Category Archives: London Churches

Two Bombed Churches – St Alban and St Mary

I will complete my tour of the City pubs in the next week, but for today’s post, I am staying in the City, and visiting the location of one of my father’s 1947 posts, which shows a view of two bombed churches.

Two bombed churches

The church tower on the left is that of St Alban, Wood Street, and the smaller tower on the right is St Mary Aldermanbury. The remains of the body of the churches can be seen at the base of the towers. The photo was taken from Gresham Street. I took a photo from the same position today, but it was totally pointless, as new buildings completely obscure the view.

Two bombed churches

The 1947 photo shows that whilst the towers of the churches remained, the rest of the church, and the surrounding area, had been badly damaged by wartime bombing. The two churches are between Gresham Street and today’s route of London Wall. Wood Street runs between the two. The following map shows the location of the two churches today. The red circle shows the tower of St Alban, and the orange oval shows the site of St Mary (Map © OpenStreetMap contributors).

Two bombed churches

The 1894 Ordnance Survey map shows a very different place. The two churches, surrounded by streets, lanes, and dense building of low rise, individual buildings. The area today is occupied by large glass and steel office blocks.

Two bombed churches

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

The tower of St Alban looks out on very different surroundings today. The rest of the church was demolished in 1955 with only the tower remaining on an island, with Wood Street passing either side.

Where once the tower looked out over its surroundings, today, the surrounding office blocks close in and look down on the tower.

Two bombed churches

Fourteen years before the raids that would cause so much destruction, in 1926 Wood Street looked very different:

Two bombed churches

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: v8482613

St Alban, Wood Street was an unusual church in that the tower was on the corner of the church. In the above photo you can see the body of the church on the right.

The church takes its name from St Alban, the first British Saint. The cathedral city of St Alban’s in Hertfordshire also takes it name from the same saint.

The London Encyclopedia states that the church was “built on the alleged site of the palace chapel of King Offa, the 8th century ruler of Mercia. In penance for his part in the murder of Alban, the first English martyr. Offa founded St Albans Abbey; and in 793 gave the patronage of Wood Street to the abbey”.  There is an immediate problem with this statement as Alban was recorded being executed in the early 4th century, whilst Offa was from the 8th century, so Offa could have had no part in murdering Alban.

The connection with the abbey at St Albans is probably correct. For example, in London Churches Before The Great Fire by Wilberforce Jenkins (1917), he states “The church was, at all events, built in Norman times, for we are told that the Abbey of S. Alban owned several churches in the Eleventh Century dedicated to S. Alban; and this was one of them”.

Jenkins aligns the church with a different Saxon King “Wood Street is said to have been formerly King Adel Street, justifying a tradition connecting the church with the Saxon King Adelstane. Anthony Munday, writing in 1633, gives his personal impression of the building as it then stood:

Another character of the antiquity of it is to be seen in the manner of the turning of the arches in the windowes and heads of the Pillars. A third note appears on the Romane bricks here and there inlayed among the stones of the building. King Adelstane the Saxon, as tradition says, had his house at the east end of this church”.

A Dictionary of London (Henry Harben, 1918)  adds a further twist to the street, with a first mention of the name Wodestrata dating to 1156-7. The book also includes a suggestion that the name came from the fact that wood was sold here – which is a possibility given the names of streets such as Milk Street and Honey Street to the south.

So there may have been some connection between the site and a Saxon King, the name comes from St Alban, and the abbey in the city of the same name owned the land, and the street is probably named after the sale of wood in the surroundings of the street – but as always, there is no firm written evidence from the time so impossible to be sure.

The original Norman church was rebuilt in 1633 and 1634 as the original Norman church was in a dreadful state of decay such that many of the parishioners would refuse to go into the church.

The church was then destroyed in the Great Fire, and the church destroyed in 1940 was built by Wren between 1682 and 1685 with the tower being added 12 years later.

St Alban, Wood Street in 1837:

Two bombed churches

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PZ_CT_01_3672

Today, the tower sits on an island, with Wood Street passing either side. To the east of the tower is the City of London Police Station in Wood Street. In the following photo, the body of the church would be coming out from the church where the tree is located today, with the front of the church extending to the traffic island.

Two bombed churches

The church then extended back to cover a small part of the police station and the adjacent street.

I often wonder what someone who knew the area in the time of the 1926 photo would think if they could visit the area today.

Two bombed churches

The following photo is from the north, looking south down Wood Street. If you return to the 1894 OS map, you will see Liitle Love Lane, ran from Wood Street, this side of the church and circles around the church to Love Lane. Little Love Lane would have run roughly from the southern end of the traffic island, to the left, through the Police Station and round to Love Lane.

Two bombed churches

The following photo dates from 1915, and was taken from within Little Love Lane, with St Alban on the left, looking up to Wood Street.

Two bombed churches

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: M0060679CL

In the above photo, the building opposite the end of Little Love Lane, showing just as a facade was the result of a First World War bombing raid on London by the Zeppelin L.13 over the 8th and 9th of September 1915. The use of incendiaries by the Zeppelin caused some serious fires in Wood Street and significant damage. A foretaste of what would come to the area in 25 years time.

The interior of the church showing the damage caused by the raids of 1940. we can see the entrance to Wood Street on the left with the large window above. The tower is on the right. As the tower now sites on an island, the eastern branch of Wood Street now runs in front of the tower in the photo below.

Two bombed churches

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: M0017321CL

The second church in my father’s 1947 photo is that of St Mary Aldermanbury, of which there is even less remaining (in London) than there is of St Alban.

In the following photo I am standing at the junction of Love Lane (to the left) and Aldermanbury (to the right), looking over the site of St Mary Aldermanbury. The Wood Street police station is to the left, and the tower of St Alban can just be seen above the left hand corner of the police station.

Two bombed churches

Had I been standing in the same position, just over two hundred years ago in 1814, this would have been the view:

Two bombed churches

The buildings at the left end of the church are where the police station stands today.

St Mary Aldermanbury is another medieval church, with references to it belonging to St Paul’s and / or The Elsing Priory. It grew during the medieval period, for example the Mayor of the City in 1429 and 1437, Sir William Englefield, added a steeple to the church and renewed the church bells.

The church was one of the many destroyed during the Great Fire. Rebuilt by Wren, it was this church that is shown in the above print, and that was destroyed in 1940.

The main entrance to the church, shown on the right in the above print, faced onto Aldermanbury. A first reference to the name “Aldresmanesberi” dates from 1130.

Stow suggested that the Guildhall was originally a little further west, and was on the eastern edge of Aldermanbury, and that the street took its name from being adjacent to, or having within its precincts, the ‘bury’ or ‘court’ of the alderman of the City.

The fires of 1940 destroyed the core of the church, leaving only the tower and stone outer walls of the church remaining, and it was removed in the 1960s, however the outline of the church and churchyard remains today.

The following photo is looking from Aldermanbury at what was the front of the church:

Two bombed churches

Inside the footprint of the church, looking up towards the location of the tower, with stones and bushes marking the locations of the outer walls.

Two bombed churches

What was the base of the tower, with a plaque which provides some information as to the fate of the church, which I will come on to soon.

Two bombed churches

Looking back along the church from the location of the tower.

Two bombed churches

The name Love Lane survives in the street to the south of the church, and in the surrounding buildings:

Two bombed churches

There are many stories associated with St Mary Aldermanbury. Foundlings in the parish were christened Aldermanbury, but the name Berry was used as a more day to day abbreviation. One of the murderers of the young princes in the Tower is alleged to have died at the church, after taking sanctuary.

Judge Jeffries, the Hanging Judge was buried here in 1689, and the following print portrayed another event in the crypt of the church in 1778:

Two bombed churches

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: q8018643

The text with the print states that George Roach, Robert Elliot and James Gould are stealing the leaden coffin of W.T. Aston in the vault of Aldermanbury Church.

The three were carpenters working on the church. At the time, coffins placed in the crypt had to be within a lead outer coffin. Overnight, the carpenters removed the inner coffin, cut up the lead outer coffin, removed it from the church, and sold the lead. They would have got away with the crime, but were reported by an apprentice who worked for their employer.

Roach and Elliot were sentenced to three years of hard labour. Gould seems not to have been charged, possibly because he gave evidence against the other two.

Sunday services were used as a means of making proclamations to the parish as a Sunday service would be the time when the majority of people in a parish were at one place, for example, in January 1754 “Sunday Morning, after Divine Service, a Proclamation for the Appearance of Elizabeth Canning, together with a Warrant direct to the Sheriffs of London for apprehending her, was read at the Door of the Parish-Church of St Mary in Aldermanbury”.

So why does nothing remain of St Mary Aldermanbury today, apart from the footprint of the church on the ground? The answer is that it was sent to America.

The Daily Herald on the 29th January 1963 provides some background:

“The cost of removing the Wren church of St Mary Aldermanbury to America was revealed yesterday. A staggering £1,670,000. 

The church, which now stands in the shadow of the Guildhall, is being shipped stone by stone to Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri, where it will be reassembled.

it was bombed into a shell in the war and is a gift from London to the Americans.

Professor of Architecture at Nebraska University and Dr Robert Davidson, of Fulton, are in London to look into the arrangements for the church’s removal.

‘Virtually a military operation’ was how they described the task to me. But they seem to think it worthwhile. Just as well that their universities are a lot better off than ours.

The church is being re-erected at Fulton as a tribute to Sir Winston Churchill. At Fulton in 1946, Churchill made an historic speech about the need for western unity. In it he used a phrase that was to ring around the world – the Iron Curtain”.

In America, a large model of what the relocated and repaired church would look like, was made, and the importance of the project was such that President Truman made an inspection of the model.

Two bombed churches

The church is now part of the National Churchill Museum. The museum’s website has some video of the church in its new location.

Two bombed churches

I wonder what Wren, and the many thousands of parishioners who used the church over the centuries, would have thought of the new location?

Love Lane still runs to the south of the churchyard of St Mary Aldermanbury:

Two bombed churches

The churchyard includes a bust of Shakespeare. The playwright does not have a direct connection with the church, however two parishioners who were also buried in the church played a key part in ensuring Shakespeare’s plays would be available for future generations.

Two bombed churches

John Heminge and Henry Condell, were “Fellow actors and personal friends of Shakespeare. They lived many years in this Parish and are buried here. To their disinterested affection the world owes all that is called Shakespeare. They alone collected the dramatic writings regardless of pecuniary cost”.

Heminge and Condell published the Shakespeare Folio of 1623 which collected together his plays, many of which have no other printed copies.

The folio is represented by the open book below the bust. On the right page is printed the following words from Heminge and Condell “We have but collected them, and done an office to the dead, without ambition either of selfe profit or fame, onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend and Fellow alive as was our Shakespeare”.

As usual, there is so much history to be found in a small area of the City. A plaque on the edge of the churchyard records the location of the Aldermanbury Conduit which provided free water from 1471 to the 18th century (the first date is strangely specific).

Two bombed churches

A rather nice drinking fountain, the gift of a Deputy of the Ward to the Parish of St Mary Aldermanbury sits at on the corner of the churchyard:

Two bombed churches

City churches fascinate me as they are a fixed point in an ever changing City. Performing the same function since medieval times, possibly earlier, and the surroundings of these two churches has changed so dramatically over the last 70 years.

Two bombed churches, they are now only ghostly outlines of the original churches. With St Alban only the tower remains, and with St Mary, only the foot print of the church and churchyard, but at least they remain.

Strange though that the stones of the tower of St Mary in my father’s 1947 photo are now standing in a location, many thousands of miles away.

It is also strange how stories spread about a location. Whilst I was taking photographs of the tower of St Alban, there was a couple looking quite intently at the tower. The man asked me if this is where people were hanged. I answered that I am sure it was not such a location – to which he replied very firmly that he was sure that it was. I have not heard or read any stories about executions taking place around St Alban.

In researching these posts, I always try to read and compare multiple sources, but as time stretches back, legends, hearsay and stories become accepted as fact, so it is always best to question and check – which is part of the enjoyment of discovering London.

alondoninheritance.com

St Mary Woolnoth – The Church with the Underground in the Crypt

St Mary Woolnoth is an unusual church. A short distance from the Bank, the church can be found at the junction of Lombard Street and King William Street. St Mary Woolnoth has one of the more unusual towers of the City churches, a Hawksmoor church, built after post Great Fire repairs to the medieval church failed, a church that survived the blitz, but 50 years earlier had almost been lost to the City and South London Railway.

The view of St Mary Woolnoth from the Bank junction.

St Mary Woolnoth

The church occupies a small space, surrounded by City offices and from this perspective, the unusual tower is clearly viewed.

The current church was built between 1716 and 1727 by Nicholas Hawksmoor. The previous church had partly survived the Great Fire of 1666, but needed considerable repair. This work was carried out from 1670, but there were obviously problems repairing a medieval church which led to the decision for Hawksmoor’s replacement church in the early decades of the 18th century. The new church was part of the plan for 50 new churches, funded by a tax on coal.

The tower is interesting. From the front it is substantial and broad, but look from the side and the tower is narrow. Four columns give the impression of two separate towers, this view being reinforced by the two small turrets rising at the top. The turrets are small versions of the square towers that would normally be expected on a City church.

