I was horrified a few weeks ago to realise a whole year had gone by without me making any further progress on my City Churches project. For those who don’t already know about it, over the last five years I’ve been gradually photographing all the churches which stand within the square mile of the City of London – over fifty of them! By the end of 2018 I’d covered around forty churches, so it’s about time I made it to the rest of them. Yesterday I made some enquiries about seeking access to some of the churches which aren’t open regularly, so I have no excuse not to make better progress in 2020. If you’d like to see all the churches I’ve visited so far please do take a look here, where the images are collected together.
I started off today at St James Garlickhythe, on the south western corner of the City. Like so many of these churches, the original 12th century building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and rebuilt twenty years later by Sir Christopher Wren. In 1941 the church was also hit by a bomb during the Blitz. Crashing through the roof and burying itself beneath the south aisle, it fortunately failed to explode and was transported to Hackney Marshes to be safely detonated. Astonishingly, this wasn’t the last of the church’s structural woes, as in 1991 a crane working on a nearby building collapsed and buried itself in the south wall. After being rebuilt yet again, the church is now in superb condition and hopefully there will be no further disasters!
I didn’t have long to photograph St James’ today, slotting in between a history talk and a service for the HMS Illustrious Association. However, I found plenty of interest in the classic Wren architecture. Among the decorative details I found a pair of lions and unicorns, and even a hook in the pulpit for the preacher to hang their wig!
The church is often nicknamed ‘Wren’s Lantern’, thanks to its copious supply of windows. These number one fewer than Wren planned as the structure above the altar was deemed to be too weak. As a result, this window was blocked up and the space it once occupied is now filled with a large decorative mural.
16 January 2020