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

Allen, Thomas


St. Michael, Cornhill.


On the south side of stands the parochial church of St. Michael, which was founded before the year , and was then


in the patronage of the abbot and convent of Evesham, who, in the year , on , transferred the advowson thereof to the company of drapers, for the yearly rent or pension of besides customarily paid them out of the said church. And the patronage has remained in the draper's company ever since.

This church had a handsome cloister, and a

fair churchyard,

with a pulpit-cross on the south side thereof, built by sir John Rudstone, lord mayor in , who caused the churchyard to be enlarged with ground purchased of the next parish, and also proper houses to be erected to lodge choristers, to sing mass daily: and he appointed sermons also to be preached in the pulpit. But soon after his death, which happened in ; the choir was dissolved, and their houses or lodgings were converted to the use of decayed parishioners.

The steeple of this church has been always graced with a ring of bells, which were formerly rung every night at o'clock. Both the bells and the steeple perished with the church in the fire of London, A. D. . Upon the ruins of the old church was raised the present handsome structure.


The annexed engraving; is copied from a drawing in pen and ink preserved in an ancient vellum vestry book in the possession of the parish, commencing in the early part of the reign of Henry V.; on the opposite page are the following explanatory lines:

This representeth the symylitude of th« olde steple Ao Dni .

Remembraunce that the Monday the xxvith day of May, the yere of our Lord God M.CCCCXXI, and the yere of the reigne of king Harry the fyfte after the Conquest, IX: in the tyme of the forsayd chirch wardeins, the old steeple of the forsayd chirch was beginne to drawe adowne.

Remembraunce that the Tewesday, the xxv day of September, being that day the fest of Seynte Fyrmin the Byshop, the yere of our Lorde Christ M.CCCCXXI: in the tyme of the forsayd chirch wardeins, the ston of fundement of the newe steple was leyd be the rev«ent & discrete p«son Mr. Piers Hynewyke, p«son of the chirch forsayd, and be the forsayd chirch wardeins and many of worthy men of the p«ishe, in the worship of the Holy Trynyte, and of ur Lady Seynte Mary, and of Seynte Myghell the Archangell, and of all the Holy company of Hevein.

Of the which begvnnyng God graunte a good endyng, Amen.

The old church on the north side was open to the street, from which it was separated by a small green church-yard. Its west front, as now, was divided from the adjoining houses by St. Michael's alley, then called

the Longe-alley,

which had a gate and crosses near it, for the erecting of which ( Hen. VI.) were paid. On the south side was a church-yard, in part surrounded by a cloister, in the midst of which was another cross.

The interior of the church was divided into a body and side


aisles. It had a choir fitted up for singing, lighted by clerestory windows; an after chapel of Our Lady, a chapel of St. Catherine, and several others.

The steeple, which was begun in , was probably finished about . As early as between -, we find notices of the pewing of this church.

Payde for translatyng the meyres pue, xs. vjd.

Payde for makyng of the puys in Our Lady chapel, xiiij s.

The effect of the reformation will be seen in the following entries:--

. Payd to a mason for cuttynge downe the stowens yt ye images steud vpon in the church, xvj d.

. Payde to the masonn in Gracyous-strete for takyng downe vj aulters, xvs.

. To ye pore man to take downe ye glasse in ye vestrye, iiijd.

P«d to Pryste ye brycklayer, for ye inlargyng ye quere, and to take downe ye towmbes, and pave all agayne, xxxvjs. viijd.

Much of the church plate and ornaments of this church were of great value, as appears from the following:

Here folowyth the sumes of plate, yt were solde to Thomas Mustran, goldsmyth, the purchas of chambars in the churchyarde, wch was solde the xvij day of August, ano Do«i , by the churchwardens of Saynt Myghyll, in Cornhyll, and by other of the masters of the p«rishe, whos names are redy to be shewed.

It«m, ymage of o«r Lady and Arcangell, all gylt, waying lxvj ounces.

It«m, a pyxe gylt, wayinge ix ounces, dj.

It«m, a basone and iiij cruets, and the foote of a senscare p«cell gylt, waing xlviiij ounces.

It«m, a crosse, wt Mari and John, gylt, waying cv. ounces.

It«m, a lyttyle crosse, gylt, waying xx ounces, dj.

It«m, a challyce, wt the patrone, gilt, waying xxxviij ounces.

It«m, a box for oyle, gylt, waying xxxt ounces.

Some of the wayght of all is iij. c. xxij ounces, and a qr. at vs. a«unce, wherof most be batyd vs. for ounce, yt was in p«ps.

Some in money yt was R. is iiij. li xs. iiijd.

The exterior of this noble edifice is greatly concealed from public view. The north side is built against by the houses in . The east end can only be partially seen from alley; the south abuts on a small burying-ground, and the west end on a narrow passage called, from the church, St. Michael's alley; the upper part of the majestic tower rising above the surrounding houses, is the only portion of the building of which the spectator catches a view from the public street; this structure is, indeed, a noble object, and from whatever part of the metropolis it may be viewed, St. Michael's tower stands pre-eminent as of its ornaments. At the fire of London, the ancient church being


destroyed, a new was erected in , by sir Christopher Wren, on the site of the former; but the tower, which is also built from the designs of that great architect, was not added until ; the last stone of the steeple being laid on in that year. The steeple of the old church having been preserved from the effects of the conflagration, stood until that period.

