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Modern Britain

Gallery: Churches of Central London

by Peter Kessler, 3 January 2010

 

 

City of London Part 18: Churches of Blackfriars & Holborn

St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe

St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe is on Queen Victoria Street, roughly 120 metres (yards) west of St Benet Paul's Wharf, whose style this rebuilt church resembles. It dates back to the thirteenth century when it was associated with Castle Baynard, a royal residence that was lost in the Great Fire of 1666. The dedication originates with Edward III, who moved his state robes and other effects from the Tower of London to a large building close by to house the Great Wardrobe.

St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe

The church was burned down during the Great Fire. Rebuilt by Wren, this was the last of the many church reconstructions in the City to be handled by his office. Bombed during the Blitz, its Wren interior was destroyed. Reconstruction work was carried out within Wren's walls, but the church remained out of use until 1961, by which time it had received a replacement pulpit from St Matthew Friday Street, which had been built in the same period.

St Anne Blackfriars

St Anne Blackfriars lay on the north side of Ireland Yard, amid a maze of small streets off St Andrew's Hill. The site was originally home to the medieval Dominican Priory of Black Friars, which stood here until it was dissolved in 1538. The parish church of St Anne Blackfriars was built by public subscription, utilising the ruins of the priory and being located on the site of part of the preaching nave in the old priory church. The replacement church was consecrated in 1597.

St Anne Blackfriars

The Blackfriars name remained in use to describe the immediate area, while the church was a Puritan stronghold during the English Civil War. Just two decades later the church was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666, and was not amongst those which were selected to be rebuilt. Its parish was united with that of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe. Its churchyard remained in use until 1849, when all the City's churchyards were closed down, and is now a small public garden.

The Guild Church of St Martin-within-Ludgate

The Guild Church of St Martin-within-Ludgate lies on the northern side of Ludgate Hill, opposite the entrance to Pilgrim Street. There was a medieval church here from 1174 which was rebuilt in 1437. The tower was struck by lightning in 1561. In 1643 William Penn, whose son founded Pennsylvania, USA, was married in the church. The Great Fire gutted the church, and rebuilding was handled by Wren. Most of the work was completed by 1684, and the rest in 1703.

The Guild Church of St Martin-within-Ludgate

At the same time it was rebuilt, the church was set back from the old site as the opportunity was taken to widen Ludgate Hill. The Ludgate itself was demolished in 1760. Major rebuilding on the church took place in 1894, raising the floor level at the east end to create the chancel area. In 1941 an incendiary bomb damaged the roof, but St Martin's received the least damage of all the city churches in the war. A major renewal of the fabric, spire and roofs was completed in 1990.

City Temple

City Temple is a United Reformed Church located on the southern side of Holborn Viaduct, north-west of St Martin's along St Bride Street and Shoe Lane. The traditional date of founding for the first church on the site is 1640, although some evidence suggests that it could have been as early as the 1560s. City Temple was built on Holborn Viaduct in 1874 (shortly after completion of the viaduct itself in 1869), and developed as a classic city-centre 'preaching station'.

City Temple

City Temple was destroyed by enemy action on 16 April 1941. The lord mayor of London at the time, Alderman Sir Stephen Howard unveiled a stone dedicated to the rebuilding of the City Temple on 16 April 1955. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, unveiled a stone dedicated to the rededication of the City Temple on 30 October 1958, which is when it became available again for worship. The Temple now also serves as a conference centre with a 900-seat auditorium.

St Andrew Holborn

St Andrew Holborn neighbours City Temple on its western side. It has been a site of worship for at least a millennium but when the crypt was excavated in 2001, Roman remains were found. The church was first mentioned in AD 951 as being on top of the hill above the River Fleet. There is a medieval spring in the crypt, which emanates from the Fleet (though not usually open to the public). In 1348 local armourer John Thavie left his estate to the church, which still supports it.

St Andrew Holborn

The wooden church was replaced by a medieval stone one in the fifteenth century, of which only the tower now remains. In 1666 the church was only saved from the Great Fire at the last minute when the wind changed direction. However, as it was already in a bad state of repair, Wren decided to rebuild it anyway. The north churchyard was lost in the 1860s to Holborn Viaduct, and on 7 May 1941 the church was bombed and gutted. It was rebuilt stone for stone.

Additional editing to one photo on this page by Dana Grohol.

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