The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3

Allen, Thomas


St. Peter le Poor. 1760.



On the west side of , nearly opposite to the , is situated the church of St. Peter le Poor. It is of very ancient foundation, as appears from a register of it, so far back as . It was dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle, and is distinguished from other churches of that name, by the additional epithet of le Poor, which Stow conjectures was given to it, from the ancient state of the parish, though, in his time, (as at present) there were many fair houses in it, possessed by rich merchants, and others.



It is a rectory, and appears to have been always in the dean and chapter of .

The church which preceded the present edifice was an irregular building, the east end and south side being bent, to humour the form of the street. From the representation of a gentleman well acquainted with it, and to whom the author is indebted for much information relative to other relics of ancient London, which no longer exist, some idea may be given of the old structure. The irregular area was divided, as usual in old churches, by series of clustered columns sustaining pointed arches, into a nave and side aisles. The windows were made by mullions into lights, with cinquefoil arched heads, and the earth outside the church was raised so high that curtains were drawn across the lower part of the windows during divine service to prevent passengers from looking through them; the east window had mullions deprived of their tracery and it contained coats of arms in stained glass. The roof was timber, and pannelled into square compartments, with bosses at the angles in the taste of the century, and the gallery, which was erected in - at the west end remained; the front was enriched with the uncouth imitations of Italian architecture of the period, being pannelled into compartments, divided by terminal pillars resembling the Ionic order, and the compartments occupied by arched recesses. At the north west angle of the building was a small tower, and singularity of the exterior was a clock dial, suspended from the middle of a beam, extending across the road at the south side of the church. The length of this humble building was feet, its breadth , and height only . It contained various monuments of the time of Elizabeth and James I. In , an act of parliament was obtained for taking down the old church, and the present was commenced soon after, and completed in , at an expense of more than : of this sum was subscribed by the city of London, and the remainder was raised on annuities by the parish. The architect was Mr. Jesse Gibson. In order to give additional width to the street, the plan of the church was laid out partly on the site of the old , and partly on an adjoining church-yard. The chancel of the old church was thrown into the road way, and the bones of the wealthy inhabitants of the parish, and the various rectors, who had been buried in this portion of the building, were, in consequence, most indecently transferred into the highway. Several of the old monuments were broken to pieces, and the materials used in mending the road, and the brass plates were sold to a plumber in the . In the room of the ancient and venerable church rose a flimsy structure of the modern Grecian style of architecture.



The whole plan and arrangement of this building are at variance with the established rules of church architecture. The principal entrance faces the south-east, and the altar is opposite. The ground plan shows a circular body with attached tower and lobbies towards the street, and a semicircular tribune at an opposite point in the circle. The east front is the only portion of the exterior which is ornamented. The facade is made in breadth into divisions, consisting of a centre and wings resting upon a plinth ; in the former is a flight of steps and a lintelled entrance, having a column and pilaster of the Ionic order at each side sustaining an entablature, above which is an arch formed in blank, the whole is accompanied by pair of engaged Ionic columns, sustaining an entablature pediment and attic; the entablature is continued above the wings, which are flanked by Ionic pilasters, and contain recessed arches in blank; above the central division rises the tower, which consists of a square stylobate sustaining a lofty story of the same form surmounted by a dome: the dado of the stylobate contains the dial surmounted by a festoon of drapery, and the superior story is flanked by coupled Corinthian pilasters sustaining an entablature, on the angles of the cornice are placed vases; in each face is an arched window filled with weather boarding, the lower part fronted by a ballustrade. The dome is ribbed, and would have made a tasteful finish if the architect had stopped with it, but fancying it wanted something more, he raised on its crown a small circular wall enriched with festoons, and closed in with a spherical cupola, which, with its vane, forms the finish to the design. The walls of the church are brick, and the small portion, which is not hid by houses, is a plain wall, finished by a cornice and blocking course, above which rises a large lantern with a low conical roof. The interior is approached through a square vestibule, occupying the ground floor of the tower, to the right of which is a vestry, and, to the left, a lobby and staircase to the gallery. The inside of the building will rather disappoint the critical spectator. The circular wall is without the least ornament, from the base to the surrounding entablature, except the coupled pilasters of the Ionic order, applied to the sides of the semicircular tribune which contains the altar. A gallery sweeps round the whole of the edifice, except the part occupied by the altar, and the architect appears to have been so averse to pillars, that, with the exception of small Ionic columns, below the organ, this gallery is entirely supported by brackets silently inserted in the walls, and concealed in the flooring. The front of the gallery is pannelled, and contains the organ, which is situated above the principal entrance. The ceiling of the church is coved and ornamented with lozenge shaped pannels containing flowers. In the centre is a large lantern composed of elliptical arches sustained on antae; the whole of the voids are glazed, and are fronted at their basements with a ballustrade, the ceiling is also coved and radiated from the


