The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
This church is so called from its dedication to St. Alphage, or
|Elphage, a noble Anglo-Saxon saint, bishop of Winchester, and afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, who was put to death by the Danes, at Greenwich, on the .|
The church in London, dedicated to this saint, stood adjoining to the city wall, near the east side of Cripplegate. But it being demolished at the suppression of religious houses, by Henry VIII. and the site thereof turned into a carpenter's yard, the south aisle of the church of St. Mary, Elsing Spital, was converted into the parish church.
The advowson of this church, which is a rectory, was anciently in the dean and canons of , in whom it continued till Henry VII. annexed it to , , when the abbot and convent became the patrons of it; but that convent being dissolved, queen Mary, in the year , granted the patronage thereof to Edmund, bishop of London, and his successors, in whom it still remains.
This church escaped the fire of London, but soon after became very ruinous.
This church occupies a small spot of ground behind the houses on the south side of London-wall. The east front maybe seen from . The south side partially abuts on Sion , and a northern porch or entrance on the footpath of London-wall. It possesses no exterior character; the portion which may be seen has more the appearance of a secular structure, or a dissenting meeting. The east end is made into divisions;
|the centre consists of a stylobate sustaining pilasters, crowned with a mongrel entablature and cornice; the order, a journeyman's imitation of the Doric; between the pilasters is a large Venetian window, fronted by a ballustrade, and ornamented with engaged pillars, which possess the singularity of being oval in their plan; the capitals may be described as skeletons of Corinthian examples, from which the leaves and volutes have been chipped, and upright flutings substituted. The side divisions contain arched entrances, decorated with frontispieces, composed of similar nondescript pillars, supporting an entablature and elliptical pediment. Above these doorways are circular windows. The north porch ranges with the houses in London-wall, and is ornamented with tall semi-oval pillars, surmounted with an entablature, still aping the Doric; the frieze has bulls-skulls in the place of the tryglyphs; the architrave is omitted in the intercolumniations, and the whole design finished with a pediment; the doorway is of the same description as those in the eastern front, and it has a single arched window above it. The decorations plainly shew that the designer of the church was totally unacquainted with the orders of architecture, and he has rendered his ignorance more apparent by a miserable attempt at novelty: invention without genius creates only deformities, and no ornament could have been better adopted by such an architect than skulls without brains. The brick-wall which forms the south side of the church, has a triple window, imitating a Venetian, between arched windows. The materials of this building, which does little credit to the establishment, and less to the parish, are brick, with wood and plaster enrichments.|
The interior is approached by the entrances in the east end, and a small door from Sion , as well as through the vestibule and porch on the north side; entering by the latter, a portion of the tower of the old church is seen almost concealed by the modern additions. The remains consist of acutely pointed arches, disposed in a square, with heavy architraves devoid of mouldings, the angles being simply canted off; at the north-east angle is a staircase approached by a pointed doorway; the arch which communicated with the old church has a sweeping cornice, resting on corbels, carved with heads in a bold style, but greatly defaced; judging from these remains, it would appear that the tower originally formed an open portico before the main entrance, an uncommon, but not unpleasing, disposition; the remains shew the period of the building of Elsing Spital; a heavy gallery, acting as the belfry floor, obscures the remains from observation. The body of the church is only remarkable for its naked and poverty-stricken appearance; the plan is nearly square; the north and west walls have no windows; the ceiling is horizontal, and crossed at a short distance from the east wall, by a flying cornice, sustained on pilasters, displaying the same contempt to the orders with the outside. A portion of the eastern wall is occupied by
|unsightly porches before the entrances surmounted with uncomfortable looking galleries for charity children; the altar screen, situated below the eastern window, occupies the wall between the porches, it is ornamented with pilasters of a pasteboard projection, and inscribed with the decalogue, &c; the pulpit and desks are equally plain, they were originally placed in the centre of the western wall, afterwards removed to the north side, near the monument of alderman Hayward, and are now situated in group on the south, at a short distance from the altar rails. The only galleries are those noticed, and there is no organ.|
The monuments from the old church have been judiciously preserved, and are affixed to the vacant north wall of the present. The most remarkable is a splendid monument to the memory of sir Rowland Hayward. It consists of Corinthian columns supporting an entablature, above which are obelisks and shields of arms. The centre niche is occupied with the effigy of the knight in armour, kneeling and facing the church; on his right hand is his wife, and children, and, on his left, his wife and other children, the issue of the respective marriages, also kneeling and looking towards the principal effigy; it is richly embellished in the taste of the time, and the colours of the dresses are very properly preserved; on the pedestal is the following inscription :--
Here lyeth the body of sir Rowland Hayward, knt. twice lord mayor of this city of London, being an alderman the space of years, and, at his death, the antientest alderman of the said city. He lived beloved of all good men, and died in great credit and reputation on the , Anno Domini, , and the year of the reign of our sovereign lady queen Elizabeth. He had virtuous wives, and by them many happy children.
Beneath this are the arms of the clothworkers' company, and the following inscription:
It will be seen that the estimate for the present church was very low. The parish deeming the expense of an architect unnecessary, employed Mr. Staines, then a stone mason and pavior, to design and execute the structure.
 Sheriff in 1563, lord mayor 1570.