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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Central London

by Peter Kessler, 6 December 2009

City of London Part 8: Churches of Bishopsgate & Aldgate

St Andrew Undershaft Church, Aldgate, City of London

St Andrew Undershaft Church is located in the Aldgate ward of the City, near the north-eastern corner of St Mary Axe and Leadenhall Street, and lies diagonally opposite to the Lloyd's building. The church is in the parish of St Helen Bishopsgate with St Andrew Undershaft, and takes in the former parish areas of St Ethelburga Bishopsgate, St Martin Outwich, and St Mary Axe. It is also used by St Helen's Church, Bishopsgate as a chapel of need and an events centre.

St Andrew Undershaft Church, Aldgate, City of London

The original Norman church was first recorded in the twelfth century. It was rebuilt in the fourteenth century and again in 1532, which is when the current Perpendicular-style building was erected. The church's name derives from the shaft of the maypole that was traditionally set up each year opposite the church. The custom continued each spring until 1517, when student riots put an end to it. The church escaped damage both during the Great Fire of 1666 and the Blitz.

St Mary Axe Church, City of London

St Mary Axe (and sometimes St Mary Pellipar) used to lay immediately opposite St Andrew's on this now-open site between 20 St Mary Axe and the Lloyd's building. Originally a Norman church called 'St Mary, St Ursula and her 11,000 Virgins', it belonged to the Priory of St Helen's until the Dissolution, and in 1562 it was offered to Spanish Protestant refugees who seem to have abandoned it within three years. By then it was in a state of disrepair and was pulled down.

St Katherine Cree, Leadenhall Street, City of London

St Katherine Cree - or Creechurch - is farther east down Leadenhall Street, at the north-east corner of Creechurch Lane. The church's parish existed as early as 1108, when it was served by Christ Church Augustinian Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate. The site of the present church was originally the priory's churchyard and the church may have had its origins in a cemetery chapel. Parishioners used the priory church but this proved disruptive to the priory.

St Katherine Cree, Leadenhall Street, City of London

St Katharine Cree was founded by the priory in 1280 as a separate church for worship, taking its name from the priory ('Cree' is a corrupted abbreviation of 'Christ Church'). In 1414 the church gained its own parish. A new building was erected in 1631, the only Jacobean church still surviving, with only the 1504 tower remaining from the old church. It escaped the Great Fire and suffered only minor damage in the Blitz, but needed extensive restoration in 1962.

Creechurch Lane Synagogue, Bury Street, City of London

Creechurch Lane Synagogue was on the corner of Creechurch Lane and Bury Street, This was the first synagogue built after the resettlement, opening in 1657. Both Charles II and James II quashed indictments against the Spanish and Portuguese Jews here for unlawful assembly, in effect supporting it instead. The numbers of worshippers grew steadily, so that a new site was required. Bevis Marks Synagogue took over and Creechurch Lane closed in 1701.

St Augustine Papey, Bury Street, City of London

St Augustine Papey (or in-the-wall) formerly lay on Bury Street, opposite the exit onto Creechurch Lane. The Norman church was in existence by 1170. In 1428, parish numbers were so low, less than ten inhabitant householders, that the decision was taken to close the church. It was given to the Fraternity of the Papey which looked after poor priests, but the Dissolution ended this practise and the church was demolished and built over, its yard becoming a public garden.

Great Synagogue Dukes Place, City of London

Great Synagogue Dukes Place once lay on nearby Duke's Place at the entrance to Mitre Square. A constituent of the United Synagogue, it stood on the site adjoining this one from 1690, almost immediately next to the Church of St James Dukes Place. It would have helped to handle the large increase in Jewish worshippers in the City following their readmission into the country in 1655, and served continually until it was destroyed by enemy bombing in September 1941.

St James Dukes Place, City of London

St James Dukes Place lay on the corner of St James Passage, between Mitre Square and Dukes Place. The area was settled by poor workmen in the seventeenth century, but they found St Katherine Cree to be uncongenial. Instead, they sought permission from King James I to build a new church, and were granted land on the now-ruined Priory of the Holy Trinity which had been dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538. The church opened in 1622.

St James Dukes Place, City of London

The church was named in the king's honour, with the location added - a thoroughfare which was owned by the duke of Norfolk. It survived the Great Fire but needed extensive restoration in 1727. As the area's Jewish population rose steadily over the next 150 years, it became increasingly difficult to finance the church and in 1874, under the 1860 Union of Benefices Act, it was demolished and the parish joined to St Katherine's. Very little trace of it remains today.

All photos on this page by P L Kessler.



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