This print from 1838 shows St Mary Woolnoth when the tower of the church was still higher than the surrounding buildings. Note the clock on the left wall of the church, over hanging the street. The clock is still a feature of the church today.

St Mary Woolnoth

As well as the tower, another feature of the church is one that almost led to its destruction. If you look along the King William Street side of the church, there is an ornate wall projecting out from the corner of the church, today being the location for a Starbucks. In the far arch of the wall can be found the entrance to a lift.

St Mary Woolnoth

The City and South London Railway had opened in 1890. The railway had originally been planned to run from King William Street to the Elephant and Castle, however extensions were being quickly implemented and the line would eventually become the eastern branch of the Northern Line.

The City and South London Railway required space around the Bank in what was already a very congested area. The late 19th century was a time when a number of City churches were demolished as the population of the City had declined and there was no longer a sufficient congregation for what was still a number of churches that suited the Medieval City rather than the Victorian City.

Although proposals for the demolition of the church were put forward, a compromise was agreed, as detailed in the following report from the Standard on Friday November 23rd 1900:

“In 1893 the Railway Company obtained an Act for making a railway, and under that Act they scheduled the site of the church. Owing to the lack of means there was no opposition to the Act on the part of the churchwardens, and the only portion of the Act which affected the church was the clause relating to the removal of human remains which might be disturbed.

Nothing was done till 1896, when the Company obtained an Act to extend the period for the construction of the line. Opposition was then raised by the present Claimants and the Bill was opposed in both Houses, though in the protection of public monuments. the result was that in the Act a clause was inserted that the Company could not purchase any part of the church, but only portions of the land adjacent and under the church, and the clause provided that the arbitrator, in considering the compensation, should take into account the additional cost to the Company of this change to their plans.

in February 1897, the Company under their powers served notice on the Churchwardens, and shortly afterwards took possession of the church and carried on their works. These works had been in progress nearly three years, and all the Company had done was strictly within their rights. On the lands they had made approaches to the station, which was formed of the crypt of the church, and was 4ft above ground level. So far as the engineering went, it was a wonderful piece of work”.

It was indeed a wonderful piece of work. The church lost its crypt, which became part of the station infrastructure for the City and South London Railway, and the church above ground was strengthened with steel reinforcement.

Most importantly, it was a compromise which ensured this unique Hawksmoor church would survive.

The side of the church facing King William Street is now masked by what was the former Underground Station, designed by Sidney R.J. Smith and built between 1897 and 1898 as part of the works described in the Standard article above.

The Pevsner “London: The CIty Churches” does not think much of the facade,  describing it as “a Hawksmoorish rusticated centrepiece, let down by mediocre flanking figures in low relief”.

St Mary Woolnoth

The arch on the right provides access to a lift for step free access to the Northern Line platforms – the old City and South London Railway.

The churchwardens probably regarded the loss of the crypt as an extremely good result as only a few years earlier the church had to be closed because of the state of the crypt. This also sheds light on what an appalling state most City churches must have been in during the 19th century until their crypts were cleared. The following article explains:

“One of the oldest churches in the City of London has actually had to be closed in consequence of the effluvia arising from the dead bodies in the vault. This is St Mary Woolnoth. The congregation who worshiped there were not only annoyed, but made ill, and the clergyman, after the three services, generally went home with a sore throat. At times there would be no smell in the church, at others an intolerable odour came up in whiffs and gusts. It is computed that the remains of between seven and eight thousand bodies are massed together within a few feet of the floor”.

So the City and South London Railway fixed the problems with the crypt and the churchwardens received back a strengthened church, although now without a crypt.

The article mentions that the church is one of the oldest in the City. There appears to have been a church on the site in the 12th century. The church was rebuilt in 1438, and it was this church that was badly damaged in the Great Fire.

There are a number of explanations as to the name “Woolnoth”. Pevsner states that the name “probably commemorates an 11th century founder named Wulfnoth”. Wilberforce Jenkinson in London Churches Before The Great Fire (1917) links the name with the wool trade.

This print from 1812 also associates the name of the church with the wool trade stating that “the distinctive term arises from the Wool Mart being near”.

St Mary Woolnoth

The side view of the church in the above print shows how narrow the tower is from the side, compared with the width of the front view.

Another view of the church from around 1830 with a good view of the clock.

St Mary Woolnoth

The interior of St Mary Woolnoth is relatively compact, Three large columns on each corner support a square opening, above which there is a space with an arch shaped window on each side, with a chandelier hanging from the centre of the ceiling.

St Mary Woolnoth

Surrounding the altar is some impressive woodwork, with two ornately carved columns supporting a canopy decorated with gilded cherubs.

St Mary Woolnoth

View up to the roof. It was overcast on the day of my visit, and the windows do not let much natural light through to the church interior below.

St Mary Woolnoth

The organ gallery and organ case above the entrance to the church. According to the Pevsner guide, the organ case dates from 1681, so perhaps it was part of the post Great Fire restoration of the medieval church, and was saved for use in Hawksmoor’s church.

St Mary Woolnoth

In a corner of the church is a clock mechanism:

St Mary Woolnoth

The mechanism is within a perspex cover, and just below is printed an extract from The Waste Land by TS Eliot:

St Mary Woolnoth

Thomas Stearns Eliot was an American who moved to England in 1914 when he was 25 and became a UK citizen. In The Waste Land, Eliot is concerned about the state of Europe in the 1920s and the impact the modern world is having on the cultural, spiritual and moral state.

He worked in the City for a bank, so must have known the area well, and the description is of City workers flowing over London Bridge, up and down King William Street as they make their way to work, with the clock at St Mary Woolnoth reminding them of the time they needed to be in their offices.

Although written in the 1920s, it is a scene that could still be seen up until March of this year, and I suspect Eliot would be just as concerned today as he was then about the moral state of the world.

St Mary Woolnoth has a memorial to perhaps the most celebrated rector of the church, John Newton:

St Mary Woolnoth

John Newton was born in Wapping in 1725, the son of a Master Mariner, so his life at sea was as good as guaranteed. His early career at sea was in the slave trade, working on slave ships, including three voyages as captain. In 1748 he converted to Christianity and from the same year worked as the Surveyor of Tides in Liverpool. During his time in Liverpool he studied theology and although considered a radical, finally found a position as curate at the church of Saints Peter and Paul in Olney, Buckinghamshire.

Whilst he was at Olney, he worked with the poet William Cowper on a collection of hymns which included Amazing Grace.

His time at St Mary Woolnoth started in 1780 when he became rector of the church. During his time at the church, he supported William Wilberforce, he published a pamphlet titled “Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade” in which he wrote about his time as a slave trader, wrote about his regret of his role and was outspoken in his condemnation of the slave trade.

He supported the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade which had been formed in 1787, and the committee purchased copies of Newton’s pamphlet to be sent to every member of the House of Commons and the House of Lords

John Newton provided evidence to the parliamentary committee set up to examine the slave trade, and used his experience as a slave trader to speak about the appalling conditions of the trade.

The law to abolish the slave trade, the Abolition Act passed into law and soon after, in December 1807, John Newton died. He was buried in the crypt of St Mary Woolnoth, alongside his wife.

When the crypt was cleared for the construction of the Underground station, the bodies of John and his wife Mary were moved to the church in Olney where he had been churchwarden.

Newton’s pamphlet “Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade” provides a very clear account of the unbelievable cruelties of the trade and makes for a very harrowing and upsetting read.

The Cowper and Newton Museum in Olney can be found here, and they also have a copy of the pamphlet in PDF form which can be downloaded from the following link:

https://www.cowperandnewtonmuseum.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/thoughtsuponafri00newt.pdf

The Reverend John Newton:

St Mary Woolnoth

St Mary Woolnoth is an important church. A church has been on the site since the 11th century. Architecturally, it is a fine example of Hawksmoor’s work. The church survived the arrival of the Underground railway and suffered minimal damage during the blitz.

Many millions of City workers must have looked up at St Mary Woolnoth’s clock on their way to and from work, and from John Newton we can learn first hand about the appalling cruelties of the slave trade.

alondoninheritance.com

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, Nuns and Robert Hooke

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, Nuns and Robert Hooke – sorry, but the post is not going to be as exciting as the title may suggest, however it does tell the story of one of the City’s ancient churches, a nunnery and some of those buried at the church.

The City churches are fascinating, not just each individual church, but the part they play in the City’s landscape, being one of the few fixed points in a thousand years of history.

Standing in front of a church such as St Helen’s Bishopsgate, it is easy to imagine the church as the time machine in the 1960 film of H.G. Wells book, The Time Machine, where the time machine is a fixed point and as the machine moves through time, the surroundings change at a rapid pace.

Or perhaps I was getting carried away by my imagination as I stood outside St Helen’s Bishopsgate last September during Open House weekend.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

A church has been on the site for many hundreds of years. P.H. Ditchfield writing in London Survivals (1914) states “Several legends that are baseless cluster around the church. They tell us that the Emperor Constantine built the earliest edifice on the site of a heathen temple in the fourth century, and dedicated it to his mother, St. Helena. Some writers assert that there was a church here in 1010, but there is no direct evidence of such a building.”

The first firm, written records of the church date to around 1140, when two Canons of St Paul’s Cathedral were granted the church for the duration of their lives, provided that they paid 12d a year to the chapter of St Paul’s.

The church has a very distinctive appearance compared to the majority of other City churches. Looking at the main entrance on the west facing side of the church, a small wooden bell turret sits at the middle of two separate entrances, both with large windows above the doors.

The following print from 1736 shows the church looking much the same as it does today.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: q6010382

The wooden bell turret was originally added to the church around 1568, with the existing turret dating from around 1700.

The text at the bottom of the print records that St Helen was the mother of Constantine the Great. The father of Constantine was the 3rd century Roman Emperor Constantius. Helen had converted to Christianity, and when Constantine became Emperor, Helen went on pilgrimages, and also on a search for early Christian relics. She was alleged to have found the three crosses buried where Jesus was crucified, to have ordered the destruction of the Roman temple built on the site and the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Medieval literature included references to St Helen, trying to tie her origins into British History, including Geoffrey of Monmouth who wrote that St Helen was the daughter of a Welsh leader Coel, or Cole who legend also attributed to be a ruler of Colchester in Essex. Where there is reasonably firm evidence, it gives Helen’s origins as Greek.

St Helen’s, Bishopsgate survived the Great Fire and bombing of the City during the Second World War. The church was badly damaged during the 1990s by two IRA bombs, in 1992 in St Mary Axe, and a bomb in Bishopsgate in 1993. Both bombs caused considerable damage to the church. The architect Quinlan Terry managed the rebuild which included reconfiguration of the interior space. Aspects of the church that could not be rebuilt included a medieval stained glass window.

As the main walls of the church have not been substantially rebuilt for many hundreds of years, walking around the walls shows how they retain the echoes of so many previous features, stages of construction and a range of different building materials, frequently thrown together to build part of a wall.

The following photo shows part of the south facing wall:

St Helen's Bishopsgate

A 17th century, pedimented door dated 1633 with reference to St Helena (one of the variations of the name Helen):

St Helen's Bishopsgate

London: The City Churches by Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner describes the walls as of “random rubble” and this is easy to see, including where there is a range of different features which have been part of the walls over time and perhaps show where external buildings were built into the church wall. Part of the south facing wall:

St Helen's Bishopsgate

The south transept extends out from the south eastern corner of the church:

St Helen's Bishopsgate

Again a mix of old features and building materials along the corner of the south transept contrast with the modern office blocks that now surround St Helen’s Bishopsgate.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

Within the paved area surrounding the southern edge of the church is one of the works from the Sculpture in the City initiative. This is Crocodylius Philodendrus by Nancy Rubins:

St Helen's Bishopsgate

The view from St Mary Axe, showing a shaft of sunlight picking out part of the church, with Tower 42 in the rear and to the left, the tower of 1 Undershaft, and the entrance to the underground car park which now occupies much of the space to the south of the church.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

I mentioned nuns in the title to the post, and it is down to a nunnery that was on part of the site for 300 years, that the church is of the form we see today. Returning to the photo of the west facing side of the church. There are two sections to the church. The section on the right of the central buttress is slightly smaller than the section on the left.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

The section on the right is that of the original parish church, and on the left is the nave of the former nuns church that was added to the parish church when the nunnery was established.

This was in 1210 when the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s gave permission to a William, son of William the Goldsmith, to build a nunnery to the north of the church, with a church for the nuns to use being added to the side of the original parish church, but being 4 foot wider than the original church.

The nunnery occupied the space to the north of the church. Returning to the book London Survivals, there is an interesting description of the church and nunnery: “The parish church, therefore, was in existence before the foundation of the nunnery, and to the parochial nave the founder of the nunnery added a second nave on the north side for the services of the nuns. This double use of the church is still evinced in its construction. It has two parallel naves divided by an arcade of six arches; and lest the eyes of the nuns should wander from their devotions, a wooden screen separated the conventual from the parochial church, the floor of which was much higher than that of the nun’s choir.

The cloister and other conventual buildings were situated on the north side of the church. in the midst of the present crowded streets and houses of modern London, it is pleasant to recall the memory of the fair garden wherein the sisters wandered. A survey taken in the time of the arch-destroyer of monasteries, Henry VIII, tells of a little garden at the east end of the cloister, and further on a fair garden of half an acre, and on the north of the cloister a kitchen garden which had a dovecot, and besides all this a fair wood-yard with another garden, a stable and other appurtenances.”

