive.

St Pancras Soper Lane

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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. 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 Pancras Soper Lane, Pancras Lane (“X”  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the thirteenth century, the oldest record of it dating to 1257. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “a … small church”, but with “divers rich parishioners … , and of old time many liberal benefactors”. He also recorded a number of monuments, many of them “spoiled”, including those of “John Barens, mercer. mayor 1370”, “John Hadley, grocer, mayor 1379”, “John Stockton, mercer, mayor 1470”, “Richard Gardener, mercer, mayor 1478”, and “Robert Packenton, mercer, slain with a gun shot … as he was going to morrow mass from his house in Cheap”. Henry Machyn wrote of a wedding that took place in the church in 1561 that it was attended by a number of aldermen robed in scarlet finery, who gave as a wedding gift a hundred pairs of gloves. The Rector during the Civil War of the mid-seventeenth century, one George Ecoppe, was ejected from his post for being “a notorious Popish ceremony-monger”.

The  church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666 and never rebuilt, the former parish uniting with that of St Mary-le-Bow.   A Corporation “Blue Plaque” marks its former site. 

Pancras was an early Christian proselytiser martyred on the orders of the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 304.

St Olave Silver Street

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is st-olave-silver-street-memento-mori.jpg

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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. 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 Olave Silver Street, London Wall (not shown  on sixteenth-century “Agas” map/Map of Early Modern London) was originally built at least as long ago as the twelfth century, the earliest known record of it – as “St Olave de Mukewellstrate [Monkwell Street]” – dating to 1181; and subsequently rebuilt in 1609. In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “a small thing, and without any noteworthy monuments”. However, it was evidently sufficiently wealthy in – pre-Reformation – Medieval times as to have had the figure of Christ on the rood decorated with silver shoes.

The  church was burned down   in the Great Fire of 1666 and never rebuilt, the former parish uniting with that of St Alban Wood Street.   Surviving parish records show that in 1665-6 the corpses of 119 people hanged at Tyburn were handed over to the nearby Barber-Surgeons’ Hall for the purposes of  dissection. 

The former churchyard survives, as a city garden. 

Silver Street disappeared during the bombing of the Second World War and subsequent redevelopment.  Shakespeare once lodged here, with a family of Huguenots.

St Olave Jewry

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, despite a number having been closed down during the Reformation. 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 Olave Jewry, so named for its situation in the old Jewish quarter, essentially of the twelfth to thirteenth centuries, was probably originally built sometime in the  eleventh, at which time it appears to have been known as St Olave Upwell. It was added to in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.  In his “Survey of London” of 1598, Stow described it as “a proper parish church”, and added that “in this church, … the monuments of the dead remain less defaced than in many others”. The monuments included those of “T. Morsted, esquire, chirurgeon to Henry IV., V. and VI., one of the sheriffs 1436 – he built a fair aisle to the enlargement of this church, on the north side thereof, wherein he lieth buried”, “Robert Large, mercer. mayor 1440 – he gave to that church two hundred pounds”, and “Giles Dewes, servant to Henry VII. and to Henry VIII., clerk of their libraries and schoolmaster for the French tongue to Prince Arthur [Henry VIII’s elder brother] and to the Lady Mary, 1535”.

The church was burned down in the Great Fire of 1666, and subsequently rebuilt by  Wren between 1670-9. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is st-olave-jewry.jpg

It was substantially demolished sometime between 1887 and 1892 (sources differ), when the parish was merged with St Margaret Lothbury. The tower still stands, although modified from its original form in  1892 and again in 1986-7, and now serving as an office.  The topping weather-vane in the shape of a ship was salvaged from St Mildred Poultry.