City Churches are like London buses – you wait ages then several come along at once! Well, to be more precise, I wanted to make the most of my day in London, so I visited several to make up for lost time over the last year. My second post from today features three churches where all that remains is a tower. All three were destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666 and subsequently rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren and you can see the familial likeness.
My first port of call was St Mary Somerset, just north of the River Thames. St Mary’s was part of a very poor parish in the 18th century and during the following century its congregation dwindled as parishioners moved out of London for a better life. The Union of Benefices Act of 1860 permitted the demolition of some London churches so the land could be sold to raise funds to build churches in the suburbs. Having closed its doors for the final time in 1867, St Mary’s was demolished in 1871 under the auspices of this act, although the architect Ewan Christian was instrumental in saving the tower. Today the tower looks like it is used as office space, standing beside the busy Upper Thames Street and surrounded by modern office blocks. It’s well preserved though, and I was surprised how much I found to photograph.
My second tower is one I’ve visited before – St. Alban, Wood Street. It never fails to amaze me how close the City Churches are to each other, and I happened upon this tower again today on my way to another church. With blue skies above me this time, it seemed a shame not to stop and take some more photos. Unlike St Mary Somerset, this tower is the result of damage caused during the Blitz. Following the war, the congregation of St. Alban’s was combined with that of St Vedast Foster Lane and the rest of the church was demolished in 1965.
My final tower, St Olave Old Jewry, was also demolished under the Union of Benefices Act, in 1887, although unlike St Mary Somerset, the original churchyard space has been retained around it. Today it is used as the offices for a law firm, but the gardens are open so I popped in to take a photo before continuing to my final church of the day.
16 January 2020