During the Dissolution, the Nunnery was taken over by Henry VIII, and Thomas Cromwell then obtained the buildings and land from the Crown, which he then sold on to the Leathersellers’ Company.

The Leathersellers’ used the refectory of the old nunnery as their Hall, and they continued to use the buildings until they were demolished in 1799 to make way for a new Hall, with offices also being built around what would become St Helen’s Place.

This print from 1819 shows the ruins of the old nunnery. It is a rather strange print as the area looks very rural rather than in the heart of the City. Although there is probably some considerable artistic interpretation of the view, it probably does give a good idea of the remains of part of the nunnery, with the church being seen on the left of the print.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: q688426x

The following print from 1801 probably shows a more realistic view of the ruins of the nunnery and the church:

St Helen's Bishopsgate

© The Trustees of the British Museum

The following print dated 1800, shows the remains of the crypt of the nunnery:

St Helen's Bishopsgate

© The Trustees of the British Museum

The text underneath the print reads “REMAINS of a crypt part of the ancient priory of BLACK-NUNS adjoining St Helen’s Church in Bishopsgate Street. It was situated under the Leather sellers Hall; and together with the Hall, and with some less considerable remains of the priory, was discovered and demolished in the year 1799.”

In the roughly three hundred years of the nunnery, it seems to have had the usual challenges of financial management, maintaining the behaviour of the nuns and ensuring they were separated from the general population of London, property disputes and issues regarding rights of way that ran through the grounds of the nunnery.

Wealthy London residents contributed to the upkeep of the nunnery, and in 1285 there was an event which built on the legends of St Helen. Edward I visited the church on the 4th May 1285 to deliver to the church a piece of the True Cross that had been found in Wales. Building on the legend that Helen had found the original crosses in Jerusalem, and the Welsh ancestor of Coel who Geoffrey of Monmouth alleged was Helen’s father.

Time to visit the interior of the church, which was repaired and reconfigured to provide a much more open and flexible space following the bombings of the early 1990s. The damage was such that the roof was lifted off the walls by the force of the explosions.

A gallery runs part the length of the western wall, and from the gallery we can get a good view along the church, showing the section of the nuns church on the left and the original parish church on the right.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

The large central arches date from around 1480. Before the 1990s restoration, the floors of the various sections of the church were at different levels,some lower than at present, reflecting their different original use and periods of build. They were rebuilt to the same level in the 1990s. which does make the space easier to use, but the Pevsner Guide to the City of London Churches appears to be rather dismissive of this change, saying that “Terry remade the floor at one indiscriminately high level throughout”.

St Helen’s Bishopsgate has a large number of memorials and monuments. London Survivals records that the number of these have given the church the name “Westminster Abbey of the City”.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

Many of these are fascinating, not just through the story of the subject of the memorial, but the way the story has been portrayed. This is the memorial to Martin Bond – a worthy citizen and soldier.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

The text states that he was “son of Will Bond, Sheriff and Alderman of London. He was Captain in the year 1588 at the camp at Tilbury and after remained chief captain of trained bands of the City until his death. He was a Merchant Adventurer and free of the Company of Haberdasher. He lived to the age of 85 years and died in May 1643. His piety, prudence, courage and charity have left behind him a never dying monument.”

I love it when I can tie posts together, and the reference in the memorial to Martin Bond being at the camp at Tilbury in the year 1558, is a reference to Tilbury Fort which I wrote about here.

1588 was the year when additional reinforcements were made to the fort at Tilbury due to the threat from the Spanish Armada. In March of the previous year, Queen Elizabeth I requested the City to provide a force of 10,000 men, fully armed and equipped. Billingsgate Ward contributed 326 men, one of which would have been Martin Bond.

His memorial may well therefore show him in his role as Captain, in his tent at Tilbury Fort.

As well as memorials, there are bits of stonework that further demonstrate how churches of this age are made up of many different bits of stone from different sources.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

The plaque at the top reads “The insertions in the wall beneath are a weathered fragment of marble of Moorish or Venetian workmanship (XII or XIII century) discovered in the interior of the Bernard monument adjacent on its removal (in 1874) to its present position. A Purbeck marble panel, part of the ancient Clitherow Monument (formerly of the church of St Martin Outwich) used to repair the Pemberton Monument on its reconstruction in 1796 and removed on the restoration of that monument in 1874”.

Monuments tell stories of the life of those recorded on the stones and marble. The monument shown in the photo below is to Dame Abigail Lawrence, who died at the age of 59 on the 6th June 1682.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

She is recorded as being the “tender mother of ten children, the nine first being all daughters she suckled at her own breasts, they all lived to be of age, her last a son died an infant”. Described as an “Exemplary matron of this Cittie”.

The walls on which these monuments are now mounted are all firm and dry, but it is interesting to read of earlier improvements, the state of the walls and the problems faced by employing workmen in such a historic building.

There was an article in the London City Press dated the 22nd July 1865, reporting on the repairs and renovations that were about to take place at St Helen’s Bishopsgate. In the article, the walls were described as being built with nitrate of lime, and as a consequence being almost always wet.

The article also mentions that the church is home to a large number of brass memorials and that during the last restoration in 1845 several of these brasses were lost – the implication being that they were stolen at the request of antiquaries. The article also references the loss of large quantities of lead, stolen from the coffins by workmen, working on repairs at Stepney Church.

The article recommends that the church authorities put in place measures to protect the artifacts in the church, as “the power of whisky over the working man is very great, and it is feared that the mere value of the brass may have caused some of them to have been taken away”.

The church has a late 18th century Poor Box which is mounted on a 17th century figure of a bearded man, holding a hat ready to receive alms.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

There are numerous memorials and monuments across the church, too many for a single post, and there is one further subject in the post’s title that I want to cover, one Robert Hooke.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

Robert Hooke was far more than a scientist. He was also an engineer, surveyor, inventor and architect. Your first contact with Hooke may have been during school science lessons and Hooke’s law which stated that the force needed to extend or compress a spring is proportional to the distance extended or compressed.

After the Great Fire in 1666 he was appointed the Surveyor for the City of London and worked on many of the rebuilds of the city churches, frequently with Christopher Wren. This work included the Monument to the Great Fire.

He has been somewhat overshadowed by Wren, and other scientists of the time such as Newton. He also had a number of disagreements and controversies with other scientists during his lifetime, Possibly because of these, there are no drawings or paintings of Robert Hooke which survive to this day. Apparently Newton removed Hooke’s name from the Royal Society records and destroyed his portrait after one rather passionate argument.

Hooke’s bones were removed from the graveyard at St Helen’s during the 19th century, probably during one of the many Victorian clearances of the City graveyards. They were moved to an unknown destination in north London.

There was a memorial window to Robert Hooke in St Helen’s Bishopsgate which was one of those destroyed during the IRA bombings of the early 1990s. The following is a 1930s photo of the window:

St Helen's Bishopsgate

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, although surrounded by modern office blocks, has roots that stretch back across the centuries of the City’s history. Leaving the church, I was still thinking of the Time Machine, and everything the church has seen built and then demolished, and all the people who have passed through and by the church, and what the church will see in the future.

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St Martin Ludgate and a Hidden Name

City churches are interesting, not just the history of the church, but also for the artifacts that London’s churches seem to accumulate. St Martin Ludgate, or to give the full name St Martin Within Ludgate is a church I have not visited for a while, so on a rather grey day I went for another look inside the church.

St Martin Ludgate is on the northern side of Ludgate Hill. I suspect that the church suffers from the fact that St Paul’s Cathedral is at the top of Ludgate Hill and the cathedral tends to attract the gaze, rather than the historic church along the side of the street.

The view looking down Ludgate Hill with the church and spire of St Martin Ludgate on the right:

St Martin Ludgate

St Martin is an old City church, with written evidence dating the church to the 12th century, however Geoffrey of Monmouth writing in the 12th century claims that the church was founded by the Welsh King Cadwallader in the 7th century. Given that this was 500 years before Geoffrey of Monmouth, I doubt very much whether this was based on any truth or factual record.

The claim was embellished in the text with the following print from 1814 which shows the tower and steeple of St Martin Ludgate standing clear from the surrounding houses. The author adds that Cadwallo was buried here. The text included evidence that the site was ancient as “several antiquities were discovered to prove it being a Roman burial-place”.

St Martin Ludgate

The location was certainly interesting, being adjacent to Lud Gate and the Roman Wall. Travelers from the west would have approached the City along what is now the Strand. Crossing over the River Fleet, then a short distance up the hill to the Lud Gate, with the location of St Martins just inside the wall on the left.

The current church dates from between 1677 and 1686 when it was rebuilt by Wren following the destruction of the previous church in the Great Fire of London, although there is a possibility that rather than Wren, it was Robert Hooke who was responsible for the church.

The original church was slightly clear of the Roman Wall, however the new church was moved slightly to the west and included the Roman Wall in the foundations of the church. Ludgate Hill was also widened at this time, so the new church was also set slightly further back

The spire of the church was designed to be a counterpoint to the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Through the entrance to the church and there is a wide corridor running the width of the building before entering the church proper. This was an attempt to sound proof the church from the noise on Ludgate Hill which must have been one of the busier and noisier streets in the City.

Entering the church and we can see a typical Wren designed City church of the 17th century.

St Martin Ludgate

The organ loft above the font:

St Martin Ludgate

The font dates from 1673 and was a gift to the rebuilt church from one Thomas Morley.

Behind and to the right of the font is an information panel that confirms that this wall of the church was the original western limit of the Roman City, and below the floor and wall are the foundations of the original Roman Wall, along with remains of the later Medieval Wall.

The full name of the church St Martin within Ludgate indicates that the church was within the City walls.

There is an interesting plaque in the church, which holds a hidden message in the text. A brass plaque, now in St Martin’s was originally in St Mary Magdalene’s on Old Fish Street. A serious fire severely damaged much of St Mary in 1886, and as a number of City churches were closing and being demolished under the Union of Benefices Act (an Act to reduce the number of City churches as the population of the City had decreased), the decision was taken not to rebuild St Mary and a number of artifacts were moved to St Martin Ludgate.

The plaque is shown in the following photo and dates from 1586.

St Martin Ludgate

The plaque records a charity set up by Elizabethan fish monger Thomas Berry, or Beri. He is seen on the left of the plaque, and to the right are ten lines of text, followed by two lines which describe the charity:

“XII Penie loaves, to XI poor foulkes. Gave every Sabbath Day for aye”

The plaque is dated 1586, and the charity was set up in his will of 1601 which left his property in Edward Street, Southwark to St Mary Magdalen, with the instruction that the rent should be used to fund the loaves. The recipients of the charity were not in London, but were in Walton-on-the-Hill (now a suburb of Liverpool), a village that Berry seems to have had some connection with. The charity included an additional sum of 50s a year to fund a dinner for all the married people and householders of the town of Bootle.

The interesting lines of text are above those which describe the charity. Thomas seems to have spelled his last name either Berry or Beri and these ten lines of anti-papist verse include his concealed name.

The ten lines are shown below (thankfully “If Stones Could Speak” by F. St Aubyn-Brisbane (1929) have the transcribed text as it was hard to read from the plaque):

St Martin Ludgate

If you take the first letter from each sentence and read from the last sentence, you get the name Tomas Beri.

St Martin Ludgate

The parish church in Walton-on-the-Hill had a similar brass plaque, however it was badly damaged when the church was destroyed in the Liverpool Blitz in May 1941. The Walton church was rebuilt after the war, and a replica plaque can now be seen.

Unlike the Walton church, St Martin Ludgate suffered the least damage of any City church during the last war, with only a single incendiary bomb damaging the roof.

A closer view of the font. The wall behind the font marks the limit of the original Roman City, and remains of the Roman Wall are below the wall of the church.

St Martin Ludgate

City churches tend to accumulate objects, not just from other City churches, but from across the world. For some reason, St Martin Ludgate has a large chandelier from the 18th century which was originally in St Vincent’s Cathedral in the West Indies.

St Martin Ludgate

The chandelier is unusual as the majority of objects in the church appear to have come from St Mary Magdalen, including these bread shelves:

St Martin Ludgate

On display within the church is one of the bells from the post Great Fire rebuild. The bell dates from 1683 and was a “Gift of William Warne, Scrivener to the Parish of St Martin’s Ludgate”:

St Martin Ludgate

In a side room of the church is an interesting 17th century carved pelican:

St Martin Ludgate

The symbol of the pelican feeding its young is a very early Christian representation of Jesus. It comes from a pre-Christian legend that in times of famine, a mother pelican would pierce her breast, allowing her young to feed on her blood, thereby avoiding starvation.

Apart from the slender spire, there is nothing remarkable about the building of St Martin Ludgate, and the church is over shadowed by the much larger cathedral a bit further up Ludgate Hill.

The key though with City churches is that despite the ever-changing City, they are stable reference points, providing the same function for over 900 years.

St Martin Ludgate has the added bonus that the west wall of the church marks the western boundary of the original Roman city, and the Roman wall.

And whilst pondering the Roman city, we can also wonder why Thomas Beri decided to conceal his name in the plaque, or what game he was playing with the future back in 1586.

