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Gallery: Churches of Central London
by Peter Kessler, 3 January 2010
City of London Part 13: Churches of Exchange &
St Benet Sherehog stood on what is
now 1 Poultry, opposite the Bank of England. St Mildred Poultry
stood to the right, and St Pancras Soper Lane was about fifty
metres (yards) behind it (only St Mary le Bow is now visible).
St Benet was built before AD 1111, with its dedication referring
to the local meat market (a sherehog is a newly sheared hog or
pig that has been castrated). The church was destroyed in the Great
Fire of 1666 and not selected for rebuilding.
St Mary Woolchurch Haw was yet another
church which overlooked the intersection of Threadneedle Street,
Poultry, and King William Street. The site is now occupied by the
Mansion House. The church was apparently new in about 1442, and
underwent repairs and beautification in 1629. Its dedication
originated from the weighing of wool that took place in a nearby
customs house until around 1383. The church was destroyed by the
Great Fire and not rebuilt.
St Mary Woolnoth is on Lombard Street,
about sixty metres (yards) east of St Mary Woolchurch Haw. Built
on the site of a Roman temple, the first church here was founded
by a Saxon noble called Wulfnoth. The first records for the church
date to the Plantagenet London of 1273, and it was rebuilt several
times, most notably in 1438, during the reign of Henry VI, when it
was completely rebuilt on the old foundations. By 1552, the tower
contained a ring of five bells.
The Great Fire burned down much of the church,
but the north and east walls were quickly rebuilt and the church
patched up so that services could resume. By 1711 the building was
found to be very unsafe, and it was decided to demolish and rebuild
it, with the design being supplied by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1716 as
one of Queen Anne's fifty new churches. The interior resembles an
Egyptian hall and is regarded as one of Hawksmoor's finest works.
St Stephen Walbrook stands behind Mansion
House on Walbrook, which roughly follows the course of the old
stream as it heads south towards the Thames. The original site of
the church, twenty metres or so to the west of here, started out as
the second century Roman temple of Mithras. The Saxon church was
built over it to sanctify a pagan place of worship, at some point
between 700-980. In 1090 it was given to the monastery of St John by
Eudo, Dapifer (cupbearer) to Henry I.
By 1428, a larger site was needed, so the current
site was selected for the new church, built in flint and rubble. At
the east end of the church was Bearbidder Lane, the source of the
Great Plague of 1665, while the subsequent Great Fire destroyed the
church itself. Wren rebuilt it between 1672-1679, making an
especially fine job of his own parish church, although the exterior,
which was not 'islanded' as it is now, is fairly rough. The steeple
was added in 1713-1717.
St Swithin London Stone stood a little
south and east of St Stephen's, on St Swithin's Lane at the corner
with what is now Cannon Street. The church was founded in the
thirteenth century and underwent rebuilding in 1405. Destroyed by
the Great Fire, it was rebuilt again, by Wren, opening in 1678. The
church was almost completely destroyed by enemy action in 1940, with
only the pulpit surviving. Final demolition came in 1962, two years
after the site was sold.
The origins and purpose of the London Stone are
uncertain, but it was mentioned in 1188 in relation to Henry,
son of Eylwin de Londenstane, who was the first lord mayor of London.
The stone was removed from its location at the front of what is now
Cannon Street Station in 1742 to the north side of the street in
1798 where it was built into the south wall of St Swithin's. When
the church was demolished, the stone was inset into the building
that replaced it.
The Guild Church of St Mary Abchurch is on
Abchurch Lane, a narrow thoroughfare which is one street to the east
of St Swithin's Lane. Its origins date to the twelfth century, but
the church was destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren
between 1681-1687, with a single bell being hung in the tower, and
magnificent interior work underneath a domed ceiling being added.
Restoration work took place after the church suffered a direct hit
during the Blitz of 1940.
St Nicholas Acons once stood on Nicholas
Lane, the next street east of St Mary Abchurch. Its approximate
location is on the immediate righthand side here, close to, and
behind, the shot. A Saxon church was built in the ninth century,
benefitting from a medieval benefactor named Acons. The church,
located roughly 150 metres (yards) north-west of Pudding Lane,
was completely destroyed by the Great Fire, but its churchyard
may have remained in use afterwards.