The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
St. Lawrence, Jewry.
At the south-west corner of Guildhall-yard, is the parish church of St. Lawrence, Jewry, which extends westward, on the north side of . It is dedicated to Lawrence, a Spanish saint, born at Huesca, in the kingdom of Arragon; who, after having undergone the most grievous tortures, in the persecution under Valerian, the emperor, was cruelly broiled alive upon a gridiron, with a slow fire, till he died, for his strict adherence to Christianity; and the additional epithet of Jewry, from its situation among the Jews, was conferred upon it, to distinguish it from the church of St. Lawrence, Poultney, now demolished.
This church, which was anciently a rectory, being given by Hugo de Wickenbroke, to Baliol college, in Oxford, anno , the rectory ceased; wherefore Richard, bishop of London, converted it into a vicarage; the patronage of which still continues in the master and scholars of that college.
The old church being destroyed by the fire in , it was rebuilt at the expense of the parishioners, assisted by a very liberal benefaction from sir John Langham. It is a large and handsome stone building, which possesses the advantage, uncommon in the metropolis, of being entirely insulated. It is situated on the north side of , the east end abutting on Guildhall-yard.
The plan is an oblong square, increased in breadth by aisles attached to the northern side, which fall short of the length of the building, at the east end, by division. The eastern front may be regarded as the principal , and will, therefore, be described. The elevation commences with a stylobate, broken to form a centre and wings; the former is made by engaged columns sustaining an entablature, surmounted by a pediment; the wings recede a trifling degree behind the line of the centre; they are finished with pilasters at the angles, and, in the upright, with an entablature, surmounted by an attic; the order is Corinthian, and the entablature highly enriched; in the tympanum of the pediment is an oiel de boeuf. The intercolumniations are equal, and were occupied by ornamental niches and windows; the latter have recently been filled up with masonry and altered into niches corresponding with the others. It is not often that an alteration of an original design is an improvement, in this case it is strikingly so: the niches have handsome arched frontispieces, highly decorated, to assimilate with the order, and above each is a festoon of foliage and fruit, in alto-relievo, in which the masterly hand of Gibbons may be recognized. Taken as a whole, this facade must be regarded as of Wren's happiest efforts, certainly not excelled as a design in any building erected by him. The east end of the aisle has an arched window. The other parts of the building are in a plainer style, the south front has a lintelled entrance at each extremity, surmounted by a cornice resting on consoles; the eastern is now walled up. In the upper part of the wall
|are large arched windows, besides circular ones over the entrances; beneath of the windows were concave recesses in the walls, arched over, of which has for many years served as a stand for ticket porters. A portion of an entablature, between an architrave and a cornice, forms the finish of the principal elevation, which is surmounted by an attic, applied as a crowning member to the whole of the walls, and being pierced with windows, serves as a clerestory to the interior. The north side, in its general features, assimilates with the described, excepting that the aisle projecting from the main structure the attic rises above its roof and marks the division between the aisle and the body of the church. The west front is executed in a plain style, in consequence of its abutting on a narrow court. The tower occupies the centre of the nave, it is square in plan, and has in its basement a lintelled entrance, surmounted by a cornice and pediment; above this are stories, the and have windows, the , which rises clear of the roof, has a lofty arched window in each face; the whole is crowned with a block cornice and ballustrade, having lofty square obelisks at the angles. The design is continued by a spire of wood, covered with copper, and painted white. It consists of a square basement, each side being pierced with a window, and surmounted with a pediment, sustaining an octagonal obelisk, finished with a vane in the form of a gridiron. The portion of the west front not occupied by the tower, has large arched windows, and several smaller ones, in the construction of which convenience rather than ornament has been consulted. The several angles of the building are rusticated, and the whole is faced with Portland stone.
