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 Botolph Aldgate                                          
          Robert Dow and skull                                    
          Until well into the 1970s, Aldgate was still a kind of reality checkpoint, where the citadels of the money men gave way abruptly to the real lives of the East End. My wife's mother, a down to earth East Ender who was born a couple of streets to the east of this church in the 1930s, would still say she was going up Aldgate if someone asked her what she was doing and she wanted them to mind their own business.

Now, the office blocks are starting to creep up the Whitechapel Road, and the old East End is gentrifying. Aldgate is no longer the site of such startling contrasts, although the hideous blue box behind the church does its best to startle in another kind of way.

Four of the eastern City gates had churches dedicated to St Botolph, the patron saint of wayfarers and travellers. There was a church here in Saxon times, and its late medieval replacement was in turn demolished in the 1740s, presumably for road widening. The architect of the new church was George Dance, and it was very much in the style of the Wren churches. Pevsner noted how the wide frontage and short length of the building give it a 'sit-up-and-beg' look behind its tower.

The interior is a delight, full of warmth and colour. The three-sided gallery leans into the small space creating a sense of intimacy, a happy conjunction given the church's reputation for inclusivity and welcome. The sanctuary is an equally intimate space, and I cannot think of another church with a batik reredos. Among the memorials, a worried Robert Dow leans on a skull, Thomas Lorde reclines in the throes of death, Sir John Cass is wreathed in laurels. Jolly angels hold up the roof, and there is a quiet little chapel in the north-east corner inside which the bustle of the city outside seems a million miles away.

Simon Knott, March 2016


location: Aldgate EC3N 1AB - 3/016
status: parish church
access: 9.30am-3pm Monday to Friday

St Botolph Aldgate St Botolph Aldgate St Botolph Aldgate

looking east sanctuary font side chapel here lieth Thomas Lorde three jolly angels the first steamboat fitted for practical use Robert Dow and skull Sir John Cass and laurels MAY 10th-11th 1941 the late Thomas Lorde for many years headmaster of St Botolph Aldgate School crown of thorns Thomas Bray
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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