Tag Archives: City Churches

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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St Clement Eastcheap

When the 19th century London Bridge was built to replace the original medieval bridge, the new bridge was built slight further west along the river allowing the old bridge to continue in use until the new bridge was completed.

The construction of the 19th century bridge had quite a dramatic impact on the streets on the north bank of the river. I have already covered some examples in my post on the Ticket Porter in Arthur Street which you can find here, and there were more street changes further north.

Today’s post on the church of St Clement Eastcheap provides us with another example.

St Clement Eastcheap is a modest church in Clements Lane almost at the corner with Cannon Street. The church does not have a spire and the church tower is at the same level as the surrounding buildings so unlike many other City churches, you will not find a spire to help locate the church.

The church does though have a fascinating piece of early 18th century graffiti in one of the most unusual locations, more on this later.

So, to start, here is St Clement Eastcheap in Clements Lane taken from Cannon Street.

St Clement Eastcheap 1

St Clement Eastcheap, located in Candlewick Ward, dates from at least the 12th Century, probably earlier and was originally adjacent to the street Great Eastcheap.

The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London and rebuilt by Wren between 1683 and 1687. The church suffered very little damage during the 2nd World War which is surprising given the central City location, so the church we see today is much the same as the original Wren construction.

The following map is from the 1940 Bartholomew London Street Atlas. The street plan is also much the same today. St Clement Eastcheap can be seen to the lower right, just above Monument Station.

Clements Lane today, runs between Lombard Street and King William Street which runs on to London Bridge.

St Clement Eastcheap 12

Much of this street plan was created to provide an efficient route onto the new London Bridge with King William Street providing direct access from the major road junction at the Bank.

The extract below from  John Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the street plan when the original London Bridge was still in place.

Here, Gracechurch Street runs to Fish Street Hill then on to London Bridge. Compare this with the above map where Gracechurch Street now curves past Monument Station to King William Street and the approach to London Bridge, highlighting the slight westward move of the bridge.

Just above and to the right of the number 3 in the map below can be seen St Clement. Here, St Clements Lane runs down to Great Eastcheap. Note also how Eastcheap is split into Great and Little Eastcheap, with Little Eastcheap remaining to this day, but now called simply Eastcheap.

Stowe states in his 1603 Survey of London that:

“The street of Great Eastcheape is so called of the Market kept, in the east part of the City, as West Cheape is a market so called of being in the West.

This Eastcheape is now a flesh Market of Butchers there dwelling, on both sides of the street, it had sometime also Cookes mixed amongst the Butchers, and such other as solde victuals readie dressed of all sorts.”

Great Eastcheap was lost when King William Street was built, with Great Eastcheap being included in the end of Cannon Street, King William Street and the Gracechurch Street, Eastcheap section by Monument Station.

St Clement Eastcheap 10

When I visited the church, there was an interesting reminder of the geology of the City. When I entered the church, there was a clear blue sky, however on leaving there was a very heavy rain shower and water was streaming down the narrow Clements Lane, carrying various bits of rubbish in the flow. Whilst today, the water disappeared down the nearest drain, this was a graphical reminder of how much of this side of the City slopes down towards the Thames and how in the past the water and rubbish running down these streets would have been carried straight down towards the river.

On entering the church from the street we look straight at the gilded reredos behind the altar.

St Clement Eastcheap 6

There was some redesign of the interior of the church during the Victorian period and much of the ceiling was renewed in 1925.

The interior of the church has always been relatively simple, Stowe summed up the church as “This is a small church, void of any monuments”, and today the church performs a function which would have surprised Stowe. The pews have been removed and half of the floor space is now office space for charities. A good use and which helps the continued occupation of the church.

Looking back towards the entrance with the charity office space to the left. The original oak casing surrounding the organ appears to have a look of surprise, perhaps because of the current use of the church.

St Clement Eastcheap 5

One of the most unique features of the church can be found in the toilets. Modern toilets have been built up against the original wooden wall panelling as can be seen in the photo below. It cannot be seen in the photo due to the lighting and dark panelling, but on the panelling, just to the left of the small wooden table is some very early 18th century graffiti.

St Clement Eastcheap 8

A close up of the graffiti, dating from the year 1703, carved 15 years after the church was completed. A remarkable survival and very surprising to find this in such a location.

St Clement Eastcheap 9

The church also retains some original Bread Shelves, used to store bread ready for charitable distribution.

St Clement Eastcheap 7

To the side of the church is St Clement’s Court, a narrow lane leading to the small churchyard at the rear of the church.

The plaque on the building on the left reads:

Here lived in 1784

Dositey Obradovich

1742 – 1811

Eminent Serbian man of letters

First Minister of Education

in Serbia

The lane also provides access to some of the office buildings that back onto the rear of the church.

St Clement Eastcheap 13

The remaining churchyard is very small with only a couple of in-situ graves. In 1910, Sir Walter Besant wrote of the churchyard:

“In Church Court we come to the ancient graveyard of St Clement, a minute space with one great shapeless tomb in the centre of the asphalt and a few small erect tombstones on the little border running inside the railings”

Not much has changed in the 105 years since that was written.

St Clement Eastcheap 4

And a couple of gravestones which have been relocated up against the wall of adjoining buildings.

St Clement Eastcheap 3

The church of St Clement, Eastcheap is easy to miss when walking in the area, but well worth a visit, including an essential trip to the toilet to see graffiti from 1703.

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