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 Andrew by the Wardrobe                                          
          St Anne teaches the Blessed Virgin to read in Queen Victoria Street (Carl Edwards, 1968)                                    
         


A Wren church, although perhaps it doesn't quite look it from the outside. The unusual dedication comes from the fact that the King's wardrobe (ie, clothing store) had been moved from the Tower of London to near here in the 14th Century. Both wardrobe and original church were destroyed in the fire. The Wren office rebuilt St Andrew between 1685 and 1694 along the medieval plan with aisles and a clerestory. Thus, the formal genius of Wren inscribed itself on a Gothic outline without falling into the obvious pitfalls of adding Gothic details, which one imagines would have been an easy temptation for Wren to resist. From the north the church is pleasingly lost in a tangle of alleyways, and you can imagine the young Betjeman in the 1920s pausing to

...stand by intersecting lanes
Among the silent offices and wait,
Choosing which bell to follow: not a peal,
For that meant somewhere active; not St Paul's
For that was too well-known. I liked things dim -
Some lazy Rector living in Bexhill
Who most unwillingly on Sunday came
To take the statutory services.
A single bell would tinkle down a lane:
My echoing steps would track the source of sound...


But on the south side the wide vista opened up in the late 19th Century for the new Queen Victoria Street spoils the mystery, exposing it more than was ever planned, for successive restorations in the 18th and 19th Century have removed the charm of the church that Wren rebuilt. However, this was never a wealthy parish, and the interior generally survived the fussy ministrations of 19th Century ritualists and restorers.

St Andrew was gutted on Sunday 29th December 1940 by German bombs. The interior was completely burned out, destroying one of the most complete 17th Century interiors in the City. The walls survived. This is a big church, and the decision was taken to hive off the aisles for other uses. That to the north was converted into offices which for many years were home to the Redundant Churches Fund. In the south aisle there is a truncated chapel, with vestries beyond. Happily, many of the fittings from churches demolished in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries had been placed in safe storage, and so St Andrew was repopulated with some older furnishings, including the pulpit, font and font cover from St Matthew Friday Street, and the royal arms from St Olave Jewry.

St Andrew is usually open, but the main glass doors into the church from the western narthex are not. Nonetheless, you can see pretty much all there is to see, an entirely rebuilt interior in the college style, like a less atmospheric version of St Vedast. It is hard to get excited by it, although one thing you can't see is the 18th Century glass in the west window. The chapel in the south aisle is open. It is very simple, and has 1968 glass by Carl Edwards, somewhat quieter than the excitements of his great scheme at Temple Church a decade earlier. In one window, St Anne teaches the Blessed Virgin to read outside the south front of St Andrew, which, like the approach to the church from the north, is also rather pleasing.

Simon Knott, December 2015


location: Queen Victoria Street, EC4V 5DE - 1/008
status: guild church
access: 10am-4pm Monday to Friday (though glass nave doors may be left locked)

St Andrew by the Wardrobe St Andrew by the Wardrobe St Andrew by the Wardrobe St Andrew by the Wardrobe St Andrew by the Wardrobe St Andrew by the Wardrobe St Andrew by the Wardrobe south aisle chapel the betrothal of Mary and Joseph by Carl Edwards, 1968 scholar, conservationist, author, politician, athlete Ivor Bulmer-Thomas the alterations to this churchyard

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          home   index   map   latest   e-mail   about this site   resources   small print   simonknott.co.uk   norfolkchurches.co.uk   suffolkchurches.co.uk
     
An occasional saunter through the churches of the Square Mile
                               
        An occasional saunter through the churches of the Square Mile