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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Central London

by Peter Kessler, 8 November 2009

 

 

City of London Part 3: Churches of Newgate & Aldersgate

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate is more formally entitled The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and is located on the corner of Holborn Viaduct and Giltspur Street. It was built on the site of a Saxon church which was dedicated to St Edmund and which became known as St Edmund and the Holy Sepulchre during the years 1103-1173, when it was in the care of Augustinian canons who were Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. Later the name became abbreviated to 'St Sepulchre'.

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate

The church was rebuilt and greatly enlarged in 1450, when the present walls, tower and porch were built. Badly damaged in the Great Fire, the interior was restored in 1670 by Wren. The current layout dates to 1875, with interior remodelling added in 1932. The church also contains the Regimental Chapel of the Royal Fusiliers, who were founded in 1685, and the tower holds the twelve bells of Old Bailey, featured in the nursery rhyme 'Oranges and Lemons'.

St Bartholomew-the-Less

St Bartholomew-the-Less was built within St Bartholomew Spital, outside the Aldersgate. The first church here was the Chapel of the Holy Cross, founded nearby in 1123 and moved to the present site in 1184. It became the parish church for the hospital during the Reformation, when the monasteries which cared for the poor were closed and their hospitals had to be reorganised to cater for the sudden increase in the destitute. This is when the church was renamed.

St Bartholomew-the-Less

In the fifteenth century, the church gained its tower and west end. Two of its three bells date from 1380 and 1420 and reside within an original medieval bell frame which is believed to be the oldest in the City. The octagonal interior which can be glimpsed here was built by George Dance the Younger in 1793, and the body was entirely rebuild in 1825 by Thomas Hardwick, including a new iron roof. World War II bomb damage was repaired and the church reopened by 1951.

St Bartholomew the Great

St Bartholomew the Great is in West Smithfield, across the square from St Bartholomew-the-Less. One of London's oldest surviving churches, it was founded in 1123 within the bounds of the Augustine Priory of St Bartholomew, outside the Aldersgate. It has been a place of continuous worship since at least 1143. Dominican friars were briefly introduced by Mary Tudor, before Elizabeth restored the status quo. No work seems to have been undertaken on it until the 1860s.

St Bartholomew the Great

The church managed to escape the Great Fire, but became increasingly neglected, so much so that squatters moved in during the eighteenth century. Restoration work began in the mid-nineteenth century, and more was undertaken by Sir Aston Webb in the 1880s and 1890s, although the church's Norman interior was retained. Thankfully it avoided suffering any damage during the Blitz. This is the church used in the final part of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

St Botolph-without-Aldersgate

St Botolph-without-Aldersgate stands on the corner of St Martin's Le Grand and Little Britain, just outside the former location of the Roman Aldersgate into the City. A church has existed on the site for nearly a thousand years, with the first being built during the reign of Edward the Confessor as a Cluniac priory with an attached hospital for the poor. Henry V seized the church on the grounds that it was not English and granted it to the parish as its local church.

St Botolph-without-Aldersgate

The present, mostly plain brick building dates to 1788-1791, when it replaced entirely the Late Saxon church. Its churchyard was combined with those of St Leonard, Foster Lane and Christchurch Newgate Street into the attractive Postman's Park which also contains the Watts Memorial of 1900 to London's civilians who died heroic deaths. The church is used by the London City Presbyterian Church, part of the Free Church of Scotland.

St Anne & St Agnes Lutheran Church

St Anne & St Agnes Lutheran Church is on Gresham Street and Noble Street. The first mention of a church here dates to around 1150, although there was confusion over the name, with both St Anne and St Agnes being used separately. For the first century or so the church appears to have been called St Agnes, but by 1467 the names had been combined. In 1322-1326 the parish had 300 communicants and in its Norman tower hung five great bells and one small one.

St Anne & St Agnes Lutheran Church

The church was gutted by fire in 1548 but was rebuilt soon after. Further work was carried out in 1624, and the steeple was repaired five years later. All but the tower was destroyed by the Great Fire, and it was the eleventh church to be rebuilt by Wren, planned in the form of a Greek cross. An organ was installed in 1782, gas lighting in 1862, and electric lighting in 1894. The church was severely damaged by incendiary bombs on 29-30 December 1940, but was restored by 1968.

Additional editing to one photo on this page by Dana Grohol. Sound file from 'Bells on Sunday' on BBC Radio 4, 2009.

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