The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
St. Peter, Cornhill.
On the south side of , at the south-east angle, stands the parish church of St. Peter, which is said to have been founded by Lucius, the Christian king in this island, about the year of our Lord , who dedicated it to St. Peter the apostle, erected in it an archbishop's see, and that this was and continued to be the metropolitan and chief church in this nation for years, when Augustine the monk removed the archiepiscopal chair to Canterbury. And to confirm this account, the annexed tablet of brass in an oak frame, is suspended in front of the organ gallery within the church.
However this tradition may be, it is certain that this church, known in ancient records by the name of St. Peter super , or above or at the top of , is of a very ancient foundation; and that there was a library belonging to it, built of stone, and well furnished with books. In this parish also was of those grammar-schools appointed by parliament, , to be kept in London.
In , the patronage of this church was in the noble family of the Nevils, lords of the manor of Leadenhall, from whom it was transferred, by various agreements and successions, to Robert Rykedon of Essex and Margaret his wife, who confirmed the said manor with its appurtenances, and the advowson of , &c. to sir Richard Whittington and the citizens of London, in the year , and they conveyed and confirmed the premises to the lord-mayor and commonalty of London, in the year . From which time the mayor, aldermen, and common council of this city, have presented to the church.
The present edifice was built since the fire of London, which totally consumed the old church.
It is not easy to conjecture by what fatality, of the meanest exteriors in the metropolis was given to a church which forms a distinguished object in the principal street of it, for if the architect considered the body of the church would be concealed like the neighbouring of St. Michael, by the ill-judged and avaricious practice of erecting houses against the walls, the same reason would not apply to the steeple which rears its head above the surrounding incumbrances; and it is a matter of surprize that the architect should have given a handsome stone spire to the obscure church of St. Antholin, and have left the present with an unsightly specimen of brick-work, excusable in the few other instances in which brick towers were erected by sir Christopher, as they are attached to structures whose obscurity and situation warrants the addition. The portion of the north front of the church which is visible, is faced with Portland stone, and shews windows with arched heads, the key-stones carved with cherubs between festoons, these windows are converted into circles, and near the west is an arched doorway which is enclosed in a frontispiece of the Ionic order consisting of columns and pilasters sustaining an entablature and parapet, and the principal elevation is finished with a cornice and parapet. The east front of the church which abuts on , is more ornamental; it commences with a lofty stylobate, the superstructure consists of a centre and wings made into divisions by pilasters of the Ionic order; in the centre are arched windows, and in the wings are others; the pilasters sustain the entablature of their order, and above the centre division is a lofty attic pierced with an arched and circular windows, and crowned with a pedimental cornice; it is flanked by false walls, curved in their exterior lines. In St. Peter's-alley, a portion of the south front is visible; it contains arched windows and an entrance, and is covered with compo in imitation of stone. The tower is at the south-west angle of the building. In the south side are arched windows in succession, and above a small circular , the walls to this height are built of a dark dusty-looking brick; the next story is of a brick-red brick, and was evidently so constructed from the consideration of its being more exposed; in each face is an arcade of arches sustained
|on antae, and the whole finishes with a parapet; a spire of timber, covered with lead, takes its rise above the tower, and consists of a dome pierced with circular openings, sustaining a small octagonal temple, having arched windows in each face, from the cornice of which rises a cone finished with a ball and key set upright. The west wall of the tower has no openings, except in the upper story, and that of the church, which is brick, has a single window with arched head filled up to the arch with brick work. The interior is in a better style, it is made into a body and aisles. The latter is flanked by arches on each side resting upon square piers. The archivolts are very simple, and have no mouldings or ornament, except a continued wreath of flowers in the form of a torus at the angles; they are sustained on pilasters, with plain caps attached to of the sides of the piers, the remaining sides of which have other pilasters attached to them; those which face the aisles are uniform with the last described, and sustain the vaulting, and the inner ones are carried up higher than the spring of the arch and crowned with capitals of the Corinthian order; they sustain the entablature of the order; the architrave and frieze being discontinued above the arches, and on the cornice is an attic. The piers and pilasters rest on a tall plinth wainscotted. The cornice of the attic serves as an impost to a waggon head ceiling, arched in a semicircle; it is made into divisions by bands springing from the attic pilasters, and crossed at angles by other bands running longitudinally. The centre range of compartments have circular pannels formed in them, each alternate having an expanded flower. The aisles have a plain ceiling arched, to correspond with the main arches, and pierced laterally with smaller arches crossing the aisles; which have their imposts on the pilasters before noticed, on the side, and brackets attached to the extreme walls of the church on the other. The divisions of the north and south walls, nearest the east, had no windows in the original construction of the building. The east wall is very chastely adorned: the whole building is wainscotted to the height of the sills of the windows, forming a continued stylobate; the altar is only marked by the inscription of the commandments, &c. on arched pannels on this wainscotting; but the wall above has an entablature continued from that which has been described as appertaining to the side arcades, and sustained upon pilasters attached to the piers between the windows. The pilasters are painted in imitation of lapis lazuli, fluted with gilt fillets, capitals, and bases. The frieze is painted with scrolls, chalices, and other religious emblems: the mouldings gilt. In the centre window are the arms of John Waugh, bishop of Carlisle, , and rector of this church, and William Beveridge, bishop of St. Asaph, in . A handsome oak screen of open work separates the body of the church from the chancel, and is a rare specimen of the ancient method of dividing the church. It is very lofty, and consists of
|arched apertures, flanked with Corinthian pilasters, corresponding in size and situation with the aisles; the spaces between these arches are occupied by a small arcade; each arch being alternately pendant and supported by square pillars, fluted; the whole is finished by a frieze of acanthus leaves, and a cornice. Above the centre, is a shield, with the arms of king Charles II, and the royal supporters. Across the west end of the church is a gallery containing the organ. The pulpit, which is hexagonal, and the desks, are affixed to a pier on the north side, towards the east end of the church. The font is contained in a pew below the western gallery; it is a plain octagonal basin of marble, with cherub's heads, &c. on a pillar of a similar form. In the vestibule under this gallery, are the entrances to the church, a vestry, and a staircase to the gallery, which occupies the basement floor of the tower, and all are flanked with Corinthian pilasters.
On the south wall is an oval tablet of white marble, shaded with festoons of drapery, under which are cherubim in a glory. It is to the memory of children, being the whole offspring of James and Mary Woodmason, who were burnt in an awful conflagration on the .
The length of this church is feet, breadth , height , and the steeple is feet in height. It was built from the designs of sir C. Wren, in the year , at the expense of