The west front, in consequence of its confined situation, has scarcely any ornament: the tower forms the centre. At each angle is an octangular buttress, and the elevation is in principal stories; the lowest has a lofty elliptical arch, which, being divided by a transom, serves for an entrance and a window: above this is a circular window. In each of the side divisions are arched windows now walled up; and attached to the south aisle is an open porch communicating with the church and church-yard. The next story of the tower, which rises above the church, is still plain; it contains in each face windows covered with elliptical arches instead of pointed ones, and each being divided into lights by a mullion, which diverges at the top into sub-arches ornamented with sweeps. Above the cornice which forms the finish to this story, the elevation is richly ornamented: each of the octangular buttresses have their faces cut into deep flutings.

In each face of the tower are lofty windows divided horizontally by transoms, and vertically by mullions, into compartments, and between them is a small buttress which rises from the cornice and finishes above the parapet in a pinnacle. The parapet is embattled, and pierced with arched openings. This story is, in like manner, finished with a cornice, above which the octagon buttresses are continued to a considerable height, and end in obtuse pinnacles. The different faces are fluted, as in the lower story, with the additional ornament of small buttresses attached to the angles, which end in small pinnacles, at a situation below the point of the buttresses. At their bases the cornice is ornamented with small busts, a poor imitation of the blockings of the pointed style, as, indeed, are all the ornaments of the tower. The pinnacles were formerly surmounted by vanes in the forms of comets, which were removed some years ago.

The whole design is grand and magnificent; the group of pinnacles alternately at different heights form a beautiful and excellent finish to the elevation. The detail, however, of the tower, is far from correct. On the south side of the church are arched windows, which were originally similar in construction to those now remaining on the south side of St. Benet Fink, but which, when the church was repaired in , were converted, by the addition of a reversed arch to their headways, into circles, as was that over the altar, which previously contained the royal arms in stained glass, now in a window in the western vestibule. A clerestory, containing the like number of circular windows, rises above the aisles. The east front has now a large circular window; and the


elevation is finished with a parapet, the tympanum containing a circular window. The north aisle is entirely concealed from view, and has no windows. The clerestory corresponds with the opposite side.

The interior is very handsome; a spacious vestibule is formed at the west end, in which the basement story of the tower is made a magnificent porch to the body of the church. The tower stands upon massive piers, supporting arches; the western has been already described. The opposite arch has imposts carved with acanthus leaves, and once opened to the church; it is now filled with the organ case. The roof of the tower is groined with shields and flowers at the angles. The body of the church is separated from the aisles by semicircular arches on each side, springing from the capitals of lofty columns, and half columns of the Doric order. Against the exterior walls are pilasters to correspond with the columns. The altar is a recess, the same breadth as the body of the church; the sides are enriched with pilasters and niches; and the whole is covered with an arched roof sustained on imposts, enriched with a frieze of acanthus leaves; the walls and roof splendidly painted with cherubim and glory, and other enrichments. The altar-screen is of oak, and consists of Corinthian columns sustaining a broken pediment, in the centre of which is a pelican in its nest feeding its young from its breast. The decalogue is inscribed in the centre of the space between the columns, on tablets, in gilt frames, which is singularly enough finished with pointed arches; other arched compartments contain paintings of Moses and Aaron. The circular window is glazed with a kaleidoscope pattern in stained glass, which has a puerile effect. At the east end of the north aisle there is a Venetian window, or blank; a similar window at the end of the south aisle has the arms of the Drapers' company in stained glass, richly emblazoned. A gallery is erected at the west end of the church, which contains the organ; the ceiling of the nave is groined, and made into compartments by ribs resting on consoles on the piers, between the clerestory windows. The soffits of the ribs are enriched with guillochi, and the groins are worked to an edge. The aisles have a similar roof, which rests on the pilasters on side, and imposts attached to the springing of the main arches on the other; the ribs are omitted in this portion. The pulpit is modern, and was put up at the before-mentioned repair in ; it is circular in form, and attached to a pillar near the east end of the south side of the church. The poor-box is an antique pedestal on clawed feet, fluted, and drapery fastened to the upper part, inscribed,

The poor cannot recompense thee, but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

The vase for the money is supported by dolphins. In the western window is a painting on glass of the royal arms, which was formerly over the altar, as before stated.

There are no monuments of consequence in this church. On the north wall is a monument, with a bust, to the memory of Mr.



J. Vernon, who, by his will, dated , gave many legacies to the poor of various companies in this city.

The length of the church is feet, the breadth , and the tower is feet high.

The expense of the church was The steeple was erected at the expense of the commissioners for building new churches, the sum of being appropriated by the act of parliament for such purpose.

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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