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St Stephen Walbrook

I was in the City earlier this month and had a couple of free hours in the afternoon, so I headed to the church of St Stephen Walbrook, a church I have not been inside for a number of years.

The church is located just south of the Bank junction of Poultry, Princess Street, Threadneedle Street, Cornhill and King William Street. Located just behind the Mansion House, the church includes the name of one of the City’s lost rivers, and faces onto a street with the same name, Walbrook.

Walking down from the Bank junction, this is the view of the tower of St Stephen Walbrook:

St Stephen Walbrook

St Stephen Walbrook has a long history, however the church is not on its original site.

The River Walbrook originally ran slightly to the west of the street, and it was on the western side of the River Walbrook that the first church was established. Foundations of the original church were found during excavation of the site that today is occupied by the offices of Bloomberg, also the original location of the Roman Temple to Mithras.

According to Walter Thornbury writing in Old and New London, “Eudo, Steward of the Household to King Henry I (1100- 1135) gave the church of St Stephen, which stood on the west side of Walbrook, to the Monastery of St John at Colchester.”

The church probably dates from around the 11th century, but is probably older.

There is very little written evidence of this first church, however in the History of the Ward of Walbrook of the City of London (1904), J.G. White states:

“It possessed a Steeple with Bells and Belfry, as, from an inventory made, it appears that at the time of building the new Church, three bells, with their wheels, &c., were removed from the old building, and fixed in the new Steeple; also that it contained a belfry is evident from the fact that there is in the Coroner’s Roll for 1278 an entry, that on the 1st May in that year information was given that on the previous Sunday, about mid-day, William Clarke ascended the belfry to look for a pigeon’s nest, and in climbing from beam to beam he missed his hold and fell, dying as soon as he came to the ground. There was also a Chancel, there being in the year 1300 an Inquisition taken to enquire who was liable to repair the watercourse of the Walbrook over against the Chancel Wall of the Church.”

Around 1428, this original location of the church, and its associated graveyard was considered too small to support the parish, so a new location was required.

A plot of land was given by Robert Chicheley, a member of The Worshipful Company of Grocers, on the opposite side of Walbrook street, roughly 20 metres to the east of the original location, and the new church was built between 1429 and 1439.

This church would last just under 240 years as the church of St Stephen Walbrook would be one of those destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

Rebuilding commenced in December 1672, with Wren as the architect. St Stephen Walbrook was probably his local church as at the time he was living in Walbrook.

It was a difficult location for the new church as houses were built up against the church, including the area around where the tower would be built.

The area north of the church, now the site of the Mansion House was originally occupied by a market in fish and flesh know as the Stocks Market. Part of the original design for completion of St Stephen Walbrook was a colonnaded replacement for the pre-fire Stocks Market, which would have extended north from the church, This did not get built.

The church was ready to use in 1679, although the tower appears to have been completed later.

The following print from Old and New London shows the church soon after completion. The print also highlights the houses that clustered immediately around the tower.

St Stephen Walbrook

The above drawing from Old and New London is dated 1700, however I suspect this is wrong. The drawing shows the spire on top of the tower, however the spire was not added until 1713-1715.

Remove the houses in front of the church, and as the following photo demonstrates, the appearance of the church is much the same today. It was not possible to replicate the above drawing as the Mansion House presses in to the left of the church, occupying the space that was the Stocks Market.

St Stephen Walbrook

The following extract from a 1720 Ward map shows the church of St Stephen Walbrook, with the Stocks Market occupying the land to the north.

St Stephen Walbrook

Time for a look inside the church. A set of steps rise up from street level to the interior of the church.

St Stephen Walbrook

The interior of St Stephen Walbrook from the entrance:

St Stephen Walbrook

The interior has an unusual layout for a City church. The wooden reredos is at the far end of the church where the altar would traditionally have been located, however following restoration work carried out between 1978 and 1987, the traditional altar was replaced by a central circular altar carved from Travertine by Henry Moore.

St Stephen Walbrook

The new altar and additional restoration work throughout the church was commissioned and supported by the fund-raising efforts of Lord Peter Palumbo who was Churchwarden from 1953 to 2003.

Restoration work at the time was essential as the church was suffering from subsidence, possibly due to the long-term impact of the River Walbrook.

The location of the altar does prevent an ideal photograph of one of the main features of Wren’s designs – the large dome located above the central square of the church.

St Stephen Walbrook

Multiple references refer to the dome as being Wren’s practice for the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, however whilst the overall shape is similar, a dome with lantern on top, the size and construction method is very different.

Whilst the dome of St Paul’s has the inner false dome, with the layer of supports between inner and outer dome to transfer the load of the large stone lantern through to the body of the cathedral, the dome of St Stephen is a much more straightforward construction, however that does not detract anything from the beauty of a magnificent dome, designed in the 17th century on a City parish church.

The following drawing from 1770 shows a view of the interior of the church, with below a cut away diagram of the dome’s construction and a floor plan of the church.

St Stephen Walbrook

The interior of the church also shows another of Wren’s innovations. Rather than the weight of the dome being carried on a large pier at each corner, there are three slender columns at each corner. These have the effect of opening out the corners, rather than these spaces being occupied by a large load bearing pillar.

Note in the floor plan above that the tower is missing. The tower was added after the church had opened, and perhaps Wren’s idea was to have a rectangular church with no tower, where the dome rising above the church would have been the dominating feature.

When the exterior of the church is viewed today, the dome of the church is somewhat hidden to the rear with the tower dominating – perhaps not Wren’s original intention.

Whilst many writers praised St Stephen Walbrook as one of Wren’s best City churches, there were other views, for example in Curiosities of London (1867), John Timbs writes:

“This church, unquestionably elegant, has been overpraised. The rich dome is considered by John Carter to be Wren’s attempt to ‘set up a dome, a comparative imitation (though on a diminutive scale) of the Pantheon at Rome, and which, no doubt, was a kind of probationary trial previous to his gigantic operation of fixing one on his octangular superstructure in the centre of the new St Paul’s’. Mr J. Gwilt says of St Stephen’s ‘Compared with any other church of nearly the same magnitude, Italy cannot exhibit its equal, elsewhere its rival is not to be found. Of those worthy notice, the Zitelle at Venice (by Palladio), is the present approximation in regard to size, but it ranks far below our church in point of composition, and still lower in point of effect.’

Again, had its materials and volume been as durable and as extensive as those of St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren had consummated (in St Stephen’s) a much more efficient monument to his well-earned fame than this fabric affords.”

The church suffered significant damage during the war. the following photo shows the interior of the church with parts of the dome collapsed onto the floor of the church.

St Stephen Walbrook

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: M0019488CL

A view of the damage to the dome can be seen in the following drawing by Dennis Flanders in June 1941.

St Stephen Walbrook

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/9354

Dennis Flanders was a freelance artists who recorded bomb damage to London. He sold some of his work to the War Artists Advisory Committee, including the drawing of St Stephen’s.

Another drawing purchased by the War Artists Advisory Committee was the following by Ian Strang, dated 1945.

St Stephen Walbrook

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/25791

Note the temporary wooden cover in the place of the dome.

In the foreground are the foundations of the bombed buildings that occupied the space now occupied by the Bloomberg building. Excavation in the space during 1954 would reveal the Roman Temple of Mithras.

There is a wonderful model of the church to be seen inside the church:

St Stephen Walbrook

The model allows the overall design of the church to be appreciated, not easy when viewed from outside.

Looking at the model, the tower and buildings along the front of the church do look separate to the main body of the church (the smaller building to the right of the row on the front is a Starbucks).

Remove the tower and the buildings along the front and the church would be of rectangular design with a magnificent dome dominating the view of the church – perhaps Wren’s original intention.

The spire on top of the church is very similar to two other City churches, St Michael Paternoster Royal and St James Garlickhithe, which is shown in the following photo taken by my father in 1953.

St Stephen Walbrook

The spire was added to St Stephen Walbrook between 1713 and 1715, and the spires to the other two churches were added in the same period. They are possibly to a design by Hawksmoor.

Looking back towards the entrance to the church with a rather magnificent organ case above the door. This dates from 1765.

St Stephen Walbrook

There are a number of monuments on the walls of the church, including the following to Samuel Moyer dated 1716:

St Stephen Walbrook

Many of these tablets provide an insight into the dreadful child mortality rates of earlier centuries, even for those who were affluent.

The tablet states that Samuel Moyer was a Baronet. He must have had money as the tablet states the family spent the summer at their home at Pitsey Hall in Essex and the winters in the parish of St Stephen Walbrook.

A Baronet, who could afford homes in Essex and London still suffered numerous child deaths, Of their eleven children, eight died in their minority, with only three daughters surviving to “lament with their sorrowful mother, the great loss of so indulgent a father”.

It was not just the high rates of child mortality, but also what this level of child-birth did to women. The risks to women during childbirth were very high, and for Rebeckah Jollife, Moyer’s wife, surviving eleven must have been traumatic.

Also, with eleven births, for a significant period of her life, Rebeckah must have been in a state of almost continuous pregnancy.

St Stephen Walbrook also has a rather nice sword rest dating from 1710. This apparently came from the church of St Ethelburga.

St Stephen Walbrook

Back outside the church and this is the view of St Stephen Walbrook from the south.

St Stephen Walbrook

Today, a Starbuck’s occupies the corner space between tower and body of the church.

The dome of the church and lantern is just visible from the street.

The side view of the church shows the rough building materials used in the construction of the church – probably because other buildings were up against the side of the church so there was no need for expensive stone dressing to the side walls.
St Stephen Walbrook

Close up view of the dome and lantern:

St Stephen Walbrook

A longer view looking along Walbrook from the south. The Bloomberg building is on the left:

St Stephen Walbrook

This is such a fascinating area. In the above photo, the River Walbrook once ran roughly from where I am standing to take the photo, up and parallel to the existing street. The original church was on the left, prior to moving across the street and the river. The Roman Temple of Mithras is under the Bloomberg building on my left.

St Stephen Walbrook still dominates the northern part of the street, however if you walk along the street, look behind the tower and admire Wren’s dome.

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A City Relic In Deepest Hampshire

Do you ever wonder what happened to the contents of all the City churches that have disappeared over the centuries? Probably not, however this rather obscure interest took me recently from the Minories in the east of the City to a small village in deepest Hampshire.

The Minories is currently the name of a street leading from Tower Hill to Aldgate High Street. The name derives from the sisterhood of the “Sorores Minores” of the Order of St. Clare. The sisters of the order were known as Minoresses and their religious house as the Minories, and it was one of these houses or abbey that occupied the area to the east of the street currently known as Minories.

The abbey had an associated church, and following the dissolution, the church became the parish church  and was known as the Church of Saint Trinity, or Holy Trinity in the Minories. It is the later name that was most commonly associated with the church.

Holy Trinity was located at the end of a street leading from the Minories. The street is currently called St. Clare Street  (taking its name from the religious order).

The book “A History of the Minories” written by a vicar of the church and published in 1922 provides a fascinating history of the abbey and the church. It also includes a drawing of the church at the end of the side street leading from the Minories.

Minories

This is the same view today. The church was at the end of the street, with the front of the church just in front of the building that terminates the end of the street.

Minories

The 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows the location of the church, in the centre of the following map extract, at the end of what was then Church Street (now St. Clare Street).

Minories

Credit: ‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’ 

A map of the same area today. I have marked where the church was located by a red rectangle  (© OpenStreetMap contributors) .

Minories

You will see on the 1895 map that there is a public house on the southern corner where Church Street meets the Minories. The building is still a pub – The Three Lords:

Minories

The current pub building dates from around 1890, however a pub with the same name has been on the site for much longer. The earliest newspaper reference I could find to The Three Lords dates to the 11th January 1819 when the Evening Mail reported on the arrest of a man for robbery. He was formerly a respectable man with carriage and servants, one of whom in 1819 kept the Three Lords and a pot from the pub was found in the room of the alleged thief.

The view from the far end of St. Clare Street looking back towards the Minories. The street is still cobbled.

Minories

Holy Trinity church was closed in 1899. One of the closures of City churches under the Union of Benefices Act of 1860 where churches were closed and their parish amalgamated with another parish (St. Botolph’s Aldgate for Holy Trinity).

Closure of churches was a very controversial act for the Vicars of the churches involved along with their parishioners. There is an interesting letter in the London Evening Standard on the 30th May 1893 from the Vicar of Holy Trinity. The letter addresses errors about the history of the church in an earlier article, and demonstrates the passion resulting from the way in which the closure was managed. It is a long letter, but provides some fascinating insight into a small parish at the end of the 19th century. It also demonstrates the interest of a parish vicar in their church. Frequently the image of the Vicar is of a remote character, mainly interested in the income that could be generated from the role.

The letter reads:

“HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, MINORIES – Under the above title an article has gone round the papers purporting to give particulars of my church and its past history, some extracts of which appeared in your Morning and Evening Editions of the 25th instant. Will you permit me, then, to say that none of the statements in that article are correct.

