The original church was in existence before 1096 on the west bank of the river Walbrook and was rebuilt on the east bank in 1429-39 at the expense of a former Lord Mayor, Richard Chicheley. Another of the churches to be destroyed in the great fire, it was rebuilt by Wren in 1672-9. It is thought that some of the techniques used on this church were a test for his plans for St. Paul’s Cathedral. The 50 ton dome was one of these prototypes.War damage was repaired by Godfrey Allen and further restoration in 1978-87 following subsidence of the long lost Walbrook river’s path. The rector, Chad Varah, founded The Samaritans here in 1953. The original telephone that took the first call is still inside the church.
St. Michaels Cornhill
This Saxon built church was mentioned in 1055 and is built on the site of the Roman basilica. The tower was rebuilt in 1421 and the church burned down like so many others in the fire of 1666.Wren started rebuilding in 1670-72 but the tower was a later addition by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1718-22. This was due to funds running out for Wren’s Gothic design.A restoration was carried out by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1857-60 which altered it’s appearance greatly by ‘Victorianising’ the church. St. Michael’s has a great musical history, and Henry Purcell gave a recital on the Renatus Harris organ here in 1684. The Royal College of Organists was founded here.
St. Nicholas Cole Abbey
The first church completed (1677) by Wren after the great fire. Standing in Queen Victoria Street, it is named after the patron saint of children. Despite it’s name it was never an abbey and probably came from the word “coldharbour”, which meant a shed or shelter.It was in the past, closely connected to fishmongers and was referred to as “St. Nicks behind Fish Street” in a charter dated 1272. There was a fish market here and many fishmongers were buried here in the 1600’s. The church was gutted by incendiary bombs on a May Sunday morning in 1941. It was restored to Wren’s original plans in 1962. The weather vane is in the shape of a galleon.
St. Botolph Aldgate
The church originallybelonged to a band of 13 knights who were given the land by King Edgar for services rendered. In 1115 the Knighten Guild, as they were known gave the church to the Priory of Holy Trinity Aldgate, who rebuilt it. After being found unsafe in 1740 George Dance rebuilt again in 1744 when a boy’s body was found standing upright in a vault. It could be viewed for tuppence, and people were “impressed by the well preserved state of his intestines”!Daniel Defoe was married here in 1683. He tells of two pits being dug in the churchyard that were filled with the bodies of 5,136 plague victims of 1665.
St. Botolph Bishopsgate
The full name is St. Botolph Without Bishopsgate as, just like the other Botolph churches, it stood just outside the City wall. The first known mention was in 1212 and it apparently overlooked the ditch that surrounded the CityThe Knights Templar were interrogated about the suspected corruption of the order here.The Lord Mayor, Sir William Allen, paid for it’s rebuilding in 1571-2 and although it escaped the great fire of 1666 it was demolished and rebuilt in 1725-8 by George Dance (the elder). It was restored seven times after this. After the IRA bombs of 1992-3 it was again repaired. There is a large garden next to the church.
The Botolph Churches
There were originally four St. Botolph churches in the Square Mile, of which three remain: Aldgate, Aldersgate and Bishopsgate. They were built near City gates. The fourth one was St. Botolph Billingsgate, which was never rebuilt after the great fire. It stood in Lower Thames Street and was first mentioned in 1181. The churches were built just outside the City gates in the 10th. and 11th. centuries for “the spiritual comfort of travellers”. They were named after a 7th. century Saxon Abbott who became the patron saint of travellers.
St. Botolph Aldersgate
Although the church escaped the great fire with minimal damage it had already been rebuilt in 1627. Nathaniel Wright was responsible for another rebuilding in 1788-91 and the west front was resurfaced in 1831.It sits in a garden known as “Postman’s Park” which is made up of it’s own churchyard and two other churchyards of long gone churches: St. Leonard Foster and Christ Church Newgate Street. Saint Botolph’s has one of the few original stained glass windows not destroyed during the blitz of World War II.
St. Helens Bishopsgate
Saint Helen Bishopsgate takes it’s name from the mother of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome. After escaping damage in the Great fire and then again during the war, this ancient building suffered bomb damage twice by the IRA terrorists in the early 1990’s. The first unusual thing you notice is that it has two entrances side by side. This goes back to the early thirteenth century when a Benedictine Nunnery was built next to the existing church (the left entrance). This ceased to be in 1538 due to the nuns being found to be a little less pious than they ought to have been!The interior has had some major renovations from Victorian times and again in the 1990’s by Quinlan Terry. It still has many medieval features including the hagioscope, or nun’s squint, through which they could see the church altar.
St. Michael Paternoster
Standing in College Hill and named after the Rosary makers nearby. The “Royal” is a corruption of the word “La Reole” which was the town in France where the vintry merchants who inhabited the area imported wine from. It was first mentioned in 1219. Richard (Dick) Whittington paid for the rebuilding of the church in 1409. He was buried here in 1423. After it’s destruction in the 1666 fire it was rebuilt by Christopher Wren in 1686-94. The steeple was finished in 1713. The interior was restored by William Butterfield in 1866. After suffering severe air raid damage in 1944, it was once again restored in 1967.
St. Dunstans in the West
Dedicated to a Saxon abbot who became Archbishop of Canterbury. It stands in Fleet Street. It escaped the fire of 1666 but when the road was widened it was rebuilt by John Shaw in 1830-33. After spending a century in Regents Park, the clock was returned in 1935 and was the first church clock in the City with a second hand.
St. Margaret Lothbury
This small church is hidden away in Lothbury, opposite the rear of the Bank of England. First mentioned in 1197, it was rebuilt in 1440. Yet another of the churches to be destroyed in the fire of 1666, it was rebuilt by Wren in 1686-90. It stood near the course of the long gone Walbrook River and straddles two City wards.St. Margaret Lothbury amazingly escaped damage from the blitz of World War II so contains original items from the 17th. century. It also contains other original items salvaged from other churches that were destroyed. It now incorporates the parishes of seven other churches that have been destroyed during the centuries between the fire and World War II.
St. Mary Woolnoth
St. Mary Woolnoth of the Nativity to give it it’s full name, stands at the junction of Lombard Street and King William Street. It is first mentioned in a deed dated 1191 and stands on the site of a Roman temple. It was rebuilt in 1438 and suffered damage in the great fire which was repaired by Wren. In 1716-17 it was totally rebuilt by Nicholas Hawksmoor. Substantial restoration of the interior was carried out by William Butterfield in 1875-6 In the late 19th. century Bank underground station was amazingly built underneath it. This involved the Victorian engineers removing the crypt. The bodies there were moved to Manor Park Cemetery, including the remains of Edward Lloyd, owner of the cafe’ where Lloyds of London was founded.