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Gallery: Churches of Central London
by Peter Kessler, 3 January 2010
City of London Part 12: Churches of Cornhill &
St Peter upon Cornhill is sited on the
easterly of the City of London's two ancient hills. The other,
Ludgate Hill, is crowned by St Paul's Cathedral. The first historical
mention of the original church here is from 1444, while the bells
are first mentioned in 1552, when a new bell was cast for it in an
Aldgate foundry. The old church was destroyed by the Great Fire in
1666, and a new one was built by Wren between 1677-1687. Unusually
the spire sits on top of a dome.
The site is claimed to be the earliest
Christianised site in London. If this is true then it may have been
the seat of the Roman bishop of London. The rear of the building
(left) can be seen boxed in by surrounding buildings on Gracechurch
Street, while the front entrance is almost hidden away on Cornhill.
Opening times are only by arrangement, and the church is now used
frequently for meetings, staff training, and as a youth club by the
church of St Helen Bishopsgate.
St Martin Outwich was on the inside corner
of Bishopsgate and Threadneedle Street, next to or in the
monastery of the Augustine (Austin) Friars, and just north of St
Peter's. The church was probably a Norman construction, but is said
to have been rebuilt by the Oteswiches (whose name became corrupted
into Outwich) in the fourteenth century. It was Gothic, sixty feet
in length, 42 in breadth, and 31 in the height of the roof, but in
1874 it was demolished.
The first Church of St Michael Cornhill,
just a few metres in the direction of the Bank of England from
St Peter's, was Saxon, built before 1055 on the site of the
Basilica, the northern part of the abandoned Roman forum. The
medieval parish was within the city walls of London, but the
church was destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666. The present
neo-Gothic building was designed and constructed by Sir Christopher
Wren between 1669-1672, although much of the tower was older.
Wren's rebuilt tower was replaced in 1715, officially
by Wren himself, but some historians point out that his apprentice,
Nicholas Hawksmoor, built similar towers for Westminster Abbey, and
may have been behind this one. The Victorians gave the building a
High Church makeover, with Sir George Gilbert Scott adding the
Gothic porch visible here. Although much of its main structure and
small yard are hidden behind other buildings, the church continues
to conduct regular services.
St Benet Fink stood on Threadneedle
Street, where it now meets Royal Exchange Avenue. The name was
short for St Benedict and 'Fink' came from a thirteenth century
benefactor named Robert Fink who also has nearby Finch Lane named
after him. The church was first noted in 1216, but it may have had
Saxon origins. It was destroyed by the Great Fire and rebuilt by
Wren in 1670-1675, but the 1838 Royal Exchange fire saw the church
demolished in 1841-1846 for its land.
St Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange stood on
the corner of Bartholomew Lane and Threadneedle Street, and is now
the Royal Bank of Scotland. Built by 1225 as Little Bartholomew, or
'the Less', it gained its later name when the Royal Exchange opened
opposite in 1571. The church was destroyed in 1666, and rebuilt by Wren
in 1675-1683, but finally demolished in 1841 to make way for the
rebuilding of the new Royal Exchange building after its own
disastrous fire in 1838.
St Christopher le Stocks stood on the
corner of Threadneedle Street and Princes Street in an area that was
thick with churches. Its earliest reference dates to 1282, while its
dedication comes either from the stocks which used to stand nearby
or the Stock Exchange itself. It was destroyed by the Great Fire and
rebuilt quickly, by 1671. The extension of the Bank of England in
1781 required its demolition. The churchyard was also used, from 1798,
as the bank's Garden Court.
St Pancras Soper Lane stood on Pancras
Lane, close to the north-east corner with Queen Street (which was
apparently Soper Lane until widened and renamed after 1666), behind
the modern building of 1 Poultry. It existed by the eleventh century,
standing just fifty metres west of St Benet Sherehog. It belonged to
Christ Church Cathedral Priory, Canterbury, until the Reformation,
but was destroyed in 1666 and not rebuilt, although the burial ground
remained in use.
St Mildred Poultry stood on Poultry
itself, immediately north of St Benet Sherehog and a little east of
St Pancras Soper Lane, beside the Walbrook stream. The Norman church
was first mentioned in 1175, and it was destroyed by the Great Fire.
Rebuilt by Wren between 1670-1676 it absorbed the grounds of St Mary
Cole Church. It was sold for development in 1871 and demolished the
following year. Its grounds are now the site of the Midland Bank