In the first place, the name of my church is not ‘St. Mary in the Minories’ but  Holy Trinity, Minories. Secondly, the mummified head which we have could not be that of the Duke of Norfolk, as the writer states, for that nobleman never had anything to do with the abbey or the church that I am aware of; but it may be the head of the Duke of Suffolk, to whom the abbey was given for a residence, by Royal letters patent, in the reign of Edward VI, and who, whilst resident there, was beheaded for attempting to place his daughter, Lady Jane Grey, upon the throne. The head was found in 1853 in one of the vaults, in a box of oaken sawdust, which, acting as an antiseptic, has marvelously preserved the skin of the face.

(The book “A History of the Minories” includes a rather gruesome photo of the mummified head)

Thirdly, the writer says that ‘the ancient Priory of Holy Trinity was founded by Matilda, Queen of Henry I, in 1108 whereas we know that the abbey (not priory) and its church was built in 1293 by Queen Blanche, widow of Henry le Gros, King of Navarre, who afterwards married Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. The arms of the Queen, with those of the Earl of Lancaster, are now in our vestry.

Fourthly, the writer states that on ‘the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII, the priory and its precincts were given to Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor of England, who after pulling down the church, made the place his residence until his death in the year 1554’. These mistakes are even worse than the former ones, for Henry VIII gave the abbey to the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Dr. John Clerk) for a place of residence, where he died and was buried in the vaults of our church, though afterwards his body was, for some cause, removed to Aldgate Church. This was the man, who took to the Pope of Rome a copy of King Henry’s book against Luther, which led to that Sovereign receiving the title of ‘Defender of the Faith’, still used, though with a very different meaning.

The church was not pulled down on the dissolution of the abbey, but remained until 1706, when, being in a very dilapidated state, it was taken down and rebuilt from the ground with the exception of the north wall, upon which the chief monuments are placed.

Then the writer says that the parishioners of St. Katherine Cree, in 1622, obtained leave of Charles I to rebuild the priory church with the assistance of Lord Mayor Barkham.

From this it is quite evident that the writer of the article has mixed up our church and the abbey with another church and some priory. What in the world could see the parishioners of St. Katherine Cree have to do with Holy Trinity, Minories? Also, as the church was not rebuilt until 1706, Lord Mayor Barkham certainly did not assist to rebuild it in 1622, but Sir William Pritchard, who was Lord Mayor in 1683, purchased the abbey, and resided in it during his mayoralty, calling it, I believe, the Mansion House.

May I add that I was at first greatly opposed to the amalgamation of Holy Trinity, Minories, with St. Botolph Aldgate, and wrote a little history of the church in order to raise funds for its restoration, when the Charity Commissioners came down upon us and confiscated the church property devoted by the churchwardens to the maintenance of public worship, leaving them only thirteen pounds a year to pay the salaries of organist, pew-opener, bell-ringer, fire insurance, repairs, gas, coals, water, &c. ? Also they seized funds for giving every Christmas all the widows living in the parish five shillings, accompanied with coal and bread tickets.

This unrighteous impoverishment of the church led me to consent to the amalgamation scheme now about to take place, but I shall leave my parish and people with much regret.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant, Samuel Kinns, Vicar.”

I walked down St. Clare Street, to where the street takes a sharp right turn. In the following photo, the front of the church was just behind the gates, roughly in line with the red bin on the left.

Minories

Nearly all the buildings at this end of the street are relatively recent.

Holy Trinity, Minories closed as a church at the end of the 19th century, but the church survived as a parish hall until the Second World War when the building suffered severe bomb damage. A wall did remain until final clearance of the area in the late 1950s.

Taking the sharp right turn on St. Clare Street, in front of where the church was located, and there is one remaining building, an old warehouse that would have probably been around at the same time as the church.

Minories

Finally, getting to the theme of the post, does anything remain of the church?

The following drawing of the interior of the church from the book “A History Of The Minories London”, shows a pulpit on the left, where the rows of pews end.

Minories

The pulpit can still be seen today, but in a very different location to the Minories.

The church was closed in 1899, and in 1906 the pulpit from Holy Trinity, Minories was presented to All Saints’ Church, East Meon in Hampshire.

East Meon is a village in Hampshire, to the west of Petersfield in the South Downs. It is close to the source of the River Meon. In the following map extract, the location of the village is indicated by the red circle.  (Maps © OpenStreetMap contributors) 

Minories

Zooming in further and the following extract shows the village in the centre of the map, the River Meon flowing through the village, which is surrounded by countryside.

Minories

A couple of weeks ago, I headed out to East Meon to find Holy Trinity’s pulpit.

East Meon is best reached either via the A3, turning off near Petersfield, or from the A32 at West Meon. The final few miles of travel along either of these routes is along country lanes with very little traffic and the rolling hills of the South Downs on either side.

In the centre of the village is a finger post showing the nearest villages and towns and also signposting the village shop, school, village hall and car park.

Minories

The River Meon flows through the centre of the village.

Minories

The first view of All Saints’ Church, East Meon from the centre of the village. The church has a rather dramatic location, on raised ground overlooking the village, and with the towering Park Hill rising directly behind the church.

Minories

A closer view of the church.

Minories

The church was built between the years 1080 and 1150. Although with later renovations, repairs and changes, the layout of the church is the same cross-shaped design as when originally built. A central tower dominates over a nave, chancel and transepts which lead off either side from the base of the tower.

Major restoration was carried out during the early 20th century, and as part of this restoration, the Holy Trinity pulpit arrived in East Meon.

The main entrance porch to the church provides a superb view looking back over the village of East Meon.

Minories

On entering the church, the pulpit comes into view.

Minories

A close up view of the original Holy Trinity pulpit. At first sight, perhaps not very impressive, but it dates from 1706 and spent almost 200 years serving the parishioners of the Minories in the City.

Minories

This is the pulpit from which Edward Murray Tomlinson, the author of the book I have on my desk – A History of the Minories London – would have preached from during his time as a Vicar of Holy Trinity.

A brass plate on the door of the pulpit confirms the origin, and provides some background as to how the pulpit found its way from the Minories to East Meon.

Minories

The Rev. Edmund Murray Tomlinson who presented the pulpit to the church must have noticed a considerable difference between his 12 years as Vicar of Holy Trinity, Minories and his following 12 years as Vicar of East Meon.

The pulpit arrived at a time when the East Meon church was undergoing considerable renovation. The East Hampshire Chronicle on the 3rd November 1906 reported that the church had just reopened for public worship and that restoration had cost £1,130.

Restoration included major works such as the lowering of the floor to the original Norman level to reveal the “dignity of the massive Norman arches”. The article also references the arrival of the pulpit from Holy Trinity, Minories to confirm the facts given on the brass plate.

The interior of the church is fascinating, not just the architecture, but also the decoration and furniture of the church.

The church provides a home for the East Meon Millenium Embroidery. Started in 2002 and completed in 2008, the embroidery provides a wonderful snapshot of the village, created by local people. Unfortunately, no matter where I stood, I could not take a photo without a reflection in the glass.

Minories

Windows and Easter decorations:Minories

There is a strange stone set into one of the interior walls of the church. the words “Amens Plenty” inscribed.

Minories

The church guidebook provides an interesting local legend about the stone. It was lifted from the floor of the church in 1869 and underneath the stone was found the remains of four men. They were buried vertically which added to the mystery. The local legend is that they were four Parliamentary soldiers killed in the village before the Battle of Cheriton on the 29th March 1644. Cheriton is about 12 km to the north west of East Meon.

An interesting feature of the central tower is that access to the tower is via stairs up along the wall in one of the transepts, with a small balcony and doorway at the top of the stairs providing access to the tower.

Minories

Some very large capitals on the crossing arches that support the tower.

Minories

View along the central nave of the church with the Holy Trinity pulpit on the left at the end of the pews.

Minories

The church has two fonts. The first is a very plain stone font of unknown date. As with the Holy Trinity pulpit, churches seem to accumulate from other religious buildings and this font came from the ruined chapel of St. Nicholas near Westbury House in East Meon. Although being of unknown date, it looks very old.

Minories

The second font is much more ornate and has a more identifiable history. This is the Tournai font:

Minories

The font derives its name from the location of manufacture – Tournai in Belgium. It was delivered to the church in East Meon around the year 1150, and probably was a gift from Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester. The fact that East Meon has such a font illustrates the importance of the church and village in the 12th century. There is another Tournai font in Winchester Cathedral.

Minories

The font is highly decorated, although this was rather difficult to photograph in the strong light streaming through the windows. Two sides of the font tell the story of Adam and Eve whilst the other two faces and the top of the font are covered in symbolic designs.

The following photo shows the west side of the font. The pillars are holding up the flat earth above which some rather strange monsters or dragons are carved.

Minories

The east side of the font relates part of the story of Adam and Eve. Rather difficult to see in the following photo, however the structure on the right is a representation of the Gates to Paradise. There is a figure to the left holding a large sword. The figure also has wings and is a representation of an angle who has expelled Adam and Eve from Paradise. Adam and Eve are to the left of the angel and are both trying to hold their fig leaves in place.

Minories

The font is a remarkable example of 12th century craftsmanship.

In the outside wall of the church, there are some gorgeous doors:

Minories

Minories

The central tower of the church. The spire dates from 1230 when the final additions were made to the church including the Lady Chapel and the south aisle.

Minories

Detail from the top of the tower. Wavy carving around the clock, open windows and along the wall of the tower.

Minories

The rear view of the church shown below includes the original chancel on the right, with the 1230 Lady Chapel on the left.

Minories

The straight line distance between the location of Holy Trinity, Minories and East Meon is not that far, only 88km, or 55 miles, but they are very different places and that difference must have been even more apparent in the 19th and early 20th centuries when the Vicar and Pulpit moved from the Minories to East Meon.

A modern day comparison of living in a village such as East Meon with living in the city is the difference in public transport. The bus stop timetable highlights the limited bus service to take residents to the nearest town.

Minories

Although the City still has a remarkable number of churches, so many have been lost over the years, from the Great Fire, the wave of late 19th century closures that included Holy Trinity, the Blitz and other occasional closures and parish amalgamation.

Church contents would have been lost through fire and bomb damage, but there must still have been a considerable amount sold or relocated to another church. The 1706 Holy Trinity pulpit is one item that can still be found, and continues to serve the same function as its makers intended over three hundred years ago.

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St John at Hampstead and George du Maurier

Last Saturday was a windy, sunny spring day in London, so what better than to spend an hour exploring the cemetery of St John at Hampstead.

The reason for this specific cemetery was to find a rather unusual grave that my father had photographed in 1949. This is the grave of George du Maurier.

St John at Hampstead

The same view 70 years later in 2019:

St John at Hampstead

The grave today does not appear as well looked after as in 1949. There was some space surrounding the grave in 1949, however today there are many more graves alongside. The tree on the left has been cut down and today only the stump survives. One of the significant differences which I find in many of my father’s photos is the number of cars in the street. In 1949 streets were generally free of parked cars, in 2019 there are very few streets without parked cars, or lots of passing traffic.

George du Maurier, or to give him his full name, George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier, was born in Paris on the 6th March 1834 and died on the 8th October 1896.

His grandparents on his father’s side were French and according to an 1886 newspaper account, emigrated to England during the “Reign of Terror” during the French Revolution. Later accounts state that his grandfather was a glassblower and left France to avoid fraud charges, adding the du Maurier name to give the impression of a French aristocratic background.

His father returned to Paris and it was there that George was born. He spent much of his childhood in France until the family returned to London and George started as a student at the Birkbeck Laboratory of Chemistry.

The Hampstead and Highgate Express on the 24th July 1886, in their series on well known residents features George du Maurier and explains that whilst his father wanted him to become a chemist, including going to the expense of setting up his own private laboratory, George was more interested in the arts and “humorous draughtsmanship“.

After the death of his father, he gave up chemistry and went to Paris to study art. He later returned to London, after spending an additional three years in Germany and Belgium and started in his career as a draughtsman, producing drawings for publications. Punch was the publication that became most associated with his work, and he produced drawings for Punch for twenty five years.

George du Maurier photographed in 1889 (© National Portrait Gallery, London)

St John at Hampstead

The article in the Hampstead and Highgate Express described his work: “Over a period of nearly twenty five years he has contributed to ‘Punch’ an almost endless series of drawings illustrative of the manners and customs of English society. Some of its phenomena, the shams, affectations, meannesses and frivolities peculiar to its salons and garden parties, and some other scenes of fashionable life, are treated by the artist with the most biting satire. But a great deal belonging to English life and society, especially its venial weaknesses, is treated by the artist from the humorists’ standpoint, namely that of light satire and good humour. In an appreciation of beauty and grace as seen in his numerous presentments of women and children, and in his general design of his pictures, Mr du Maurier excels all preceding English pictorial humourists. In the ‘Punch’ contributions he has not only shown power as a graceful and refined artist, but in his drawings for that amusing periodical there are touches of wit, humour, satire, subtle observation, and poetic suggestiveness which are indisputably the work of a man of genius.”

A couple of examples of George du Maurier’s work for Punch are shown below (both ©Trustees of the British Museum).

The following drawing is an illustration for Punch, dated the 18 October 1880. It is described as “What our Artist has to put up with, a man talking and touching the shoulder of another, both standing before a group of three pictures, other figures examining other pictures on the surrounding walls”.

St John at Hampstead

The following drawing is dated the 12th January 1878 and is a study of two female figures sitting in a carriage on the Metropolitan Railway.

