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

                                 
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London City Churches: Resources

                                         
         
1. Visiting the City Churches
2. Books about the City Churches
3. Websites about the City Churches
4. Recommendations



Visiting the City Churches

Exploring the City churches is easy. They are all in walking distance of each other. Nowhere else in England are so many churches so close together - only the centres of Bristol and Norwich have anything like the same quantity and density. Starting from Bank underground station you could easily take a snap of each and every one of them on a day-long walk in summer. More realistically, the churches on this site are divided into four groups, each based around a particular underground station - Temple, St Pauls, Liverpool Street and Monument. You'll easily be able to visit them all over four days.

Seeing inside them requires more careful planning. A handful are open seven days a week - St Bartholomew the Great, St Bartholomew the Less and St Bride spring to mind - but in general the City churches are not open at weekends. The majority of parish churches like St Lawrence Jewry, St Mary Woolnoth, St Mary le Bow, St Botolph Aldgate, St Botolph Bishopsgate and St Andrew Holborn are open each day from Monday to Friday during the week, although especially for some guild churches it seems that Monday isn't as good a day as the rest of the week. Some churches are only open one or two days a week, and the best place to check this is the Friends of the City Churches website. As well as listing opening times, the site also list the days and times that the churches are stewarded by FoCC 'watchers', who in my experience are all enthusiastic and friendly people, though be aware that many of the churches, especially parish churches, will be open other days and times as well.

Considering how many churches there are in the City, very few are in use for other purposes. Those that have been converted for office or other administrative use, like St Clement Eastcheap, St Etheldreda and St Edmund, are generally still viewable. Friday seems to be a good day. St Nicholas Cole Abbey, for many years locked tight, has now reopened as the Wren Coffee house, and is open Monday to Friday. There are two churches which you will need to pay to get into, St Bartholomew the Great and Temple Church (worth it in both cases). Temple Church has erratic opening days and times, but they are listed for the month ahead on the church website.




Books about the City Churches

There are many books about the City of London churches. Here are some of them. I make no apology that most of them are old. There has been a great revival of interest in the City churches over the last decade or so, and there are a number of recent books which appear to have been hastily thrown together, sometimes replicating information from other sources. They are often surprisingly expensive. In general,the older books are better value and far more interesting.

The listings here link to the page for that book on amazon.co.uk. Those that are no longer in print are generally easily available, even the old ones. None of them are considered 'rare' books, and none of them should be expensive. All the books I've listed are worth having. Other books about the City Churches may also prove useful, but from my experience these are the best ones.


Absolutely essential (click on the title to go to that page on Amazon):

London: the City Churches, Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, Yale University Press 2002. 12.50. Absolutely essential. This is really the only book you need for exploring the City churches. Each church has its own entry in the usual Pevsner style listing the architectural history and a guide to the interior, including dates and artists' names. There are also listings for lost churches where something survives like a tower or a churchyard. The book is a slightly revised bringing together of the church listings in Bradley and Pevsner's The Buildings of England: London 1, The City of London (1999). If you have that, you don't need to buy this.

Old London Churches, Elizabeth and Wayland Young, Faber 1956. Out of print, but easily and cheaply available. A gazetteer, it lists every church that ever existed in the City with a lively and often amusing historical account. Great for background reading. Also of interest because it was published immediately after the war before most churches had been restored, so concentrates on their pre-war interiors. Lists lots of other London churches outside of the City, too.


Other useful books about the City churches:

The City of London Churches, a Pictorial Rediscovery, Derek Kendall/RCHME, Collins & Brown, 1998. Out of print, but easily and cheaply available. An opulent coffee table book with external and internal photographs of all the City churches.

London City Churches, AE Daniell, Constable 1907. Available reprinted to order, but the original hardback is easily and cheaply found. A classic scholarly tome giving the history of each church and a description as it was at the start of the 20th Century. Some drawings and photographs.

The Churches of the City of London, Herbert Reynolds, Bodley Head 1922. Available reprinted to order, but the original hardback is easily and cheaply found. A description of every church as it existed in the 1920s, with a drawing of the tower and spire of each one.

The City Churches, Margaret Tabor, Swarthmore Press 1924. Out of print, but easily and cheaply found. A handbook guide intended for touring the churches as they were in the 1920s. Often lively and polemical, interesting to carry round now.

The London City Churches, Philip Norman, London Society 1929. Out of print, a bit harder to get hold of but occasionally comes up on amazon and ebay. Another 1920s handbook guide for visitng the City churches, with maps and historical notes. Charmingly, it lists service times and other times that the churches are open.

Vanished Churches of the City of London, Gordon Huelin, Guildhall Library Press 1996. Out of print, usually available. A historical guide with archive photographs and drawings of the City churches which no longer exist. Absolutely fascinating.


Also of interest:

Famous London Churches, CB Mortlock and Donald Maxwell, Skeffington & Son, 1920. A guide to churches in London, including several in the City, with lovely drawings by Donald Maxwell, one of the great urban landscape artists of the day. Beautiful.

