Tag Archives: St Helen Bishopsgate

The Royal Exchange

1 - The old Royal Exchange

On this day in 1566, the first stone of the original Royal Exchange was laid (*).

3 - Gresham

The building, modelled on the bourse in Antwerp, was the brainchild of the City financier and philanthropist Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-79).  Incidentally, Gresham also founded Gresham College, by bequest.  He is buried in the church of St Helen, Bishopsgate.

The Royal Exchange was burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666.  An eye-witness, one Thomas Vincent, wrote:

“The Royal Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded with much violence.  And when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run round the galleries, filling them with flames; then descendeth the stairs, compasseth the walks, giving forth flaming volleys, and filleth the courts with sheets of fire.  By and by, down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the stone building after them, with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing”.

A replacement building was built in 1669, and burnt down in 1838  …

2 - The new Royal Exchange

… and a second replacement was in turn built in 1844.

4 - Gresham's grasshopper symbol atop the Royal Exchange

The grasshopper on the top of the building is Gresham’s insignia.

(*)  Much to the disgust of native Londoners, the architect was a foreigner.  On a related note, a  census taken in the City on this day in 1567 revealed the presence of “40 Scots, 428 Frenchmen, 45 Spaniards, 140 Italians, 2030 Dutch, 44 Burgundians, 2 Danes and 1 Liegois”.

City of London Buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666

Churches

Of the 97 parish churches within the walls of the City of London at the time of the Great Fire of 1666, only 8, namely, All Hallows Barking, All Hallows Staining, St Alphage, St Andrew Undershaft, St Ethelburga, St Helen, St Katharine Cree, and St Olave Hart Street, survived,  and still survive, with at least some pre-Great Fire structures standing, above ground (*).

Tower of London

Guildhall.JPG

Of the secular buildings, only the Tower of London and the Guildhall, and parts of the Merchant Taylors’ and Apothecaries’ Livery Company Halls, and of the “Olde Wine Shades” public house, still survive.

(*) A further 5 churches, namely All Hallows on the Wall, St James Duke’s Place, St Katherine Coleman, St Martin Outwich and St Peter-le-Poer, also survived  the fire but were either rebuilt or demolished afterwards.

And 84 were burnt down in the fire, of which 49 were rebuilt afterwards, and 35 were not.

The church of St Martin Outwich (1217)

According to John Richardson’s “Annals of London”, the first written record of the church of St Martin Outwich on Threadneedle Street dates to eight hundred years ago, to 1217.

St Martin Outwich

The church survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, but was damaged in another fire in 1765, and, although subsequently rebuilt in 1796, was eventually demolished in 1874.

Oteswich memorial (d. 1400) - Copy

At this time, the tomb of one of its  benefactors, John de Oteswich, who is thought to have died in circa 1400, was relocated to the nearby church of St Helen, Bishopsgate.

At the same time, other Medieval remains were reinterred in Ilford Cemetery, including those  of one Abigail Vaughan, who in her will had left four shillings to the parish to buy faggots to burn heretics!

St Helen Bishopsgate

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 Helen Bishopsgate was originally built in the eleventh century, possibly around 1010, the  adjoining former Benedictine nunnery church in the thirteenth, around 1210, and still later rebuilds, additions and embellishments to the fourteenth through early seventeenth  (*).  It was undamaged by the Great Fire, although nonetheless requiring to be restored in 1893, only to be damaged by IRA bombs in 1992 and 1993,  and restored again in 1993-5.

The exterior of the church is substantially surviving thirteenth-century, although  both  west front doors are later replacements, and the porch housing the south side door is much later, built, in the Renaissance style,  in 1633.   The construction of the church made use of much Roman dressed stone and tile, most likely sourced  either from a   Roman building  that once stood on the site, or from the city wall that once stood a short distance away.

The church is dubbed “The Westminster Abbey of the City” because of the beauty of its interior and the richness of its memorials.

