History Files


Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Central London

by Peter Kessler, 3 January 2010



City of London Part 14: Churches of Cannon Street & Walbrook

St Clement Eastcheap

The Parish Church of St Clement Eastcheap is united with St Martin Orgar and sits on the very south-eastern edge of King William Street, overlooking Cannon Street. It is one of two St Clement churches in London which claims to be mentioned in the rhyme, 'Oranges and Lemons', the less likely one being St Clement Danes Westminster. A St Clement is first mentioned in 1067, possibly this one, while its first definite reference dates from the reign of Henry III (1216-1272).

St Clement Eastcheap

The church was repaired in 1630, and beautified three years later. The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed it, and it was rebuilt in 1683-1687, probably by Christopher Wren, although for once this was not recorded. In the 1830s, the church was under threat of demolition, along with St Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange and St Benet Fink, but unlike those two, St Clement survived. The church was heavily renovated in 1872 and minor Blitz damage repaired in 1949-1950.

St Martin Orgar

St Martin Orgar stands on Martin Lane, just south of St Clement, and very close to Cannon Street. The church is referred to in 'Oranges and Lemons' in the line "'You owe me five farthings', say the bells of St Martin's'. The first record for the church seems to date no earlier than 1469, while in 1630 the steeple was repaired. It was badly damaged by the Great Fire, with only part of the nave and the tower surviving. It was not included in the list of those to be repaired.

St Martin Orgar

Instead, a group of French Protestants obtained the lease for the church, repaired it, and used it as their place of worship. Most of the remaining church was demolished in 1820, by which time it had probably fallen into disuse. Only the tower survived, and was rebuilt in 1851 to make it what it is today, although its conversion into private residences may have occurred later. The former churchyard also survives next to the tower.

St Laurence Pountney

St Laurence Pountney is on Laurence Poultney Hill (formerly Candlewick Street), immediately west of Martin Lane. First recorded in 1534, the dedication was for Lord Mayor Sir John de Pulteney (1333-1334). He built a chapel in honour of Corpus Christi and St John the Baptist adjoining the church, and founded a college there for a master and seven chaplains. Both church and college were destroyed by the Great Fire, and neither was rebuilt. Today, only the churchyard remains.

All Hallows-the-Less

All Hallows-the-Less formerly existed on the southern side of what is now Upper Thames Street, approximately under this modern footbridge at the bottom of Laurence Poultney Hill. Also known as All-Hallows-upon-the-Cellar, it was built over an arch which led down to the Thames and Cold Harbour House. Its first mention is in 1240, and it was expanded in 1387 at the cost of two neighbouring houses, but it was destroyed by the Great Fire and not selected for rebuilding.

All Hallows-the-Great

All Hallows-the-Great was also on the south side of Upper Thames Street, just fifty metres (yards) or so west of All Hallows-the-Less. It was first mentioned in a charter by Gilbert, bishop of London (1100-1107), and apparently served seamen. It was also known by various names: All Hallows the More, or Thames Street, or in the Hay, or in the Ropery (the district in which it lay). Destroyed in the Great Fire, it was rebuilt by 1684 and demolished in 1894 for road widening.

St Mary Bothaw

St Mary Bothaw was on Dowgate Hill, which connects Upper Thames Street to Cannon Street, and the church overlooked the south side of Cannon Street itself. The dedication developed from its being close to a berthage for ships on the Thames, while the church also housed the tomb of the first lord mayor of London, Henry Fitz-Ailwin de Londenstane. The church was destroyed by the Great Fire and not rebuilt, and the site is now occupied by Cannon Street Station.

St John the Baptist upon Walbrook

St John the Baptist upon Walbrook, first mentioned in 1150, was opposite St Mary Bothaw, at the end of Cloak Lane. 'Cloak', from the Latin 'cloaca', meant the open sewer which ran down the street to empty into the Walbrook. The church was destroyed by the Great Fire and not rebuilt. The railway station's construction in 1866 swallowed most of the churchyard. The burials were collected and re-interred in the vault beneath this monument in 1884.

St Martin Vintry

St Martin Vintry once stood in what is now Whittington Gardens, between Upper Thames Street and the church of St Michael Paternoster Royal on Queen Street. Its dedication comes from its association with local vintners. The church was first mentioned in the eleventh century, and it was rebuilt in 1399. Restoration work was carried out in the mid-fifteenth century, but the church was destroyed by the Great Fire and it was not one of those selected to be rebuilt.

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