The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
St. Benet, Paul's Wharf.
At the south-west corner of Benet's-hill, on the north side of , stands the parish church of St. Benet, Paul's-wharf; which is so called from its dedication to St. Benedict, and its vicinity to the wharf. It is of very ancient foundation, and appears in the register of Diceto, dean of , under the year . The distinguishing epithet has, however, been frequently changed; for it has been called St. Benet, Huda, and St. Benet, Wood-wharf, as well as by its present appellation.
The old church being destroyed by the fire in , the present was erected in its stead, from a design by sir Christopher Wren.
The building is insulated, the north side abuts on a small burying ground, the west front on a court, and the south and east sides on the public streets before named. The building in plan shews a square, increased by aisles attached to the north and west sides, and is constructed of dark red brick. The south front has an entrance in the aisle, and arched windows in the body of the church, the doorcase is stone lintelled, and surmounted with a pediment, the arches of the windows are turned in brick, and over each is a festoon of fruit and flowers in alto relievo. The east front only differs in having an oblong upright pannel, instead of a window in the centre, and a window corresponding with the others in the aisle. The north front has windows as before. The west front is partly occupied by the tower, which destroys the uniformity of the elevation, in consequence of its not being built in the centre. The tower is in stories; the basement is faced with stone and rusticated; it contains a small lintelled doorway; the next story has an arched window, corresponding with those in the church; the a circular, and the an oblong square window, which is repeated in each face of the structure; and this story is finished with a cornice and blocking course; the remaining portion of the steeple consists of a circular dome, covered with lead,
| being pierced with circular apertures, and surmounted by an octangular lantern, the roof of which is a dwarf spire, ending in a vane. The residue of the west front, not occupied by the tower, contains windows corresponding with the other portions of the church; the several angles of the building are strengthened with stone rustics, and the walls are finished with a cantilever cornice and dripping eaves. The ensemble of the design shews a plain and substantial church, with little ornament, but considering the materials, not without some pretensions to merit. The interior is very irregularly distributed, the aisles are each divided from the church by Corinthian columns, raised upon lofty octangular plinths, the order is carried round the body in pilaster, the entablature being continued as a finish to the design. The ceiling of the body is horizontal and perfectly plain, it rests upon the cornice of the order; the aisles are pannelled by cross architraves resting on the main columns on side, and on corbels composed of an union of cherub's heads, with the helices and volutes of the capitals, and surmounted with abaci, attached to the walls of the north aisle, and a pilaster in the same situation in the western aisle. The irregularities complained of is the introduction of the tower into the design, which occupies a portion of the western aisle, and engages of the columns, at the same time destroying the equability of the intercolumniations. The only reason which can be assigned for the awkward position of the tower, is the supposition of its being erected on the foundation of the older , and supposing the north aisle to have arisen from a similar adherence to the form of the old church, the want of uniformity in the structure is explained. In the north aisle is a gallery with a pannelled front, in the centre of which fronting the pew appertaining to doctor's commons, are shields of arms, viz. the see of Canterbury, the royal arms, and those of the court of admiralty, viz. gules an anchor in pale cabled or. The portion of the western aisle which is northward of the tower is occupied by a vestry on the same level with the gallery, and ascended by a flight of stairs. The inside contains a gallery, below which is a vestibule; both the galleries are coeval with the church. The altar screen of oak is exceedingly plain, the centre is recessed and flanked with square piers; the former portion contains the decalogue, and the latter the creed and paternoster, the whole is covered with an elliptical pediment; the wall above is painted in imitation of various marbles, and a red curtain, against it is a carving of the arms of king Charles II. The altar table is a splendid specimen of carved wood work: instead of legs, it is sustained upon cariatidal statues of angels, and, on a lower slab, is a seated female effigy, the personification of Charity, the whole is executed in dark brown oak. On the north side of the altar is a large pew belonging to the Herald's college, over which is the arms of that society, with the motto, |
The font is situated in a pew beneath the north gallery, it is composed
| of white marble, and ornamented with the heads of cherubim. The pulpit is affixed to the south wall, it is hexagonal, and has a sounding board of the same form. It is not remarkable for ornament, of the fronts is inscribed |
with a monogram of the donor's name, which Mr. Malcolm reads C. M. The tower communicates with the church by a doorway in its basement, internally covered with a handsome screen, and a window above filled up with a screen of wainscot. There is no organ in this church. The monuments are numerous. They are chiefly mural slabs, the only ornamented with sculpture is affixed to the south wall, a pilaster having been
cut in to make room for it; it consists of a slab sustaining a tablet, with an inscription, above which, in a circle, is a bust of the deceased in mezzo relievo. It is to the memory of sir J. Wyseman, knt. of Rivenhall in Essex, who died , aged .
On the north side of this altar is a tablet to the memory of J. C. Brooke, esq. Somerset herald, who was killed at the , . In the west gallery is an elegant marble tablet to sir William Wynne, L. L. D. king's advocate, who was born . , died . .
The old church was honoured with the remains of that illustrious architect, Inigo Jones, who, worn down with obloquy and persecution, here found a resting place, in . It is probable that no stone recorded his name, or we can scarce suppose his monument would have received such unworthy treatment from a brother architect and mason, as to be destroyed with the rubbish of the old structure, which perished in the great fire. A tablet attached to the tower, is deserving of notice for its singularity; it records the family disposition of a lady's property, and it is to be hoped it answered its purpose, in silencing the scandal it was intended to avert.
The present building was erected in , at an expense to the nation of , sir Christopher Wren being the architect. The dimensions are as follows:--length feet, breadth feet, height of church feet, of tower feet.