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Churches of the British Isles

Gallery: Churches of Central London

by Peter Kessler, 6 December 2009

City of London Part 9: Churches of Aldgate & Tower Hill

St Botolph without Aldgate, City of London

St Botolph without Aldgate lies on the eastern edge of the City, facing Aldgate High Street. Its first written record dates to 1115 when it was received by the Augustinian Holy Trinity Priory (which had recently been founded by Matilda, daughter of Henry I, and which also held St Katherine Cree), but the parish origins may date to before 1066. The church was rebuilt in the sixteenth century and then again between 1741-1744 to designs by George Dance the Elder.

St Botolph without Aldgate, City of London

The interior was redecorated by J F Bentley, the architect of Westminster Cathedral. The church was united with the parish of Holy Trinity Minories in 1899 (this former church lay outside the City's eastern border). It was severely damaged by bombing during the Blitz, but was restored by Rodney Tatchell. An unexplained fire in 1965 severely damaged it again, requiring further restoration work and it was re-consecrated on 8 November 1966 by Elizabeth II.

St Katherine Coleman, City of London

St Katherine Coleman lay behind this public house, on the southern side of Fenchurch Street, south-west from St Botolph's. St Katherine's Row (formerly Magpie Alley) runs between the buildings. It was originally known as All Hallows Coleman-church. It narrowly escaped the Great Fire, and was extensively rebuilt in 1741. Never regarded as one of the more spectacular City churches, it survived until its final service on 20 November 1926, after which it was quickly demolished.

All Hallows Staining, City of London

All Hallows Staining is on Mark Lane, near Fenchurch Street railway station. The first church here was Norman, built before the late twelfth century, when it was named 'Staining', or 'stone', to distinguish it from the other churches of the same name, all of which were wooden. The current tower dates to around 1320 and is believed to be part of the second church on this site. This building survived the Great Fire, although the adjacent Clothworkers' Hall was razed to the ground.

All Hallows Staining, City of London

In 1671 the church collapsed, probably due to the foundations being weakened by the large number of burials in the adjoining churchyard. Rebuilt in 1674, the church was finally pulled down in 1870 when it was decided that the shrinking number of parishioners warranted its closure. Between 1948-1954, a prefabricated church was attached to the tower, which served as the chancel, so that services for nearby St Olave's could be held while it was being repaired.

St Olave Hart Street, City of London

The Parish Church of St Olave Hart Street is just off Mark Lane, on the corner of Seething Lane. Founded in the eleventh century, the church was dedicated to the patron saint of Norway, St Olaf (as was St Olaf's in Tallinn and St Olave Old Jewry in the City). The Crypt Chapel was created in the thirteenth century, and the third church on the site was built in 1450, which is when the current tower was erected. The gateway (seen bottom left here) was built in 1658.

St Olave Hart Street, City of London

A total of 365 people were buried here during the Great Plague of 1665, and the following year the flames of the Great Fire came within a hundred metres before the wind changed direction, saving many churches in the east of the City. Samuel Pepys was laid to rest in a vault under the communion table in 1703. The tower was hit by an enemy bomb in 1941 and the bells destroyed, but a new ring of six was cast in 1953 and the church was re-hallowed the following year.

All Hallows by The Tower, City of London

All Hallows by The Tower is on Byward Street, close to the Tower of London. It is united with St Dunstan in the East. The Saxon Barking Abbey founded the church in AD 675. An arch from the original Saxon church has survived, beneath which is a Roman pavement, discovered in 1926, revealing the surroundings when the church was built. William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was baptised in the church in 1644 and educated in the schoolroom (now the parish room).

All Hallows by The Tower, City of London

In 1666 the Great Fire started in Pudding Lane, about 350 metres west of the church, and All Hallows survived through the efforts of Admiral Penn, William Penn's father. John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the USA, was married here in 1797. In 1940 the church was bombed and only the tower and the walls survived, but Queen Elizabeth, wife of George VI, laid a new foundation stone in 1948 and attended the re-dedication service some nine years later.

Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London, City of London

The Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula (St Peter in Chains) is within the walls of the Tower of London. It was originally built around 1272 but has been constantly 'restored' so that little is known of its earliest appearance. Beneath one of its aisles lay the bodies of Queen Anne Boleyn (beheaded 1536), Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley (1554), Robert Devereux, earl of Essex (1600), and the duke of Monmouth (1685).

Nine photos on this page by P L Kessler, and one from the History Files collection. Sound file from 'Bells on Sunday', BBC Radio 4, 2009.



Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original feature for the History Files.