History Files


Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Central London

by Peter Kessler, 3 January 2010



City of London Part 11: Churches of Eastcheap & Exchange

St Mary at Hill Church

St Mary at Hill Church is on St Mary Hill between Eastcheap and Lower Thames Street. A church has existed here since before 1177, probably Norman in construction. Records from 1420 show two small churchyards for burials. The most popular was the little area to the south, near the present rectory. The tower and steeple were replaced in 1787-1789 by Gwilt's square brick tower, but the bells in the original tower were rung for the coronation of Henry VIII.

St Mary at Hill Church

More recently they were removed as the cost to restore them was too high. The Great Fire of 1666 gutted the interior of the church, leaving only the walls and the brickwork of the tower. The church was rebuilt, perhaps to Robert Hooke's designs, using as much of the original fabric as possible. It was reopened in 1677. Another fire in 1848 and yet again in 1988 saw further changes to the fixtures and fittings inside the church, including the rebuilt ceiling.

Guild Church of St Margaret Pattens

The Guild Church of St Margaret Pattens is on Rood Lane where it meets Great Tower Street. For at least nine hundred years a church dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch has stood in what is now Eastcheap. The earliest known reference is to a small wooden building in 1067. In 1411, after holding the patronage for a short time, Lord Mayor Richard Whittington gave it to the Mayor and Commonalty of London. The old building was pulled down and reconstructed in 1538.

Guild Church of St Margaret Pattens

Seventeenth century repairs were destroyed in the Great Fire. Christopher Wren handled the rebuilding work, probably on its medieval foundations, at a cost of nearly 5,000 between 1684-1687. Damaged during the Second World War, St Margaret's was restored in 1955-1956. In 1954 the church ceased to be a parish church and became one of the City's so-called 'guild churches', within the living of the Lord Chancellor and under the jurisdiction of the bishop of London.

St Gabriel Fen

St Gabriel Fen stood on what later became Fenchurch Street, in the middle of the crowded and busy street opposite the entrance to Cullum Street. The church, which was a little way north of St Margaret Pattens, was first mentioned in 1321, taking its name from the marshy ground on which it was built. It received three new bells in 1552 and was tidied up in 1631. Just three decades later, the church was destroyed in the Great Fire and was not selected for rebuilding.

St Dionis Backchurch

St Dionis Backchurch is a little way west of St Gabriel Fen, still on Fenchurch Street on the north-eastern corner with Lime Street. The church was dedicated to the patron saint of France and is first mentioned in 1538. Services were later attended by Samuel Pepys. The church was destroyed by the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren in 1674. A steeple was added in 1684, and a new organ added in 1724. The church was deemed unnecessary in 1878 and demolished.

St Benet Gracechurch

St Benet Gracechurch used to stand at St Benet's Place. Its approximate location is now St Benet's Lane on the eastern side of Gracechurch Street, close to the junction with Fenchurch Street. The name is short for Benedict of Nursia, the sixth century founder of monasticism in the West, while 'Gracechurch' comes from 'grass' which was sold as hay nearby. The first reference to the church is from 1053, and it was improved in 1630 and 1633, but lost in the Great Fire.

All Hallows Lombard Street

All Hallows Lombard Street was on the north-western corner of Lombard Street and Gracechurch Street. Also known as the 'Hidden Church' when it was hemmed in by tall City buildings, its first mention comes from 1054. It was built up in stages, with the bell tower finally being added in 1554. Badly damaged in the Great Fire it was rebuilt in 1694. In 1879 ten bells from St Dionis Backchurch were added but in 1937 the building was condemned as being unsafe and demolished.

St Edmund King & Martyr

St Edmund King & Martyr is on the northern side of Lombard Street, just a few metres west of where All Hallows used to stand. The church was first recorded in 1292, when it was known as Saint Edmund towards Garcherche. Another mention in 1348 called it Saint Edmund in Lombardestrete. John Stow's Survey of London 1598 calls it St Edmund Grass Church. The medieval church building was destroyed by the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren between 1670-1679.

St Edmund King & Martyr

The new church had a tower designed like a lighthouse, ornamented at the angles by flaming urns in an allusion to the Great Fire. The position of the church is unusual as it is orientated with the altar at the north, instead of the east. The church was restored in 1864 and further work was undertaken in 1880, but damaged by bombing in 1917. The church is still consecrated, but since 2001 it has been the home of The London Centre for Spirituality.

Additional editing to one photo on this page by Dana Grohol.

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