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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Central London

by Peter Kessler, 3 January 2010

 

 

City of London Part 17: Churches of Cheapside & St Paul's

St John the Evangelist Friday Street

St John the Evangelist Friday Street was on a narrow lane behind St Mary le Bow. Also known as St Werburgh Friday Street, the church was one of the smallest in the City, and probably dated to the twelfth century. Destroyed by the Great Fire in 1666, a public house and hotel was build on the site shortly after 1666, and was occupied by successive lord mayors of London until 1753, when it was sold to become Williamson's Hotel (now Williamson's Tavern), off Bow Lane.

All Hallows Bread Street

All Hallows Bread Street stood on the south-eastern corner of Bread Street and Watling Street, a stone's throw to the west of St John's. It was first recorded in 1227, but may have had Saxon origins. The dedication is for the street on which there was a bread market. The church was enlarged in 1350, and its stone steeple struck by lightening in 1559. Destroyed by the Great Fire, it was rebuilt by Wren in 1698, but demolished in 1878 as the City's population dropped off.

St Mildred Bread Street

St Mildred Bread Street was on the north-western corner of the junction of Watling Street and Bread Street, diagonally opposite to All Hallows. St Mildred the Virgin was the seventh century daughter of Merewalh, king of the Herefordshire Saxons. The church was founded in the thirteenth century. In 1428, a vestry and court yard were bequeathed to it, and in 1628 a stained glass montage was added. All was destroyed by the Great Fire of London.

St Mildred Bread Street

The church was rebuilt by Wren in 1683, with a tower on the south side attached by a short lobby. In 1932 a bust of Arthur Philip, first governor of New South Wales, was unveiled on the west wall. Enemy action over London during 1941 saw the church destroyed again, but the bronze bust and plates were salvaged from the ruins. The monument was re-erected further down Watling Street, a few metres west, and unveiled on 8 May 1968. The church's site was sold in 1954.

St Gregory by St Paul's

St Gregory by St Paul's was a little further west, on the south side of St Paul's Churchyard and, as the dedication suggests, opposite the cathedral. Carter Lane bordered it on the other side. The first mention of the church comes from the eleventh century, and the building was renovated in 1647 by Inigo Jones, following a petition by its parishioners. It was destroyed by the Great Fire and was one of almost half the City's total number of churches not to be rebuilt.

St Peter (on) Paul's Wharf

St Peter (on) Paul's Wharf used to lay near the junction between Peter's Hill and Knightrider Street, approximately where Knightrider Court now sits on Peter's Hill. The church was first mentioned in the twelfth century as St Peter the Little, or Less. In 1430 Robert Frankeleyn gave land on Thames Street as a churchyard. The church defiantly continued to use the Book of Common Prayer during the English Civil War, but was destroyed by the Great Fire and not rebuilt.

St Mary Magdalen Old Fish Street

St Mary Magdalen Old Fish Street was a few metres west of St Peter's, on the corner of Old Fish Street and Old Change (now best viewed from this point looking east on Knightrider Street from Goldmine Street). The area was entirely redeveloped after 1945. The church was first recorded in the twelfth century, but was destroyed by the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren. A fire in an adjacent warehouse in 1886 damaged the roof, and the church was demolished in 1893.

Salvation Army International Headquarters

The Salvation Army International Headquarters stands on the southern side of Queen Victoria Street, opposite the entrance to Distaff Lane, and alongside St Peter's Hill. The site was first used by the Army in 1881, when it replaced their Christian Mission Headquarters on Whitechapel Road. The building was gutted by fire during the Blitz, but following its rebuilding, it was opened by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in 1963. This brand new building was opened in 2004.

The Guild Church of St Benet Paul's Wharf

The Guild Church of St Benet Paul's Wharf is sixty metres west of the Salvation Army HQ, standing on the south-eastern corner of the junction of Queen Victoria Street and White Lion Hill. Dedicated to St Benedict, a church existed here from AD 1111. The name was abbreviated to St Benet in common usage (or 'Bene't' in writing) and formally changed in the early nineteenth century. Paul's Wharf had been the main landing stage for this part of the City since the Roman period.

The Guild Church of St Benet Paul's Wharf

The church was destroyed by the Great Fire, along with nearby Castle Baynard. Between 1681-1687 it was rebuilt by Wren and has remained virtually unchanged since then, being fortunate to escape any damage during the Second World War. In 1879, when the church's future was uncertain due to the depopulation of the City, it became the London base of the Metropolitan Welsh Church (Uwcheglwys San Bened), but closed in 2008 due to dwindling attendance.

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