St John at Hampstead

He also produced numerous sketches for his own amusement, including many self portraits. This one on paper, stamped with his home address in Hampstead shows George du Maurier exclaiming ‘Hooray!’ at the arrival of the post with his dog dancing nearby.

St John at Hampstead

George du Maurier married Emma Wightwick, who he had met whilst in Germany. They had five children. One of his children was the actor Sir Gerald du Maurier, who was the father of the authors Daphne du Maurier and Angela du Maurier.

In his later years, George du Maurier turned to writing and produced three novels between 1889 and 1897- Peter IbbetsonTrilby, and The Martian.  Trilby was a significant best seller with the Victorian story of a fallen woman with a good heart.

George du Maurier was 62 when he died of heart failure. He had lived at two locations in Hampstead during his life, but had moved around a number of times and at the time of his death was living at Oxford Square, near Hyde Park.

His funeral at St John at Hampstead was a significant event, attended by many dignitaries of the day, authors and the staff of Punch magazine.

The memorial at his grave is unusual, and I cannot find any references as to why the design was chosen.

I am also unsure why my father chose to photograph du Maurier’s grave given the number of famous names buried at St John at Hampstead. My father was also a draughtsman, professionally for the St. Pancras Borough Council Electricity and Public Lighting Department, then the London Electricity Board, but also was interested in drawing many other subjects and it may have been this interest in an earlier draughtsman that prompted the choice of grave to visit and photograph.

George du Maurier’s grave is in the “Additional Burial Ground” just across the road from the church of St John at Hampstead and the original graveyard. The extension opened in 1812. This is the view of the additional burial ground from Church Row. The church is on the left, just behind the car. George du Maurier’s grave is up against the railings, just behind the poster.

St John at Hampstead

Another view of George du Maurier’s grave. Underneath the name and dates of birth and death is written “A little trust that when we die, we reap our sowing and so – good bye“.

St John at Hampstead

The monument above the grave is to Geoirge du Maurier, however there are panels inset to the front and sides that record the children of George and Emma du Maurier.

Here, their eldest son, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Louis Busson du Maurier is recorded as being killed in action on March 10th 1915 at Alston House, near Kemmel in Flanders.

St John at Hampstead

Marie Louise Busson du Maurier, their youngest daughter.

St John at Hampstead

Gerald Hubert Edward Busson du Maurier, their youngest son.

St John at Hampstead

There are numerous fascinating graves in the cemetery of St John at Hampstead. Walking around is a history lesson of the past couple of centuries.

The following grave and monument was not there when my father took the photo at the top of this post. It is immediately to the left (when looking from the road) of George du Maurier’s grave and is the grave of Hugh Gaitskell, the  leader of the Labour Party from 1955 to 1963, along with his wife, Dora.

St John at Hampstead

Adjacent to the grave of Hugh Gaitskell are plaques to the Hampstead resident, comedian and satirist Peter Cook and his wife Lin.

St John at Hampstead

Strangely Wikipedia states that Peter Cook’s ashes were buried in an unmarked grave so either the plaques are in the wrong place, or Wikipedia is wrong. – I suspect the later.

There was one specific grave that I was interested to find, and after some searching I found the grave of Sir Walter Besant.

St John at Hampstead

Sir Walter Besant was born in Portsmouth in 1836 and died in Hampstead in 1901. His life almost matching the reign of Queen Victoria.

He was a prolific author of both novels and factual books. Two of his more famous novels, “Children of Gibeon” and “All Sorts and Conditions of Men” dealt with the living and social conditions of east London and the relationship between east and west London. The later book helped with the establishment of the People’s Palace in east London by John Beaumont. The book included the planning and build of a Palace of Delight to provide education, concerts, picture galleries, reading rooms etc. free to the people of east London. The name used in the book was part taken by the People’s Palace, and the book brought funding and support to the People’s Palace.

For many of his books, he worked with the author James Rice and the two men went walking across London to gather background for their books. James Rice died in 1882 and in the preface to “All Sorts and Conditions of Men”, Besant wrote: “The many wanderings, therefore, which I undertook last summer in Stepney, Whitechapel, Poplar, St. George’s-in-the-East, Limehouse, Bow, Stratford, Shadwell and all that great and marvelous unknown country we call East London, were undertaken, for the first time for ten years, alone. They would have been undertaken in great sadness had one foreseen the end. In one of these wanderings I had the happiness to discover Rotherhithe, which I afterwards explored with carefulness; in another, I lit upon a certain Haven of Rest for aged sea captains, among whom I found Captain Sorensen; in others I found many wonderful things, and conversed with many wonderful people”.

I suspect that during the 19th century there were quite a few authors wandering the streets of east London.

In a review of one of Besant’s book, the London Evening Standard wrote in 1901 a paragraph that is just as true today:

“It is commonly said that half the world is ignorant of how the other half lives. That is more than true of London, for its vastness limits the social outlook of its inhabitants to the narrow groove of their daily work. How little do most people know of the occupations, or even names, of their immediate neighbours. Sir Walter Besant however is well acquainted with the region he is describing and his details are always equally graphic and correct.”

Sir Walter Besant spent six years abroad when he was a Senior Professor of Mathematics at the Royal College in Mauritius. He was Secretary of the Palestine Exploration Fund. Besant was also instrumental in the founding of the Society of Authors and became the first Chair of the society. During his time with the society he was active in furthering the cause of copyright for an author’s work.

Sir Walter Besant, looking very Victorian in 1896 (photo © National Portrait Gallery, London)

St John at Hampstead

The reason why I wanted to find Besant’s grave was that I have many of his historical and topographical books on London. They are comprehensive studies of a specific period in time and of a region of the city. Full of early photos, drawings and maps. This is my copy of Besant’s London books published by A&C Black.

St John at Hampstead

The London Evening Standard on the 11th June 1901 carried a comprehensive obituary of Besant.

It records that “When the People’s Palace was opened by Queen Victoria, the obligation which London and the nation owed to Mr. Besant was publicly recognised, and in 1895 the honour of Knighthood was bestowed upon him, amid universal approval.”

He was married to Mary Foster-Barham, and the obituary illustrates how male and female children were treated differently. The obituary records that when he died, his two sons, Philip and Geoffrey were both at the Front (South Africa). The former being a Captain in the 4th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the latter a trooper in the Imperial Yeomanry. Of his daughters, the only mention is that one unnamed daughter was with Walter Besant at the time of his death.

It was fascinating to find the grave of an author that has provided me with a Victorian view of the history of London.

It was a pleasure to walk round and explore the “Additional Burial Ground” of St John at Hampstead on a sunny spring day.

St John at Hampstead

The cemetery is at the exactly right place between being wild and too manicured. Last autumn’s leaves still cover the ground, moss covers many of the graves and narrow paths provide walkways across the cemetery. The houses of Hampstead close in on the cemetery boundaries.

St John at Hampstead

This stunning Magnolia tree will look magnificent in a couple of weeks (providing the flowers have not been blown away with the recent gales).

St John at Hampstead

There are so many graves that tell an interesting and often tragic story of 19th and early 20th century life. This is the grave of Arthur Llewelyn Davies who died in 1907 and his wife Sylvia Jocelyn who both died at the same age of 44 (although in different years).

St John at Hampstead

Perhaps the only good thing about their relatively young deaths is that they would not have to suffer the deaths of their eldest son George who was killed in action at the age of 22 on the 15th March 1915, and the death of their fourth son Michael who drowned whilst bathing at Oxford where he was an undergraduate at the age of 20.

Inscriptions also record how individuals (or their families) wanted to be remembered. This is the grave of George Atherton Aitken – The Very Mirror Of A Pubic Servant.

St John at Hampstead

After visiting the additional cemetery, I walked across the road to visit the church of St John at Hampstead and the original cemetery.

St John at Hampstead

References to a chapel on the site date back to the 14th century. The core of the current church was consecrated in 1747 with the spire being added in the 1780s. The church was expanded during the middle of the 19th century to support the growing population of Hampstead. During the rest of the 19th century there would be improvements (such as gas lighting), decoration and minor changes. The church was given a lighter colour decoration in 1958 to replace the dark Victorian interior.

The interior of St John at Hampstead today:

St John at Hampstead

The original cemetery around the church has a number of fascinating graves of those who have made their mark over the centuries.

Close to the church is the grave of John Harrison.

St John at Hampstead

The inscription provides a summary of Harrison’s work;

“In memory of Mr John Harrison , late of Red Lion Square, London. Inventor of the Time-Keeper for ascertaining the Longitude at Sea.

He was born at Foulby, in the County of York, and was the Son of a Builder at that Place, who brought him up to the same profession.

Before he attained the Age of 21, he without any Instruction employed himself in cleaning and repairing Clocks and Watches and made a few of the former chiefly of Wood. At the age of 25 he employed he Whole Time in Chronological Improvements. He was the Inventor of the Gridiron Pendulum and the Method of preventing the Effect of Heat and Cold upon Time keepers by Two Bars of different Metals fixed together. He introduced the Secondary Spring to keep them going while winding up and was the Inventor of most (or all) of the Improvements in Clocks and Watches during his Time.

In the year 1735 his first Time keeper was sent to Lisbon, and in 1764 his then much Improved fourth Time keeper, having been sent to Barbados the Commissioners of Longitude certified that it had determined the Longitude within one Third of Half a Degree of a Great Circle having erred not more than 40 Seconds in Time.

After near Sixty years close Application to the above Pursuits, he departed this Life on the 24th Day of March 1776, Aged 83.

Mrs Elizabeth Harrison Wife of the above Mr John Harrison departed this life March 5th 1777, Aged 72.”

Despite the success of the trial with the fourth time keeper (model H4), Harrison had problems with the Board of Longitude which had been set up to oversee the trials and a financial award for the accurate measurement of Longitude under the Longitude Act. The Commissioners on the Board of Longitude did not feel that sufficient trials had been carried out, and they initially offered part of the award (£10,000) with a further £10,000 if Harrison’s time keeper could be replicated by other manufacturers. This would have required the design details of Harrison’s time keeper to be published freely for other manufacturers to use.

Harrison did eventually get a substantial financial award from Parliament, with the support of the King.

The grave of an artistic Hampstead resident can be found up against the boundary wall of the cemetery. This is the grave of the artist John Constable.

St John at Hampstead

Constable was a frequent visitor to Hampstead and lived for many years in the area, including in a house in Well Walk between the years 1827 until 1834. It was from the drawing room of the house in Well Walk that he painted a number of views across to the centre of the City.

An example being the following view with St. Paul’s Cathedral in the centre distance. An inscription on the rear of the painting reads: “Hampstead. Drawing Room 12 o’clock noon Sept.1830” (Image ©Trustees of the British Museum)

St John at Hampstead

The hilly nature of Hampstead is visible in the graveyard, as the land descends from the high point of 135m at Whitestone Pond down towards the River Thames.

St John at Hampstead

The graveyard is also managed in such a way that whilst it is not too wild, it is not manicured and a plaque at the entrance provides information on the range of wildlife that can be found.

St John at Hampstead

Towards the south east corner of the graveyard, just across Frognal Way, there is a rather large construction site.

St John at Hampstead

I believe this was 22 Frognal Way, which was occupied by a modernist house built to the design of Kentish Town architect Philip Pank. The house was commissioned by Harold Cooper and built in 1978. Cooper was the founder of the Lee Cooper jeans brand. After his death in 2008, the house became derelict and although there were attempts to get the house listed and restored, planning permission appears to have been given for demolition and construction of a new house.

The new building will be low profile consisting of a single story as viewed from street level, however as can be seen by the size of the excavation in the above photo, the new building will have considerable basement space.

Some of these building sites where basements are constructed for residential homes appear more like a Crossrail construction site. I suspect I know what the neighbours think about having such a large excavation on their doorstep.

The church of St John at Hampstead, the original and additional graveyards, are a fascinating place to explore, and if you have a couple of hours spare on a sunny day, there is no better place to learn about the residents of this area of north London.

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St Giles In The Fields

St Giles has always been a distinctive area. Not in the West End, not part of the expensive streets of Bloomsbury to the north, ignored by those shopping on Oxford Street and bypassed by New Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road. My memories of St Giles from the late 1970s and 1980s are that it always had a slightly edgy atmosphere when visiting in the evening, drinking in the local pubs and the late night bars and music venues.

I had been intending to write a post about St Giles as an area, however working away this last week and the sheer breadth and depth of the history of St Giles swiftly stopped this attempt, so for today’s post I will focus on the church of St Giles in the Fields, a church that has been central to the history of the area for hundreds of years, located to the west of the parish, at the junction of St Giles High Street, Denmark Street and Earnshaw Street.

I visited last June, a gorgeous summer day in London, which seems a long time ago whilst writing this on a grey January day.

The view on leaving Tottenham Court Road Underground Station immediately shows how the area is changing. The space between New Oxford Street, Charing Cross Road and Denmark Street is a major building site. The original site of Foyles disappeared a few years ago.

I walk down Charing Cross Road, along Denmark Street to find St Giles in the Fields:

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields was on the main route that led from Holborn up along what became Oxford Street to Tyburn. The following extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map shows St Giles in the Fields in the lower left corner (unfortunately the corner of the page in my copy of the map, so does not show the area around the church).

