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London’s Mediæval Parish Churches: Part 1 – From The Tower to Cornhill

London’s Mediæval Parish Churches: Part 1-From The Tower to Cornhill
by Bill McCann

The Mediæval London skyline was dominated by church spires. There were 126 parish churches crammed into the “Square Mile” in the 12th century. By the 14th century the number had been reduced to 110. This article, together with the three following articles, provides a brief description and history of each parish church. Where possible the dates of foundation or the date of the first documentary reference are given. The dates of destruction, reconstruction and suppression, where appropriate, are given for each parish church. These articles are the prologue to a more comprehensive coverage of the individual parish churches which will follow later in the year.

London’s Mediæval Parish Churches: Part 1 – From The Tower to Cornhill
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The Church was one of the most important agencies in the shaping and characterisation of mediæval London. Not only was London the seat of an important Bishopric but it also had a large number of wealthy monasteries, friaries and nunneries within the City walls or just outside. And it had more than 100 Parish Churches. The panorama of the city above shows how in 1611, the skyline was dominated by church spires.
The church also dominated daily life. Religion and provision for the afterlife were extremely important in the mediæval mind. Every facet of one’s daily routine was dominated by the need to ensure the soul’s salvation and therefore by the Church. Thus, the daily round was regulated according to the ringing of the church bells, contracts were invalid unless “God’s penny” had been paid and, of course, all oaths were sworn on the gospels.
In his Description of London, (late 12th century) FitzStephen says :
In the Church of St. Paul is the Episcopal See … Also as concerns Christian worship, there are both in London and the Suburbs thirteen greater Conventual churches, and a hundred and twenty-six lesser parochial”.

By the time that the Taxatio Ecclesiastica was drawn up in 1291 there were a total of 119 churches, including St Paul’s and various churches outside the walls and in Southwark. By the end of the 14th century it is estimated that there were a total of one hundred and ten Parish Churches, ninety-seven of them within the City walls and the names of these are known to us. This concentration ensured that people could belong to small tightly-knit groups and the churches themselves became an important physical focus for secular parish life. Many of the churches were substantially rebuilt during the 14th and 15th centuries, largely financed by the parishioners themselves. The Great Fire of 1666 wrought great devastation, destroying a total of eighty-nine churches. Of these only 51 were rebuilt. New churches were added in the eighteenth and nineteenth and centuries but the bombing of London in the Second World War destroyed many so that at the end of the conflict less than forty had survived. A terrorist bombing campaign in the 1990s claimed the dishonourable trophy of St Ethelburga on Bishopsgate, one of the dozen mediæval churches which had until then survived in their entirety.

This series of articles will list the Mediæval parish churches whose names are known to us. For each is given the common name used today together with the original or alternative names where applicable, the date of its original foundation if known, its location and the dates of reconstruction and/or destruction. For ease of future reference, the churches are numbered consecutively from east to west. Detailed descriptions of individual churches will follow in later articles. There are links to the remainder of the series at the bottom of the page.

A: Churches within the Walls

From The Tower to Cornhill

1. St Peter in the Bailey

Originally St Peter ad Vincula, also St Peter in Chains,
Situated within the Inner Wall of the Tower of London.
Built in 12th Century, re-built in the 16th

2. St Katherine Coleman

Originally St Katherine Colemanchurch
Situated in Fenchurch Street EC3.
Before 1346. Escaped the Great Fire, repaired 1703, rebuilt 1738-41, demolished 1926.
Parish was united to St Olave Hart Street in 1921.

3. All Hallows Barking By The Tower

Originally Berkingchurch also All Hallows By The Tower.
Situated Great Tower Street EC3.
Before 1148. Damaged 1666, rebuilt 17thC, destroyed 1940, rebuilt 1948-1957.

4. St Olave Hart Street

11th century wooden church replaced and extended in 13th century. Rebuilt 1450.
Situated in Fenchurch Street EC3.
Survived the Great Fire but badly damaged 1941 and restored in 1954.
St Katherine Cree in the early 19th century

5. St Katherine Cree

Originally St Katherine Trinity near Aldgate
Situated in Leadenhall Street EC3.
About 1280. Rebuilt 1504 and 1628-30. Escaped the Great Fire.
The parish was united with St Andrew Undershaft in 1954.

6. All Hallows Staining

Situated in Mark Lane EC3.
Before 1177 rebuilt 1450, repaired 1630 and survived the Great Fire. Collapsed 1671. Rebuilt 1674-5. Demolished, except for tower, 1870 when parish was united with St Olave Hart Street.

7. St Augustine Papey

Also St Augustine in the Wall.
Before 12th century. Becomes chapel for poor priests 1442. Suppressed by Edward VI 1565 and demolished.

8. St Andrew Cornhill

Also St Andrew Undershaft.
Situated in Leadenhall Street EC3.
Before 1147. Rebuilt 1520-32. Restored 1627. Survived the Great Fire and restored 1684. Partially rebuilt in 1830 and 1875. Roof renewed in 1949-52. Damaged by terrorist bomb 1992.

9. St Mary Axe

Also St Mary at Axe.
Situated in St Mary Axe EC3.
Before 1197. Suppressed 1565. Parish united with St Andrew Cornhill.
Great St Helens in the early 19th century.

