History Files


Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Central London

by Peter Kessler, 6 December 2009

City of London Part 6: Churches of Moorgate

St Olave Old Jewry, St Olave's Place, City of London

The remains of St Olave Old Jewry are located on St Olave's Place, between Old Jewry and Ironmonger Lane, next to the former site of St Martin Pomary. Old Jewry was a small but densely populated area of medieval London that was populated largely by Jews until they were expelled by Edward I in 1290. The church was built by Saxons between the ninth and eleventh centuries in a mixture of Kentish ragstone and Roman bricks taken from still-surviving ruins.

St Olave Old Jewry, St Olave's Place, City of London

Also termed St Olave Upwell for the well under the east end of the building, the earliest surviving mention of the church is from a manuscript of about 1130, by which time it had been rededicated to the eleventh century patron saint of Norway, St Olaf (as was St Olaf's in Tallinn). It was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, rebuilt by Wren by 1679 and restored in 1879. Only the west wing and tower escaped demolition in 1887, to be adjoined to a new office building.

The Guild Church of St Lawrence Jewry, Gresham Street, City of London

The Guild Church of St Lawrence Jewry is on Gresham Street, immediately north of St Olave's, and is now the church of the Corporation of London, with the Guildhall lying immediately behind it (to the left here). Its name comes from the fact that the original church, which was built in 1136, stood in at the northern end of the city's large Jewish community which was centred on Old Jewry street. That Norman church building was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666.

The Guild Church of St Lawrence Jewry, Gresham Street, City of London

The building that was constructed over the ruins of the church was designed by Christopher Wren and opened in 1680, although work was not completed until 1687. This building was almost completely destroyed by fire on 29 December 1940, following heavy German bombing of the City. A sympathetic restoration was carried out in 1957, although some of the other buildings which had been clustered around it were not restored, giving it the open aspect it has today.

The Parish Church of St Stephen Coleman Street, City of London

The Parish Church of St Stephen Coleman Street lay on the corner of Coleman Street (named after local charcoal burners) and Gresham Street, a short distance to the east of St Lawrence Jewry and within the medieval Jewish quarter. It was first mentioned in the thirteenth century, and was a Puritan stronghold in the 1600s. It was destroyed by the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren's office. Enemy bombing in the Blitz of 1940 destroyed the church again, and it was not rebuilt.

The Parish Church of St Margaret Lothbury, City of London

The Parish Church of St Margaret Lothbury is the church of the wards of Broad Street and Coleman Street, located just over a hundred metres east of the former St Stephen's. A Norman church was built here, on Lothbury Street (now behind the Bank of England), in the twelfth century, and is first recorded in 1185. It underwent rebuilding work in 1440, largely paid for by the lord mayor of London, Robert Large, who had William Caxton (c.1422-1492) as an apprentice.

The Parish Church of St Margaret Lothbury, City of London

The church was destroyed by the Great Fire and rebuilt by the office of Christopher Wren between 1686-1690. Two paintings of Moses and Aaron were transferred here from St Christopher le Stocks when demolished in 1781 and these now flank the high altar. St Margaret's still serves as a parish church for five livery companies, two ward clubs, and two professional institutes in the City, and holds special services for local finance houses. It is also Grade I listed.

St Peter le Poer, Austin Friars, City of London

The site of St Peter le Poer was alongside the entrance to Austin Friars on the western side of Old Broad Street where it meets Throgmorton Street. The Norman church existed by 1181, and was renovated between 1629-1631. It was lucky enough to escape the Great Fire but, much decayed, it was dismantled and rebuilt further back by Jesse Gibson in 1792. A new Henry Willis organ was fitted in 1884 but the population decline in the City meant that it was closed in 1908.

Dutch Church in London, City of London

The Dutch Church in London ('Nederlandse Kerk' in Dutch) lies along the narrow maze of Austin Friars. Long used as a meeting place for Dutch visitors and residents of the City, it welcomes worshippers of any religious denomination. It was originally founded as the priory church of the Augustine Friars, probably in the 1200s. In 1550, Edward IV gave permission to Protestant refugees from the Catholic-controlled Netherlands to set up their own parish here.

Dutch Church in London, City of London

This donation made it the first Dutch-language Protestant church in the world, before the Netherlands was liberated, and the western end of the Priory Church was enclosed from the Steeple and Quier to facilitate the change. It was partly burnt in 1862, and restored by 1865. The Blitz in 1940 saw the church destroyed, but in 1950 a design by Arthur Bailey had been turned into a new church building which had echoes of Wren's designs, in Portland stone over a concrete frame.

All photos on this page by P L Kessler.



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