An occasional saunter through the churches of the Square Mile                                
        An occasional saunter through the churches of the Square Mile

                                 
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St Alphage London Wall

   
          St Alphage London Wall

                                 
         
London Wall is one of those City streets which seems to shed its old buildings and take on new ones every decade or so, the north side climbing higher and higher into the sky, cutting the Barbican off from the rest of the City. When I first visited and wrote about this little ruin in 2012, it sat tucked uncomfortably into a kink in what was then the grotty concrete walkway of London Wall, which meandered along above the buildings as if suffering from a particularly wilful form of dementia. I wondered at the time if it should have been quite so difficult to put in a simple and direct pedestrianised route between Bishopsgate and the Barbican. It was almost as if they actually wanted you to be late for a concert. Still, at least it gave people time to look down on this ruin while they wondered where on earth they were.

The post-war London plan had called for the extension of these upper walkways throughout the city, leaving the ground level to cars - you could see the planned effect from those which were completed here and on the south side of the City on Upper Thames Street. Thankfully, the plan was abandoned. How close we came to destroying the character of the City completely!

The walkways of Upper Thames Street survive for now, but thankfully those of London Wall have largely been removed, apart from a small stretch up by the Museum of London on Aldersgate, and replaced with a simpler system of elegant rusted bridges in what I believe is known as corten steel. While this is not likely to be a result of me moaning about them, it is still a pleasing outcome.

What the Lost were looking down at in 2012 is the crossing and part of the north transept of a large hospital priory church which was demolished at the Reformation. The crossing was retained and sold as a carpenter's shop, while the parishioners headed westwards and built their new smaller church huddled beneath the tower. This was of course far enough north to survive the Great Fire, but by the mid-18th Century it was taken down and replaced by a fairly simple preaching box of 1777 to the design of William Staines. A surviving early 20th Century photograph of the Georgian frontage into London Wall shows it immediately before this frontage was replaced by a Gothic confection in 1914.

By the 1920s the parish had no resident population, and the church was pulled down all apart from the frontage, which itself was destroyed on the night of December 29th 1940 by German bombing. The bombing helped to reveal the crossing of the original church, and so all we have left is the part of the building which the parishioners abandoned half a millennium ago.

In 2012 the ruin was uneasily cordoned off by fencing, but today you can wander around and inside it to your heart's content, and just as easily look down on it from the new walkways, which is quite literally a result all round.

                         

Simon Knott, December 2015


location: London Wall, EC2Y 5AA - 2/005
status: ruin
access: open all the time

St Alphage London Wall St Alphage London Wall

The frontage in 1907:
St Alphage London Wall (1907)

The ruin in 2012:
St Alphage London Wall St Alphage London Wall St Alphage London Wall

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An occasional saunter through the churches of the Square Mile
                               
        An occasional saunter through the churches of the Square Mile