The division of the interior, at the west end, is appropriated to vestibules, in which are the entrances to the body of the church, and the vestry under the tower; the same order is made use of as at the exterior, and is carried round the church in pilaster, except in the north side, where columns, raised on tall octangular plinths, divide the aisle from the body; the entablature is applied as a crowning member to the side walls, and is made to break and project over the pilasters and columns, the cornice being discontinued, and its place supplied by a pannel between palm branches, above the intercolumniations; this vagary was committed to prevent the light from the windows in the attic being broken by the cornice; the beauty of the architecture is destroyed by this barbarism, and the defect is rendered the more apparent by the cornice being perfect above the altar. The aisles were, in , separated from each other by a screen, pierced with semicircular arches, the voids of Which are glazed; in consequence, the outer aisle is now distinct from the church. The ceiling is horizontal in the centre, and coved at the sides, the covings being pierced with arches above the windows, and ornamented with ribs above the pilasters enriched with foliage. The horizontal portion is bounded by an architrave and cornice, and is made by flying cornices into pannels of unequal
| size, in breadth and in depth; the soffits of the exterior ranges are occupied by foliage, entirely in some and partially in others. The ceiling of the aisles is plain. The altar is superbly and chastely embellished, the shafts of the pilasters are painted to imitate verd antique, the capitals and bases gilt, the architrave imitates the same marble, the frieze being richly adorned with foliage, which is gilt. The arches which belonged to the closed windows, are painted to imitate veined marble, the spandrils red marble: over each arch is a festoon, as on the outside ; the spaces enclosed in the arches are partly occupied by the tables of the law, the creed, and paternoster, and, in the head of , is the dove, within a splendid irradiation, in the other the Agnus Dei. The central compartment is, however, the richest; above the altar-table is the invaluable picture of the
for which the parish have been offered the large, but considering the merit of the painting, not enormous sum of The principal figure is the almost expiring saint, surrounded by a group of demoniacal figures, uniting to add to the tortures of their victim, in whose countenance the violence of the pain seems to be overcome by the firmness of his faith; is stirring the fire into a blaze, another with a lance is turning the body of the sufferer (the lower extremities appearing to have yielded to the fire) to catch the increasing fury of the flame, while a , a priest, is endeavouring to call the martyr's attention to an idol. The effect is heightened by the glare of light cast on the countenances of all the figures, as well by the fire below the gridiron of the martyr, as from torches held by attendants in the back ground. The painting is small, and had for many years hung neglected in the vestry: at the last repair it was placed in the present conspicuous situation, where it enjoys the benefit of an excellent light. On the wall above this picture, is a modern painting of seraphim adoring the divine Trinity. In the front of the altar stands the pulpit, which is hexagonal and rests on a single pillar; it has a ponderous sounding board of the same form, which displays some of Gibbons' finest carving, in flower-pots and festoons. The modern reading and clerk's desks are placed on each side, and with the pulpit completely obscure and hide the tasteful decorations of the altar, and the beautiful paintings, from the rest of the church. At the west end, in a gallery sustained on Corinthian columns, is a magnificent organ, accounted of the finest in London, both in respect of tone and magnitude; the case is richly carved with musical instruments, palm branches, and foliage. On each side of the gallery are porches before the entrances to the church ; they are decorated with Corinthian pilasters, and covered with elliptical pediments, the cornices of which are broken to admit statues of angels, in oak, which are placed on socles on the cornice of the order. The font, at the south-west angle of the church, is a large and plain basin of marble. Among the communion plate is a salver of
| silver gilt, on the centre of which
is engraved in a superior style. The communion table is of oak, and is sustained by well carved youthful caryatidae.
There are various mural monuments of marble. Against the north wall of the chancel, is to the memory of archbishop Tillotson, many years vicar of this parish, which ought not to be passed unnoticed. It consists of a full faced bust of the deceased, in mezzo relievo, surmounted by a mitre, and sustained by cherubs; on a pannel is the following inscription :
At the east end of the aisle is another mural monument, surmounted by a bust to the memory of Benjamin Whichcote, S. T. P. , aged . At the west end of the north aisle is a handsome monument to the memory of W. Haliday, alderman, died , with the bust of himself and his wife and daughter in marble.
This church was commenced in , hut not completed until . The architect was sir Christopher Wren. The estimated expence was The dimensions are, length , breadth , height of church , and of steeple feet.