centre. Through this lantern the whole of the light of the church is derived, and this mode of lighting the building answers very well in the present situation. The ceiling is the best feature in the church, the ornaments of the cove are elegant, and the lantern gives a decided air of cheerfulness to the church. The tribune is ceiled to form a half dome, springing from a simple impost moulding. The soffit is radiated, having the Hebrew name of the Deity in the centre. The altar screen is a mean and paltry design; it is composed of Ionic columns sustaining an entablature, and a pediment above the centre; in the intercolumniations are inscribed the decalogue, &c. The pulpit and desks are grouped together on the north side of the tribune, near the altar. On the front of the gallery, above the principal entrance, is a brass plate bearing the following inscription:--


The dimensions are as follows:-- Ft.In. Exteriorlength906 breadth of the principal front30 height of tower900 Diameter of the bodyexterior626 interior560 Radius of the tribune100 Height of the interior to thecornice306 crown of lantern36 Height of the tribuneto crown of arch250

There are no monuments of particular interest in this church, being all tablets to private individuals. There are several memorials of the family of Graham of Kinross.


[] Gent. Mag. vol. lix. pt. i p. 300.-Britton's illustrations of the public buildings of London, vol ii. p. 72.

[] Britton's illustrations of public buildings, vol. ii. p. 73.

[] In the vaults, which are very spacious and well arranged, are several mural tablets from the old church.

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 Title Page
 CHAPTER I: The site, extent, buildings, population, commerce, and a view of the progressive increase of London
 CHAPTER II: List of the parishes and churches in London, with their incumbents, &c
CHAPTER III: History and Topography of Aldersgate Ward
CHAPTER IV: History and Topography of Aldgate Ward
CHAPTER V: History and Topography of Bassishaw Ward
CHAPTER VI: History and Topography of Billingsgate Ward
CHAPTER VII: History and Topography of Bishopsgate Ward, Without and Within
CHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of Bread-street Ward
CHAPTER IX: History and Topography of Bridge Ward Within
CHAPTER X: History and Topography of Broad-street Ward
CHAPTER XI: History and Topography of Candlewick Ward
CHAPTER XII: History and Topography of Castle Baynard Ward
CHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of Cheap Ward
CHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of Coleman-street Ward
CHAPTER XV: History and Topography of Cordwainer's-street Ward
CHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of Cornhill Ward
CHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Ward Within
CHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Yard Without
CHAPTER XIX: History and Topography of Dowgate Yard
CHAPTER XX: History and Topography of Farringdom Ward Within
CHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of Farringdon Ward Without
CHAPTER XXII: History and Topography of Langbourn Ward
CHAPTER XXIII: History and Topography of Lime-street Ward
CHAPTER XXIV: History and Topogrpahy of Portsoken Ward
CHAPTER XXV: History and Topography of Queenhithe Ward
CHAPTER XXVI: History and Topography of Tower Ward
CHAPTER XXVII: History and Topography of Vintry Ward
CHAPTER XXVIII: History and Topography of Wallbrook Ward