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Gallery: Churches of Central London
by Peter Kessler, 6 December 2009
City of London Part 8: Churches of Bishopsgate &
St Andrew Undershaft Church is located in
the Aldgate ward of the City, near the north-eastern corner of St
Mary Axe and Leadenhall Street, and lies diagonally opposite to the
Lloyd's building. The church is in the parish of St Helen Bishopsgate
with St Andrew Undershaft, and takes in the former parish areas of
St Ethelburga Bishopsgate, St Martin Outwich, and St Mary Axe. It is
also used by St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate as a chapel of need and
an events centre.
The original Norman church was first recorded in
the twelfth century. It was rebuilt in the fourteenth century and
again in 1532, which is when the current Perpendicular-style
building was erected. The church's name derives from the shaft of
the maypole that was traditionally set up each year opposite the
church. The custom continued each spring until 1517, when student
riots put an end to it. The church escaped damage both during the
Great Fire of 1666 and the Blitz.
St Mary Axe (and sometimes St Mary Pellipar)
used to lay immediately opposite St Andrew's on this
now-open site between 20 St Mary Axe and the Lloyd's building.
Originally a Norman church called 'St Mary, St Ursula and her 11,000
Virgins', it belonged to the Priory of St Helen's until the
Dissolution, and in 1562 it was offered to Spanish Protestant
refugees who seem to have abandoned it within three years. By then
it was in a state of disrepair and was pulled down.
St Katherine Cree is further east down
Leadenhall Street, on the north-eastern corner with Creechurch Lane,
and is sometimes called Creechurch. The church's parish
existed as early as 1108, when it was served by Christ Church
Augustinian Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate. The site of the
present church was originally the priory's churchyard and the
church may have had its origins in a cemetery chapel. Parishioners
used the priory church but this proved disruptive to the priory.
St Katharine Cree was founded by the priory in
1280 as a separate church for worship, taking its name from the
priory ('Cree' is a corrupted abbreviation of 'Christ Church'). In
1414 the church was established as a full parish. A new church was
erected in 1631, the only Jacobean church still surviving, with only
the 1504 tower remaining from the old church. The church escaped the
Great Fire and suffered only minor damage in the Blitz, but needed
extensive restoration in 1962.
Creechurch Lane Synagogue was on the
corner of Creechurch Lane and Bury Street, and was the site of the
first synagogue after the resettlement, opening in 1657. Both
Charles II and James II quashed indictments against the Spanish and
Portuguese Jews here for unlawful assembly, showing that they
approved of the assembly. The numbers of worshippers grew steadily,
so that a new site was required. Bevis Marks Synagogue took
over and Creechurch Lane closed in 1701.
St Augustine Papey (or in-the-wall)
formerly lay on Bury Street, opposite the exit onto Creechurch
Lane. The Norman church was in existence by 1170. In 1428, the
parish numbers were so low, less than ten inhabitant householders,
that the decision was taken to close the church. It was given to
the Fraternity of the Papey which looked after poor priests, but
the Dissolution ended this practise and the church was demolished
and built over, its churchyard becoming a public garden.
Great Synagogue Dukes Place once lay on
nearby Duke's Place at the entrance to Mitre Square. A constituent
of the United Synagogue, it stood on the site adjoining this one
from 1690, almost immediately next to the Church of St James Dukes
Place. It would have helped to handle the large increase in Jewish
worshippers in the City following their readmission into the country
in 1655, and served continually until it was destroyed by enemy
bombing in September 1941.
St James Dukes Place lay on the
corner of St James Passage, between Mitre Square and Dukes Place.
The area was settled by poor workmen in the seventeenth century, but
they found St Katherine Cree to be uncongenial. Instead, they sought
permission from King James I to build a new church, and were granted
land on the now-ruined Priory of the Holy Trinity which had been
dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538. The church opened in 1622.
The church was named in the king's honour, with
the location added - a thoroughfare which was owned by the duke of
Norfolk. It survived the Great Fire but needed extensive restoration
in 1727. As the area's Jewish population rose steadily over the next
150 years, it became increasingly difficult to finance the church and
in 1874, under the 1860 Union of Benefices Act, it was demolished and
the parish joined to St Katherine's. Very little trace of it remains today.