History Files


Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Central London

by Peter Kessler, 3 January 2010



City of London Part 13: Churches of Exchange & Cannon Street

St Benet Sherehog

St Benet Sherehog stood on what is now 1 Poultry, opposite the Bank of England. St Mildred Poultry stood to the right, and St Pancras Soper Lane was about fifty metres (yards) behind it (only St Mary le Bow is now visible). St Benet was built before AD 1111, with its dedication referring to the local meat market (a sherehog is a newly sheared hog or pig that has been castrated). The church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and not selected for rebuilding.

St Mary Woolchurch Haw

St Mary Woolchurch Haw was yet another church which overlooked the intersection of Threadneedle Street, Poultry, and King William Street. The site is now occupied by the Mansion House. The church was apparently new in about 1442, and underwent repairs and beautification in 1629. Its dedication originated from the weighing of wool that took place in a nearby customs house until around 1383. The church was destroyed by the Great Fire and not rebuilt.

St Mary Woolnoth

St Mary Woolnoth is on Lombard Street, about sixty metres (yards) east of St Mary Woolchurch Haw. Built on the site of a Roman temple, the first church here was founded by a Saxon noble called Wulfnoth. The first records for the church date to the Plantagenet London of 1273, and it was rebuilt several times, most notably in 1438, during the reign of Henry VI, when it was completely rebuilt on the old foundations. By 1552, the tower contained a ring of five bells.

St Mary Woolnoth

The Great Fire burned down much of the church, but the north and east walls were quickly rebuilt and the church patched up so that services could resume. By 1711 the building was found to be very unsafe, and it was decided to demolish and rebuild it, with the design being supplied by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1716 as one of Queen Anne's fifty new churches. The interior resembles an Egyptian hall and is regarded as one of Hawksmoor's finest works.

St Stephen Walbrook

St Stephen Walbrook stands behind Mansion House on Walbrook, which roughly follows the course of the old stream as it heads south towards the Thames. The original site of the church, twenty metres or so to the west of here, started out as the second century Roman temple of Mithras. The Saxon church was built over it to sanctify a pagan place of worship, at some point between 700-980. In 1090 it was given to the monastery of St John by Eudo, Dapifer (cupbearer) to Henry I.

St Stephen Walbrook

By 1428, a larger site was needed, so the current site was selected for the new church, built in flint and rubble. At the east end of the church was Bearbidder Lane, the source of the Great Plague of 1665, while the subsequent Great Fire destroyed the church itself. Wren rebuilt it between 1672-1679, making an especially fine job of his own parish church, although the exterior, which was not 'islanded' as it is now, is fairly rough. The steeple was added in 1713-1717.

St Swithin London Stone

St Swithin London Stone stood a little south and east of St Stephen's, on St Swithin's Lane at the corner with what is now Cannon Street. The church was founded in the thirteenth century and underwent rebuilding in 1405. Destroyed by the Great Fire, it was rebuilt again, by Wren, opening in 1678. The church was almost completely destroyed by enemy action in 1940, with only the pulpit surviving. Final demolition came in 1962, two years after the site was sold.

St Swithin London Stone

The origins and purpose of the London Stone are uncertain, but  it was mentioned in 1188 in relation to Henry, son of Eylwin de Londenstane, who was the first lord mayor of London. The stone was removed from its location at the front of what is now Cannon Street Station in 1742 to the north side of the street in 1798 where it was built into the south wall of St Swithin's. When the church was demolished, the stone was inset into the building that replaced it.

The Guild Church of St Mary Abchurch

The Guild Church of St Mary Abchurch is on Abchurch Lane, a narrow thoroughfare which is one street to the east of St Swithin's Lane. Its origins date to the twelfth century, but the church was destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren between 1681-1687, with a single bell being hung in the tower, and magnificent interior work underneath a domed ceiling being added. Restoration work took place after the church suffered a direct hit during the Blitz of 1940.

St Nicholas Acons

St Nicholas Acons once stood on Nicholas Lane, the next street east of St Mary Abchurch. Its approximate location is on the immediate righthand side here, close to, and behind, the shot. The original Saxon church was built in the ninth century, and it benefited from a medieval benefactor named Acons. The church, located roughly 150 metres (yards) north-west of Pudding Lane, was completely destroyed by the Great Fire, but its churchyard may have remained in use afterwards.

In Depth
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