Ancient London Churches, T Francis Bumpus, Werner Laurie, 1897. Genial old buffer's guide to ancient churches throughought London, including several in the City. A period piece.

Some London Churches, E Hermitage Day and G M Elwood, Mowbray & Co, 1911. A guide to 26 historic London churches, including several in the City, with beautiful line drawings.

Catholic London, Douglas Newton, Robert Hale Ltd 1950. A historical account of life in the London churches and parishes before and during the Reformation. A good way to get a feel of the City churches as they were before the Great Fire.


Books about the background to the City churches:

The Great Plague in London 1665, Walter Bell, Bodley Head 1951. The classic, essential account.

The Great Fire in London 1666, Walter Bell, Bodley Head, 1951. Companion to the former - again, essential reading.



Websites about the City Churches

Given the multiplicity of recent books there are surprisingly few fan or blog sites about the City churches. In any case, websites are a moveable feast and what is there today may not be there tomorrow. However, the one essential website for anyone exploring the City Churches is The Friends of the City Churches. It is impossible to stress too much how wonderful and important this organisation is. They are responsible for co-ordinating the opening of those churches which are either not parish churches or have such tiny congregations and communities that they are unable to open regularly themselves.

Many of the churches, especially the parish churches, have websites of their own. I don't plan to list them all here as they are easily found with a search engine, and in any case their addresses are not always permanent. The few I list are some of the most visited churches. Their websites are up to date and comprehensive with information for visitors, and are worth a look before you make a trip.

All Hallows Barking

St Andrew Holborn

St Bartholomew the Great

St Botolph Aldgate

St Botolph Bishopsgate

St Bride

St Giles Cripplegate

St Lawrence Jewry

St Magnus Martyr

St Mary Aldermary

St Mary le Bow

St Mary Moorfields

St Michael Cornhill

St Stephen Walbrook

Temple Church (lists opening days and times for the month ahead)


Not all the most-visited churches are listed above, because I have not included links to websites which just give information about services, sermons and evangelism activities.



Recommendations

There are a number of lists of City Churches which are particularly recommended for a visit. These are some of them.



Firstly, rather than a Top Twelve, here are my Twelve Essential Must-Visit City Churches in alphabetical order. All of these churches are open Monday to Friday unless indicated:

St Bartholomew the Great - the best large City church, full of atmosphere and Norman gravitas.

St Lawrence Jewry - prominently placed by the Guildhall, Cecil Brown's grand restoration provides a civic church intended for pomp and circumstance, for ceremony and seriousness.

St Magnus Martyr - the dismal setting on Lower Thames Street gives way inside to a riot of Anglo-catholic colour and devotion (closed Mondays).

St Margaret Lothbury - one of the best collections of Wren furnishings from other lost churches.

St Mary Abchurch - the best single surviving Wren interior, and the dome was a try-out for St Paul's (sometimes closed at short notice).

St Mary le Bow - Lawrence King and John Hayward's fabulous Festival of Britain-style restoration, full of 1950s confidence and light.

St Mary Woolnoth - Hawksmoor's triumph of protestant seriousness, an austere mathematical wonder.

St Michael Paternoster Royal - the City's best collection of post-war glass in an otherwise humble space.

St Olave Hart Street - a medieval country church in the heart of the City, untouched by the Great Fire and still with a small town feel.

St Sepulchre - a big, rambling church full of nooks and crannies, you never know what's around the next corner.

St Stephen Walbrook - Wren's genius gave it the architecturally best interior, and the controversial altar by Henry Moore is worth seeing too.

St Vedast alias Foster - opulent and high quality small-scale restoration for quiet college-style worship by Stephen Dykes Bower.



Next,
England's Thousand Best Churches by Simon Jenkins. He lists fourteen City churches, rating them as follows:

Five stars: none

Four stars:
St Mary Woolnoth, St Stephen Walbrook

Three stars:
St Bartholomew the Great, St Helen Bishopsgate, St Magnus Martyr, St Martin Ludgate, St Mary Abchurch, Temple Church

Two stars:
All Hallows by the Tower, St Bride, St Katherine Cree, St Margaret Lothbury, St Mary Aldermary

one star:
St Mary at Hill



Finally, in 1959 John Betjeman described the City churches for the
Collins Guide to English Parish Churches. The fifteen that he starred as being of particular merit were:

All Hallows by the Tower, St Anne and St Agnes, St Bartholomew the Great, St Benet Paul's Wharf, St Botolph Aldersgate, St Bride, St Katherine Cree, St Lawrence Jewry, St Magnus Martyr, St Martin Ludgate, St Mary Abchurch, St Mary at Hill, St Mary Woolnoth, St Peter Cornhill and St Stephen Walbrook.



Those three lists reflect the prejudices and predelictions of all three authors, but the five churches which appear on all three lists are
St Bartholomew the Great, St Magnus Martyr, St Mary Abchurch, St Mary Woolnoth and St Stephen Walbrook.





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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