1-coldbrok-memorial-1393

2-oteswich-memorial-c-1400

3-crosby-memorial-1478

4-pickering-memorial-1574

5-gresham-memorial-1579-with-nuns-squint-to-left

6-spencer-memorial-1609

7-bond-memorial-1643

The alabaster effigies of Sir John de Oteswich and his wife, salvaged from the church of St Martin Outwich, date to the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, and numerous other monuments to the fifteenth to seventeenth, including those of Sir John Crosby (d. 1476), Sir Thomas Gresham (d. 1579), and Martin Bond (d. 1643), together with some brasses with their “superstitious inscriptions” deliberately defaced by Puritans in 1644.  The arcade separating the former nuns’ quire from the nave dates to 1475; the nuns’ squint, built into the monument to Johane Alfrey, to 1525.  The carved wooden figure of a beggar supporting the poor-box,  the intricately carved and panelled  pulpit, and the south doorcase all date to the first half of the seventeenth century;  the inscribed wooden sword-rest to 1665.

(*) The nunnery was suppressed in 1538, whereupon the nunnery church was incorporated into the parish church, and the remaining nunnery buildings and land were given to Thomas Cromwell’s adopted son Richard Wyllyams, who sold them  to the Leathersellers’ Company.

City of London Buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666

Of the 97 parish churches within the walls of the City of London at the time of the Great Fire of 1666, only 8 survived the fire,  and still survive, with at least some pre-fire structures standing above ground, namely, All Hallows Barking, All Hallows Staining, St Alphage, St Andrew Undershaft, St Ethelburga, St Helen, St Katharine Cree, and St Olave Hart Street (*).

tower-of-london

guildhall

Of the secular buildings, only the Tower of London and the Guildhall, and parts of the Merchant Taylors’ and Apothecaries’ Livery Company Halls, and of the “Olde Wine Shades” public house, still survive.

(*) A further 5 churches, namely All Hallows on the Wall, St James Duke’s Place, St Katherine Coleman, St Martin Outwich and St Peter-le-Poer, also survived  the fire but were either rebuilt or demolished afterwards.

And 84 were burnt down in the fire, of which 49 were rebuilt afterwards, and 35 were not.

St Martin Outwich

Another in the  occasional series on churches that survived the Great Fire of 1666 but were rebuilt or demolished subsequently …

St Martin Outwich memorial in City of London cemetery

St Martin Outwich memorial in City of London cemetery

St Martin Outwich was originally built sometime before 1291 (it is mentioned in Pope Nicholas IV’s “Taxatio Ecclesiastica” of that year).  It was undamaged  in the  Great Fire of 1666, but severely damaged in a fire of 1765, and rebuilt by Samuel P. Cockerell between 1796-8, only to be demolished in 1874, when the parish was merged with St Helen Bishopsgate (and the dead from the churchyard were reinterred in the City of London Cemetery in East End).

St Martin Outwich in 1830

St Martin Outwich in 1830

St Martin Outwich plaque on Threadneedle Street

St Martin Outwich plaque on Threadneedle Street

A Corporation “Blue Plaque  marks the former site of St Martin’s, on Threadneedle Street.

Late fourteenth- or early fifteenth- century alabaster effigies of Sir John de Oteswich and his wife were salvaged from the church, and still survive,  in St Helen’s, on Bishopsgate.

Oteswich memorial, St Helen

Oteswich memorial, St Helen

Blue is the New Plaque

July 19th 
I spotted a couple of new blue plaques on the “London Wall – A Story of Survival” walk this week.
One  is on the church of St Helen Bishopsgate, and commemorates the first resting place of Robert Hooke (1635-1703).  Hooke was not only an “eminent scientist” but also a brilliant architect, working with Wren on the reconstruction of London following the Great Fire of 1666 (the church of St Benet Paul’s Wharf being widely attributed to him).  He was also  apparently something of a curmudgeon, and was memorably described by  Pepys as  “the most,  and promises the least, of any man in the world that I ever saw”.  Readers interested in more information on Hooke and his life and works are referred to “A More Beautiful City: Robert Hooke and the Rebuilding of London after the Great Fire” by Michael Cooper, published by Sutton in 2003 (and reprinted in paperback in 2005).
Three modern microscopists paying homage to Hooke
The other plaque is on the street of St Mary Axe, and marks the site of the church of the same name. The church was originally built around 1197, and suppressed, and converted into a warehouse, in 1561 (when the former parish was amalgamated with that of St Andrew Undershaft).  It  formerly  housed one of the three axes said to have been  used by Attila the Hun to behead St Ursula and her eleven thousand hand-maidens!
The “London Wall – A Story of Survival” walk is available on Fridays at 10am (pre-booking essential); also available at other times by arrangement, for private groups.