10. St Helen Bishopsgate

Also Great St Helens.
Situated in Bishopsgate EC3.
Reputedly Roman. Noted in 11th century. Rebuilt 1204. Damaged by terrorist bomb in 1992

11. St Ethelburga

Also St Ethelburga the Virgin within Bishopsgate.
Situated in Bishopsgate EC3.
Early 13th century. Rebuilt in 1390, and 15th century with many subsequent restorations. It was destroyed by terrorist bomb in 1993.

12. St Gabriel Fenchurch

Also St Mary Fenchurch
Situated in Fenchurch Street EC3.
Before 1315. Destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt
The parish was united to St Margaret Pattens in 1670.
St Dunstan in the East in the early 19th century.

13. St Dunstan In The East

Situated in Great Tower Street
Sometime in second half of 13th century. Extended in 1382 and repaired 1633. Survived the Great Fire but tower and steeple were rebuilt. Rebuilt 1817-21, gutted in 1941. Tower and nave walls restored 1970 when site was turned into a garden.
The parish was united to All Hallows Barking by the Tower in 1960.
St Margaret Pattens in the early 19th century.

14. St Margaret Pattens

Situated in Rood Lane, Eastcheap EC3.
First mentioned in 1216. Rebuilt 1530 and repaired 1614-32. Burnt down in the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren with a 200 foot spire 1684-7. Still survives.

15. St Mary At Hill

Situated in Lovat Lane EC3.
12th century and rebuilt in the 15th. Damaged in the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren 1670-6. Tower and west end were rebuilt in 1787-8, interior refurbished (after a fire) 1848-9.
St Dionis Backchurch in the early 19th century.

16. St Dionis Backchurch

Situated at Lime Street and Fenchurch Street EC3.
First mentioned 1198. Rebuilt 1450 and St John Chapel added 1466. Steeple added 1632. Destroyed in the Great Fire rebuilt by Wren, demolished 1878
The parish was united to All Hallows Lombard Street 1876, St Edmund the King and Martyr 1954.

17. St Martin Outwich

Situated in Threadneedle Street EC2.
Built 1403. Escaped the Great Fire but was destroyed by fire in 1765. Replaced in 1796 and demolished in 1874.
The parish was united to St Helen Bishopgate in 1873
St Martin Outwich in the early 19th century.

18. St Andrew Hubbard

Situated in Eastcheap, EC3. Plaque on No. 16.
First mentioned in 1202. Extensive repairs in 1632. Destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt.
The parish was united to St Mary at Hill in 1670.

19. St Augustine Watling Street

Also St Augustine at St. Paul’s Gate, St Augustine With St Faith
Situated in Watling Street EC4.
First mentioned 1148. Enlarged and repaired 1630-1. Destroyed in the Great Fire rebuilt by Wren 1680-87. Restored in 1829 and destroyed again in 1940. Only the Tower and Spire remain.

20. St Peter Cornhill

Also St Peter upon Cornhill.
Situated in Cornhill EC3.
Allegedly founded AD179. Destroyed in the Great Fire rebuilt by Wren 1667-87. Restored in 1872.

21. St George Botolph Lane

Situated west side of Lane on south corner of St George’s Lane EC3.
First mentioned 1180. Repaired in 1360 and again in 1627. Destroyed in 1666 and rebuilt by Wren in 1671-4. Declared unsafe in 1903 and demolished in 1904.
The parish was united with that of St Mary at Hill.

22. St Benet Gracechurch

also St Benet Grasschurch
Situated in Gracechurch Streeet EC3.
First mentioned in 1181. Repaired in 1630-3 but was destroyed in 1666. Rebuilt by Wren in 1681-7. Closed in 1864 and demolished in 1867
The parish was united to All hallows Lombard Street 1864, St Edmund the King and Martyr 1937
St Peter le Poer in the early 19th century

23. St Peter le Poer

Situated in Old Broad Street EC2.
First mentioned 1181.Rebuilt 1540 and enlarged and repaired in 1615-30. Escaped serious damage in the Great Fire and was repaired in 1704-20 but had become ruinous by 1788 and was rebuilt between then and 1792. Restored in 1888 but was sold and demolished in 1907.
The parish was united with that of St Michael Cornhill in 1906.

24. All Hallows Lombard Street

Also All Hallows Grass Church
Situated at the corner of Lombard Street and Gracechurch Street EC3.
First mentioned in 1053. Rebuilt 1494-1516. Repaired in 1622 but destroyed in 1666. Rebuilt by Wren in 1686-94. It was closed in 1937 and demolished in 1938-9, the tower was reconstructed at All Hallows, North Twickenham.
The parish was united with St Edmund King & Martyr in1937.

25. St Botolph Billingsgate

Situated in Lower Thames Street EC3.
First mentioned in 1181. Destroyed in 1666 and not rebuilt
Parish was united with St George, Botolph Lane 1670, and then St Mary at Hill in 1901.

26. St Leonard Eastcheap

Also St Leonard Milkchurch.
Situated in Eastcheap EC3.
First mentioned in 1214. The Steeple burned down in 1618 and the subsequent repairs included he enlargement of the church. It was destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt
The parish was united with St Benet Gracechurch 1670, All Hallows Lombard Street 1864 and St Edmund the King and Martyr 1937.

27. St Michael Cornhill

Situated in Cornhill EC3.
First mentioned in 1055. Tower rebuilt in 1421. Destroyed in the Great Fire and rebuilt by Wren 1669-72. The tower was eventually added by Hawksmoor in 1718-22. Restored in 1857-60.
St Michael Cornhill in the early 19th century.

The following looped links will allow you to scroll through the series.

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