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Gallery: Churches of Central London
by Peter Kessler, 8 November 2009
City of London Part 5: Churches of Cripplegate &
St Michael Bassishaw was located on
Basinghall Street, south of Cripplegate, in an area which was
virtually flattened by the Blitz. The church was first recorded in
1196, while 'Bassishaw' is from Basing's haw, or yard. The church
was rebuilt in the fifteenth century and restored in 1630, but
destroyed by the Great Fire. It was rebuilt between 1675-1679 but
very poorly and with brick facing instead of stone. In 1892, the
church was judged unsafe and demolition followed in 1900.
St Alban Wood Street lies a little to the
west of St Michael's. It may date back to the time of King Offa of
Mercia who possibly had a palace with a chapel on the site. The
church was certainly present in 930, and by the late twelfth century
it was known as St Alban Wuderstrate. By 1633 it had fallen into a
state of disrepair and after being inspected by Inigo Jones and Sir
Henry Spiller it was deemed to be beyond help and was demolished and
rebuilt the following year.
The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed it completely,
and a Gothic rebuild by Wren's office was finished in 1685. The four
elegant pinnacles on the Perpendicular tower had to be replaced in
1890. The church was burnt out again during the Blitz, along with a
great swathe of the surrounding area, with only the tower surviving
the destruction. Demolition followed in 1965 leaving the tower in
place as a private dwelling on a traffic island in the road.
Records of St Mary Aldermanbury, on the
corner of Aldermanbury and Love Lane, which leads off Wood Street,
date back to 1181. The original Norman church was destroyed by the
Great Fire and a Wren church of Portland stone replaced it. After
being damaged during the Second World War, the ruins were shipped
to Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, where the church was
rebuilt in a memorial park. Its original site is now a public garden.
St Michael Wood Street was at
the south-eastern corner of that and Gresham Street. First mentioned
in 1225 it was destroyed by the Great Fire. Not scheduled
to be rebuilt, pressure was applied and by 1673 a new church was
unveiled on the site. In 1854 the declining population in the City
led to a reorganisation of the number of churches, and St Michael's
was demolished in 1897, with many bodies being moved from the
churchyard to Brookwood Cemetery.
St Peter Cheap (or Westcheap) lay on the
corner of Wood Street and Cheapside ('cheap' was Saxon for market).
The church was built in 1196, and Queen Elizabeth I was presented
with a Bible when she passed by in 1559 during her royal progress
from the Tower to Whitehall - a propaganda statement promoting the
ideas of religious truth after Bloody Mary's reign. Destroyed in
the Great Fire in 1666, a large, old tree now fills what was probably
part of the churchyard.
St Mary Magdalen Milk Street used to lay
immediately to the east of St Peter's. It was a small parish church
which nevertheless saw a great many important City dignitaries pass
through its doors. Its date of founding is unknown, but it was the
centre of Royalist support before the Civil War, something which saw
its parish priest kicked out during the Commonwealth. St Mary's was
destroyed by the Great Fire and was one of the unlucky ones
not to be selected for rebuilding.
All Hallows Honey Lane was immediately east
of St Mary's and almost directly opposite St Mary le Bow on Cheapside,
on the north-west corner of Honey Lane Market (on the right here, and
abutting the now-truncated Lawrence Lane). A medieval church existed
here by 1279, although its parish was always small. During the
Reformation the parish bore Lutheran tendencies. The church was
completely destroyed by the Great Fire and was not selected to be rebuilt.
St Mary Cole Church lay on the corner of
Poultry and the southern end of Old Jewry. Named after its first
benefactor, the prosperous parish was the birthplace of Thomas
Beckett, a true London cockney, and supported a grammar school. The
church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and was not amongst
those selected to be rebuilt, although its grammar school was rebuilt
and survived until 1787. The last traces of the church's ruins
disappeared in 1839.
St Martin Pomary was on the upper east
side of Ironmonger Lane (on the immediate left of this shot, looking
south towards Poultry). The dedication derives from a Latin
reference to it being 'an open space near a boundary wall'.
Confidently Protestant in 1547, when it removed its cross, by 1627
much of its north wall had to be rebuilt. Unfortunately, it was
among the eighty-six churches destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666,
and was not selected to be rebuilt.