St Giles in the Fields

The wide street labelled “Broad St Giles’s” connected Holborn on the right with Oxford Street on the left. The significance of the street as a main route was relegated with the construction of New Oxford Street which cut across the streets between St Giles and Great Russell Street to the north. The construction of New Oxford Street was planned as a continuation of Oxford Street and to help with traffic congestion along St Giles. The area north of St Giles consisted of densely packed buildings, courts and alleys and was known as one of London’s notorious Rookeries.

The following map of the area today shows St Giles in the Fields in the lower centre of the map, with Denmark Street continuing to the left towards Charing Cross Road and Earnshaw Street continuing up to New Oxford Street.

St Giles in the Fields

It was late morning when I arrived and stalls in the churchyard facing St Giles High Street were setting up ready to provide food and drink to workers and visitors.

St Giles in the Fields

The origins of the church date back to the founding of a leper hospital in 1101 by Queen Matilda, when the site of the church was the hospital chapel. With the dissolution in the 16th century, the chapel became the parish church for the small village that had grown up around the original hospital.

St Giles grew into an affluent area and contributions from many of the parish’s wealthy residents allowed the chapel to be replaced by a new church in the 17th century. Edward Walford in Old and New London describes this church as being a “red brick structure, commissioned by Laud, whilst Bishop of London in 1623”.

The church of St Giles in the Fields as it appeared in 1718:

St Giles in the Fields

This 17th century church was in a very poor state 100 years later, and was demolished to make way for the present church which was built between 1730 and 1734.  Edward Walford describes the new church as “a large and stately edifice, built entirety of Portland stone, and is vaulted beneath. The steeple, which rises to a height of about 160 feet, consists of a rustic pedestal, supporting a range of Doric pilasters; whilst above the clock is an octangular tower, with three-quarter Ionic columns, supporting a balustrade with vases, on which stands the spire., which is also octangular and belted. The interior of the church is bold and effective, the roof is supported by rows of Ionic pillars of Portland stone, and the semicircular-headed windows are mostly filled with coloured glass”.

St Giles in the Fields faces to the west and the main entrance to the church is off Flitcroft Street, a narrow street that leads down from Denmark Street.

The following photo is from the entrance to the church looking down Flitcroft Street, a view that still retains the mix of architectural styles and narrow streets that once typified the majority of streets in St Giles.

St Giles in the Fields

The brick building between Flitcroft Street and the corner of the churchyard has an interesting history. The tall green doors on the side of the building facing the street may provide a clue, as does the name of the building on the brick apex:

St Giles in the Fields

As the wording states, the building was Elms Lesters Painting Rooms & Stores and was used for painting the scenic backdrops used in West End theatres, hence the tall green doors to allow these backdrops to be removed from the building for transport to the theatre.

The main entrance to the church and the associated gateway is from Flitcroft Street which, given the narrowness of the street and St Giles High Street running along the northern boundary of the church, could be considered a strange location.

St Giles in the Fields

Edward Walford again helps with understanding why the gateway is here “The gate at the entrance of the churchyard which dates from the days of Charles II, is much admired. It is adorned with a bas-relief of the Day of Judgement. It formerly stood on the north side of the churchyard, but in 1865, being unsafe, it was taken down and carefully re-erected opposite the western entrance, where it will command a prominent position towards the new street that is destined sooner or later to be opened from Tottenham Court Road to St Martin’s Lane”.

The bas-relief can still be seen on the arch above the entrance on the side of the gate facing the street. The reference to the new street was to one of the many plans in the 19th century for new streets to be constructed across London to create major through routes, rather than the mix of large streets separated by large blocks of much smaller streets and alleys. The new street referenced by Walford was not built, otherwise Flitcroft Street would look very different today.

Old and New London included a print of the gate in its original position:

St Giles in the Fields

Edward Walford’s 19th century description of the church is still relevant today:

St Giles in the Fields

There are many monuments within the church, but one of the most interesting is up against the side of the church, with a detailed and well preserved figure of a recumbent woman with an inscription on the stone at the rear of the figure.

St Giles in the Fields

The monument is in memory of Lady Frances Kniveton. She was one of the five daughters of Sir Robert Dudley and his wife Lady Alice. Sir Robert Dudley is an interesting character, however his later treatment of Lady Alice demonstrates that the title of “Right Honourable” is not always appropriate. The illegitimate son of Sir Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester, he was an explorer, in the days when the majority of exploration seemed to involve capturing Spanish ships.

He tried to prove that he was the legitimate son of the 1st Earl of Leicester, however the majority of evidence that he produced was not convincing and a judgement handed down in 1605 refused to accept that he was the legitimate son.

Soon after he left the country, heading to Italy with his first cousin once removed, Elizabeth Southwell. They settled in Florence, converted to Catholicism, married and Dudley went on to have 13 children with Elizabeth, in addition to the 5 he left in England with Alice.

Lady Alice was made a Duchess in her own right by Charles 1st. She lived in St Giles and contributed significantly to the church.

The text at the bottom of the inscription explains why the monument was saved from the original church and installed in the 18th century church. Old and New London explains: “This monument was preserved when the church was rebuilt, as a piece of parochial gratitude to one whose benefactions to the parish in which she resided had been both frequent and liberal. Among other matters, she had contributed very largely to the interior decoration of the church, but had the mortification of seeing her gifts condemned as Popish, cast out of the sacred ediface, and sold by order of the hypocritical Puritans.”

There are two pulpits in the church, the traditional church pulpit:

St Giles in the Fields

Along with a pulpit that came from the West Street Chapel, John Wesley’s first Methodist chapel in London’s West End (West Street is between Shaftesbury Avenue and Upper St. Martin’ Lane).

St Giles in the Fields

The inscription on the front of the pulpit informs that John and Charles Wesley preached regularly from the pulpit between 1743 and 1791.

There is a rather magnificent model of the church, within the church:

St Giles in the Fields

The model was made by Henry Flitcroft, the architect of the church, to demonstrate to parishioners and those funding the construction of the new church, what his design would like like when completed.

The architect’s name also explains the origin of the name of the small street to the west of the church where the main entrance is found – Flitcroft Street.

View looking towards the entrance of the church:

St Giles in the Fields

There are numerous monuments around the church. Members of the East India Company, solicitors from Lincolns Inn Fields, and one of the latest, dating from 1996 is to Cecilius Calvert, the first proprietor of Maryland:

St Giles in the Fields

Cecil Calvert was the Second Lord Baltimore (hence the name of the city in Maryland). He had been to the Americas once in 1628 with his father to the newly established colony in Newfoundland, however the colony failed and Cecil returned to England with his father.

The charter for Maryland was granted by Charles 1st to Cecil, however he would never visit his colony. It was overseen by his brother Leonard and later by his son Charles.

The above monument dates from 1996, the following is from 1677:

St Giles in the Fields

This records the donation of £50 to the church wardens of St Giles in the Fields by Robert Bertie with the intention that the interest from the £50 would be used to buy bread for the poor of the parish “for ever” commencing on the 1st January 1677.

Robert Bertie was the son of another Robert Bertie, the Earl of Lindsey who was Lord Great Chamberlain at the time of the English Civil War. Robert Bertie was a Royalist supporter and General in Chief of the Royalist forces at the Battle of Edgehill. He disagreed on the military tactics for the battle with the much younger and inexperienced Prince Rupert who led the cavalry forces. Charles 1st eventually supported Prince Rupert’s strategy, Robert Bertie resigned his position and went to fight with his own supporters. he was badly wounded and died soon after the battle.

The Civil War and Battle of Edgehill features in another monument. the following erected in 1736 by the family of John Belasyse, 1st Baron Belasyse.

St Giles in the Fields

John Belasyse also fought at the Battle of Edgehill, which he survived, along with many of the following battles and sieges of the Civil War. He went underground during the “Commonwealth of England” and following the restoration, Charles II gave Belasyse many senior appointments and positions of power.

An unusual plaque for the interior of a church is the blue plaque for George Odger:

St Giles in the Fields

George Odger lived nearby at 18 St Giles High Street. He was a 19th century trade union leader, active in the London Trades Council and later the Trades Union Congress. The blue plaque was installed on the house in the 1950s and moved to the church when the house was demolished in the 1970s.

18th century lead cistern:

St Giles in the Fields

Another donation of £50 for the purchase of bread for the poor:

St Giles in the Fields

Heading back outside the church, turning left from the main entrance takes you round to the large graveyard to the south of St Giles in the Fields.St Giles in the Fields

View over the graveyard, which as with the majority of city churches, has been cleared of gravestones.

St Giles in the Fields

The rear of St Giles in the Fields somewhat obscured by trees.

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields now looks on an area that will change beyond recognition over the coming years. Change has already started and the arrival of Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road will accelerate that change.

These are some of the new developments around St Giles:

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields

St Giles in the Fields

I suspect this relic, just outside the church, from not that many years ago, will not last long in the new St Giles:

St Giles in the Fields

Again, a very brief look at the history of one building, only touching on a few points from a very long history.

St Giles has a fascinating history which I will explore further in the future, but walking around the streets today feels very different to when I started going out in London.

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Fountain House And St Gabriel Fenchurch

A brief post this week as I have been short of time, however a post that covers two aspects of London that fascinate me. The first is about London’s buildings, the considerable range of different architectural styles over the centuries, how these change, how some buildings survive, the degree of rapid change – Fountain House in Fenchurch Street is a good example.

The second aspect are the traces of London’s history that can still be found in a rapidly changing City, and for this, St Gabriel, Fenchurch is an example.

Fountain House, Fenchurch Street

I came across Fountain House whilst walking along Fenchurch Street. There is nothing special about the building, however the design of Fountain House is from a specific period. It is the type of building that I expect will soon disappear and be replaced by a much taller glass and steel tower, making full use of the space not occupied by the relatively thin tower.

This is the view approaching Fountain House from the east, along Fenchurch Street:

Fountain House

Fountain House was constructed between 1954 and 1958 to a design by W.H.Rogers and Sir Howard Robertson (Consulting). It was the first London building constructed to the tower and podium formula where a large podium occupies the full area of the plot of land, with a much small central space occupied by a tower block.

The lower podium block is occupied by a central entrance foyer and around the street level of the podium there is space for a range of retail units.

The corners of the podium are almost triangular in shape to fit within the surrounding streets. As the central tower only occupies a small percentage of the overall plot of land, today’s developers would no doubt consider this to be wasted space and a modern replacement would see a glass and steel tower occupying the full width and depth of the land available.

This is the view of the corner of the podium, which faces to the east. The clock makes a good central feature to the corner of the building.

Fountain House

A walk down Mincing Lane provides a view of the width of the tower to the street, only three bays wide.

Fountain House

The Pevsner guide describes Fountain House as:

“The first office tower in London to repeat the motif of Gordon Bunshaft’s Lever House, New York (1952), that is a low horizontal block with a tall tower above, here set end-on to the street. With its podium curving to the street and lower return wing along Cullum Street, the composition is tentative compared with later versions of the formula.”

The Lever House in New York, referred to by Pevsner is shown in the photo below. The same concept of podium and tower that would be repeated a couple of years after Lever House was built in 1952 in the City of London with Fountain House.

Fountain House

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the late 1950s, Fountain House must have appeared to be the latest architectural style transferring from New York – the City of London rising from the destruction of the war.

Fountain House in the final stages of completion in 1957:

Fountain House

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_010_57_3038

The central entrance to Fountain House:

Fountain House

The two pillars can be seen in the 1957 photo, however I suspect the canopy was a later addition.

A look into the entrance foyer reveals what looks to be a refurbished interior:

Fountain House

The corner of the podium on the western edge of Fountain House:

Fountain House

Always on the look out for plaques attached to buildings, I found the following fixed to Fountain House along the side of the building facing onto Fen Court. The plaque from December 1964 marks the boundary of the site with the implication that the land belongs to the Clothworkers Company (who have their Hall just to the south of Fountain House).

Fountain House

The Clothworkers Company do indeed still own the freehold to Fountain House.

So what is the future for Fountain House?

This first example of podium and tower architecture in the City of London may not be around for too much longer. A development agreement is in place between the Clothworkers Company and the tenant of the building for a major redevelopment of the site. Fountain House will be replaced by a new block which occupies the whole site and makes use of the empty space above the podium, not occupied by the tower. The new building looks to be very much like any other glass and steel tower to be found across the City.

The tenant can commence development from 2017, so I suspect this will happen when the financial case for a new office block makes sense to the tenant.

A shame as I rather like Fountain House.

St Gabriel Fenchurch

The following photo is the view looking east along Fenchurch Street. Fountain House is the building on the left.

Fountain House

Look to the right of the photo and there is a blue plaque.

This records that the church of St Gabriel Fenchurch stood in the roadway opposite, so would have been in the centre of the photo above.

Fountain House

St Gabriel Fenchurch was one of the many City churches destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt.

I have not been able to find too much about the church. There are no prints of the church in my books on London churches and history or online (that I could find).

There is a brief description of the church in “London churches before the Great Fire” by Wilberforce Jenkinson published in 1917:

“The church of S. Gabriel, Fenchurch Street, formerly stood in the middle of the street, and was built not later than the fourteenth century. Before 1517 it was known as S. Mary’s and some time ‘All Saints’. Possibly there was a triple dedication. Corruptly it went by the name of Fen Church and gave a name to the street. The district may have been marshy, for the brook, the Langbourne, went through it, and Langbourne Ward is still in evidence. The first rector was John Payne. 1321. The church was a small one, but was enlarged in 1631. In the Return made in 1636 the income of the rectory, including the house, was stated to be £131.

