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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Central London

by Peter Kessler, 3 January 2010

 

 

City of London Part 12: Churches of Cornhill & Exchange

St Peter upon 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.

St Peter upon Cornhill

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

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.

Church of St Michael Cornhill

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.

Church of St Michael Cornhill

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

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

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

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

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

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 headquarters.

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