This house, with the garden and graveyard, was the gift of H. Legges. R.Cook, who was rector during the Civil War, was ejected for his loyalty in 1642, but was reinstated at the Restoration.

The church figured in the City decorations on the day of King James I’s coronation entertainment. Ben Jonson described it in 1603:

At Fen-Church the scene presented itself in a square and flat upright, like to the side of a Citie; the top thereof, above the Vent and Crest adorned with houses, towres and steeples in prospective.”

Stowe in his Survey of London has but a single sentence for the church: “In the midst of this streete standeth a small parish Church called S. Gabriel Fenchurch, corruptly Fan church.”

Much the same description is given in the 1771 edition of Chamberlain’s Survey of London, so all the descriptions of St Gabriel’s provide a consistent view of the church.

The Collage archive at the London Metropolitan Archives has a map which shows the location of the church in the centre of Fenchurch Street. The strange thing about this map is that Collage dates the map as c1800 which is 134 years after the church was destroyed in the Great Fire.

Fountain House

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: k1264238

The map shows the position of the church, and also the burial ground of St Gabriel, part of which can still be found today.

Fen Court is shown on the map leading from Fenchurch Street to the burial ground. I mentioned Fen Court earlier in the post, and it still runs from Fenchurch Street along the eastern edge of Fountain House, to where the remains of the burial ground can be found.

Fountain House

Although St Gabriel Fenchurch was not rebuilt after the fire, the burial ground continued in use. A plaque records what happened:

Fountain House

The text is not that clear so is reproduced below:

“This churchyard was attached to the church of St Gabriel Fenchurch which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The parish was united with that of St Margaret Pattens in 1670 and was included in that of St Edmund Lombard Street in 1954.  The churchyard was paved and planted by some of the owners and occupiers of the adjoining buildings in 1960.”

The text illustrates how churchyards and burial grounds from churches not rebuilt would be taken up by other local churches. This contributed significantly to the long term survival of these patches of land in a City ever hungry for additional growth space.

The remaining graves appear to be from the 18th and 19th century. Nothing from the time of St Gabriel which is not a surprise, and I suspect burials ended in the 19th century as happened across the majority of City burial grounds and churchyards as after centuries of taking the dead of the City of London, they were over full and a serious health hazard to an expanding City.

Fountain House

A rather ornately carved grave remains:

Fountain House

Which appears to have been built in 1762 by Anne Cotesworth as a burying place for herself as she was born in the parish and her nearest relations were buried in the next vault.

Fountain House

The remains of the burial ground of St Gabriel Fenchurch are immediately behind Fountain House. Hopefully this reminder of a long lost church will not be impacted by any redevelopment.

Fountain House is a reminder of how architectural styles change so quickly across London. Once the first example of a new design imported from New York. Sixty years later, and it may well be disappearing in the next few years – and London continues to evolve.

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St Botolph Without Aldgate

The subject of this week’s blog was easy to find, however I found the specific location from where my father took the following photo through one single building remaining in an otherwise completely changed street scene. The church tower in the centre of the photo is that of St Botolph without Aldgate. The  church tower is distinctive and easy to recognise, although the very top of the spire is missing, probably through bomb damage.

There are no other obvious locations in the photo to identify from where my father took the photo. There looks to be a bomb site between the church and the road.

St Botolph without Aldgate

I walked all the surrounding streets trying to find the location of the photo. The search was not helped by the amount of new building obscuring the view to the church, however when I walked down Dukes Place towards the junction with Creechurch Lane and Bevis Marks I saw one building that looked familiar.

If you look to the left of the above photo, there is a tall building. Look to the left of the photo below and the same building is remarkably still there – a lone survivor from the pre-war buildings in these streets.

St Botolph without Aldgate

Although the ground floor is very different, the floors above have the same architectural features in both photos. The building today is NMB House, however if the building is the same as described in the Pevsner guide to the City of London, it was Creechurch House.

NMB House is at 17 Bevis Marks, and the Pevsner Guide states:

“Nos. 17-18, Creechurch House: smart warehouse facing Creechurch Lane, by Lewis Solomon & Son, 1935, with metal faced floors between stone mullions.”

Pevsner states that the building included number 18. It looks as if the building has been reduced in width, with the space where number 18 once stood, now being occupied by a new building with only number 17 remaining from the original.

The following photo shows the building with Creechurch Lane running to the right,

St Botolph without Aldgate

This is a wider view, and my father took the original photo from just in front of the bus stop. Compared to the original street, post war widening and straightening can be clearly seen in the view today.

St Botolph without Aldgate

Walking down Dukes Place towards St Botolphs without Aldgate, the church becomes visible and at the rear of the church are trees, much as in my father’s original photo.

St Botolph without Aldgate

A much better view of the church can be found by walking a short distance down Minories, the street directly opposite the church.

St Botolph without Aldgate

As with many old City churches, the first written records that mention St Botolph without Aldgate date back to the 12th century, although an earlier Saxon church was probably on the site as evidence of 10th or 11th century burials have been found in the crypt.

The church was originally attached to the Priory of the Holy Trinity. It was rebuilt just before the dissolution of the monasteries during Henry VIII’s reign and restored in 1621. St Botolph without Aldgate was declared unsafe and demolished in 1739, making way for construction of the church we see today.

The church before demolition was recorded in a number of prints, including the following  dated 1739:

St Botolph without Aldgate

The rebuilt St Botolph without Aldgate was designed by George Dance the Elder and built between 1741 and 1744. George Dance was the surveyor for the City of London and the designation ‘Elder’ is to separate this George Dance from his son, also George Dance who was also an architect for the City.

The new church was aligned so that the entrance to the church and the tower above faced directly to the Minories.

The following drawing by George Dance the Elder shows the church looking exactly the same as it does today:

St Botolph without Aldgate

“George Dance the Elder, StBotolph, Aldgate, London, c.1740s: (1-9) Plans, elevations, sections & detail of ceiling © Sir John Soane’s Museum, London”

The dedication of the church, St Botolph without Aldgate is firstly to St Botolph, who established a monastery somewhere in East Anglia in the 7th century. St Botolph died around the year 680. The addition of “without Aldgate” is to reference the location of the church as being outside the City walls.

There are a number of other St Botolph churches on the edges of the City, St Botolph without Bishopsgate, St Botolph without Aldersgate, and there was a St Botolph Billingsgate, destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt.

I have found a couple of possible sources for the association of St Botolph with these churches on the edge of the City. The first is that in the 10th century, King Edgar had the remains of St Botolph divided and sent to locations through London. They passed through the City gates and the churches alongside the gates through which the remains passed were named after the saint.

The other reference associates the City gates with St Botolph being the patron saint of wayfarers, who would use the City gates as their entrance to and from the City.

Both of these sound plausible, and I find it fascinating that the names of churches on the edge of the City refer to both the original Roman wall and possible events from the 10th century.

A traveler arriving at the City gate near St Botolph without Aldgate would find a very different view today with the office towers of the City rising behind the church.

St Botolph without Aldgate

There is an open space on the City side of the church, however buildings run up close to the church to the north and east:

St Botolph without Aldgate

Another of the plans drawn by George Dance showing a section through the church:

St Botolph without Aldgate

“George Dance the Elder, StBotolph, Aldgate, London, c.1740s: (1-9) Plans, elevations, sections & detail of ceiling © Sir John Soane’s Museum, London”

On entering the church there is a record of all the parish priests of the church. The first line almost appears apologetic for the lack of records remaining from before the 12th century “The parish priests of Aldgate are known only from AD 1108”

St Botolph without Aldgate

Also in the entrance to the church is this splendid momument to Robert Dow, who died in May 1612 at the age of 90 – a rather good age for the 17th century.

St Botolph without Aldgate

Robert Dow was a Master of the Merchant Taylors and during his life gave away a substantial sum to various charitable establishments. The value of his donations and those receiving the money are listed on his monument.

I am not sure what the symbolism of the hands covering the skull means – it gives the impression that he had a hold over death (as his 90 years possibly demonstrated), or perhaps representing his own skull in death.

Another monument is to Thomas, Lord Darcy who was beheaded on Tower Hill for treason in 1537 during the reign of Henry VIII.

St Botolph without Aldgate

The view on entering the church:

St Botolph without Aldgate

The interior of St Botolph without Aldgate retains the original galleries and Tuscan columns, however much of the decoration is from a redecoration of the church carried out between 1888 and 1895 by J.F. Bentley who added some remarkable decorative plaster work to the ceiling of the church:

St Botolph without Aldgate

Close up of the ceiling decoration:

St Botolph without Aldgate

I find it fascinating to discover the stories behind the monuments in the City churches. In St Botolph without Aldgate there is a monument to Willian Symington, who died on the 22nd March 1831. The monument records that he constructed the Charlotte Dundas, the first steamboat fitted for practical use, also that he died “in want”.

St Botolph without Aldgate

William Symington was Scottish, having been born in the small village of Leadhills. He studied engineering at Edinburgh University and worked in Wanlockhead where his brother George was building steam engines to James Watt’s design.

William Symington was always interested in whether a steam engine could power a boat. The problem was not just the mechanism to propel the boat, but also how a steam engine could be installed in a wooden boat, without the boat catching fire.

He tried a number of experiments with limited success, problems such as the paddle wheel disintegrating preventing a fully successful trial.

From 1800 Symington continued his work under the patronage of Thomas, Lord Dundas, who had an interest in the Forth and Clyde Canal.

A first trial of a steam boat on the River Carron ended in failure. The second trial was with a new boat named the Charlotte Dundas after Lord Dundas’ daughter. This successful trial included the Charlotte Dundas towing two barges over a distance of 18.5 miles.

Although the trial was a success, there were concerns with the damage that the wash from a steamboat would do to the banks of a river or canal. Symington had also received an order from the Duke of Bridgewater for steam boats on the Bridgewater Canal, however this was cancelled when the Duke died.

As opportunities for Symington’s steamboats collapsed, he moved to the management of a colliery, however this ended in a legal case following which Symington was a rather poor man.

So far, all his time had been spent in Scotland. The London connection starts in 1829, when Symington, in poor health and in debt, moved with his wife to London to live with his daughter and her husband. He would die just two years later and be buried in the churchyard of St Botolph without Aldgate.

William Symingtons steamboat, the Charlotte Dundas:

St Botolph without Aldgate

His reputation was somewhat restored during the later half of the 19th century, and the monument in the church was installed in 1903.

Symington was possibly the subject of some skulduggery. Reading newspaper reports and letters after his death reveal stories such as the following from a Robert Bowie who wrote to the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette on the 5th May 1838:

To the editor of the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette:

Sir, Having observed the paragraph in your journal and in others to the effect that the American Government had granted £24,000 to the heirs of Robert Fulton, the ‘original founder’ of steam navigation. I beg leave to say that, whatever may have been Mr Fulton’s merit in introducing steam navigation to America, he had no right to the title of being its original founder, as he was but a copyist, and obtained, as will be seen by the following documents, the knowledge which enabled him to effect his purpose from William Symington, the first who propelled vessels by the power of steam.

Mr. Symington forms another instance for the page of history, of national ingratitude and neglect; and it is assuredly no great proof of the superiority of this country to America, that instead of rewarding him who conferred an inestimable benefit, his very petition for an investigation of his claims in parliament, was not allowed to be presented.

Fulton’s heirs have not been the only parties who have reaped the rewards of Mr. Symington’s labours. Even at home rewards were bestowed on Henry Bell, who barefacedly used Mr. Symington’s plans, and carried, it is recorded, the model of the first steam boat to Fulton in America. Henry Bell was frequently on board of Mr. Symington’s boats, and was often seen investigating the Charlotte Dundas after she was laid up near Glasgow; and it is a strange and rather suspicious circumstance that the model of a steam boat left by the late Lord Dundas and Mr. Symington in the Royal Institution, disappeared unaccountably from that building; and thus the ‘Fulton Steam Frigate’ as described in the first volume of Blackwood’s Magazine, was, with the exception of her warlike apparatus, a facsimile of Mr. Symington’s Boat.”

No idea if there is any truth in Mr Bowie’s allegations, but an interesting story of possible 19th century industrial espionage.

William Symington’s monument was installed in 1903. There are much older memorials in the church including the following from 1577 recording that “Here lyeth the corps of Robert Tailor”.

St Botolph without Aldgate

The windows of the church have stained glass recording Lord Mayors of the City of London and their Livery Companies:

St Botolph without AldgateSt Botolph without Aldgate

St Botolph without Aldgate

The beautifully carved wooden panel in the following photo dates from the early 18th century (it was restored in 1971). The panel came from the church of St Mary Matfelon, Whitechapel when the church was destroyed by bombing on the 27th December 1940.

St Botolph without Aldgate

An 18th century sword rest:

St Botolph without Aldgate

St Botolph without Aldgate is a fascinating City church with a long history, which I have covered all too briefly in this post.

I was really pleased to find the location in Bevis Marks from where my father took his photo. The one remaining building in the area provided the key landmark to locate the viewpoint – amazing that this one building has survived the considerable redevelopment of the area over the last 60 years.

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