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

Allen, Thomas


St. Bride's, alias St. Bridget.


This church is situated in the rear of the houses on the south side of , and was until the year , almost wholly concealed from public observation.

It was at its foundation but a small church; afterwards, about the year , it was increased with a large body and aisles; so that the old church remained only as a choir. The abbot and convent of were patrons; and it was a rectory. There was a vicarage also here, ordained and endowed about the year , and king Henry VIII. after the dissolution of the convent of , having given this rectory and parish church of St. Bride to the collegiate church of , founded by him, this church has continued a vicarage ever since. In the earl of Dorset gave a parcel of ground, on the west side of Fleet-ditch, for a new church-yard; which was consecrated on the in the same year, by Dr. George Abbot, bishop of London. The old church was destroyed by the fire of London in .

The plan is a regularly constructed church, showing a nave and side aisles, with a square tower at the west, and a small chancel at the east end. The tower is flanked by apartments containing stairs to the galleries.



The superstructure is substantially built of Portland stone. The western front consists of a centre and wings; the former is occupied by the tower; the latter are uniform, each contains a lintelled window crowned with a cornice and surmounted by an entire circular ; the elevation is finished with a cornice and parapet; the steeple is divided into principal portions, viz. a square tower in grand stories, and a spire made into heights. The story of the tower forms a grand pedestal to the , it commences with a basement with rusticated angles, in the centre of which is a doorway having a frontispiece, consisting of columns of the Ionic order, sustaining an entablature and segmental pediment; the lintel and the doorway has a key stone, sculptured with a cherubic head, and inscribed

Domus Dei

; the succeeding portion, the base of the pedestal, has a blank arch in the western front, enclosing a window crowned with an angular pediment, and surmounted by a circular window; the centre story is crowned with a cornice sustained on brackets.

The story is ornamental, and each aspect is alike; pursuing therefore the description of the west front, which will suffice for all, it may be described as commencing with a stylobate sustaining columns at the angles of the design, coupled with pilasters, and disposed at the sides of a circular headed window; over the capitals is an entablature and segmental pediment, surmounted by an attic, having vases coupled at the angles; the order is composed, the capitals differing in a minute degree from the regular composite. The spire takes its rise from a dome into which the tower is formed at its conclusion, but which is concealed by a circular stylobate, on which rests the story of the superstructure, which is octangular, having an arch in each face; the key stones carved with masks, and at the angles are pilasters, which sustain an entablature; the and stories are counterparts of the last, except in regard to the plinths, which are octangular, and the size, each story diminishing in the plan; the orders of these stories are respectively the Tuscan, Doric, and Ionic. A circular cella is carried up within the portion already described. The story is also octangular, but consists of the cella only, without the surrounding arcade; at the angles are engaged columns of the Corinthian order, and in the intercolumniations are lintelled openings, surmounted by circular ones, on the cornice are vases corresponding with the columns; to this story succeeds an octangular basement, on which set upon balls is a spire, still keeping the same form and ending in a ball and vane. This beautiful structure is of the most interesting objects in the view of the metropolis from Blackfriar's-bridge; its proportions are so just, and its graduation so harmonious, that if sir Christopher Wren had not built Bow church, it would have been undoubtedly the finest modern spire in existence; it still ranks only to that matchless composition. The north side of the church has arched windows on the aisle, and


entrances, having frontispieces composed of Ionic columns, sustaining their entablature and surmounted by pediments, with entire circular windows over them; the elevation finishes with a cornice and parapet; above the aisle is seen a clerestory containing oval windows; the east end of each aisle has an arched window, and in the chancel is a larger window of the same form, the arch surmounted with a pedimental cornice sustained on consoles; the elevation finishes with a cornice and pediment, in the tympanum of the latter is a circular window. The south side of the church is a copy of the northern. The interior is approached by the principal entrance in the west front of the tower, which communicates by means of a fine arch with a pannelled soffite formed in the thickness of the wall, with a handsome porch, occupying the basement story of the tower, which is covered with a dome; the vertex pierced with an eye through which light is now admitted from the upper story of the tower in the day time, and at night from a gas light placed above the screen which fills the aperture. The entrance to the church is through a similar arch to the external ; and, like that, the void is partly filled by a door-way surmounted by the arms of king William III. At the west end of the body of the church is a spacious vestibule of equal breadth with the entire building, and occupying the vacancy beneath the organ gallery, and with which the entrances in the flanks communicate; they are covered internally with carved oak porches, enriched with composite columns sustaining a segmental pediment; from this the church is approached through entrances in glazed screens. The nave and aisles communicate by means of circular arches with pannelled soffits, each pannel enclosing a flower, and springing from coupled Doric columns, having a common plinth and entablature, the latter of which acts as imposts to the arches; the pillars are disposed transversely with respect to the church. The entablature is lighter than that which belongs to the order; the tryglyphs are omitted, and the cornice is dentilated; the ceiling is arched in a segment of a circle, and springs from an impost cornice above the crown of the main arches; the soffit is crossed by pannelled ribs, taking their rise from corbels in the form of shields attached to the impost cornice, and the ceiling is pierced laterally with the windows of the clerestory; the centre is ornamented with expanded flowers. The aisles are simply groined; the ceiling springing from the main columns on the side, and from imposts supported on cherubic heads, and attached to the sidewalls on the other. The altar is a splendid composition, occupying the entire wall of the chancel; it consists of a central and lateral divisions made by a principal and attic orders; the centre division is filled with the great east window, the dado of which is made into divisions by gilt Corinthian columns, sustaining their entablature: the centre compartment is painted by Willement, with subjects emblematic of the sacred Trinity; in the upper part of the pannel are rays


of light emanating from a dark cloud; below it, the descending dove and the letters I H S formed of a number of distinct stars; the side pannels are inscribed with the decalogue. In the collateral divisions are pannels with the Creed and Paternoster, and pannels without inscriptions occupy the attic; the spandrils of the great window are enriched, and the whole is covered with an elliptical pediment; the design harmonizes so effectually with the architecture of the main structure, that no unacquainted with the fact, would suppose the church and chancel were works of different hands. The sides of the chancel are ornamented in a corresponding taste, and the soffit of the arched ceiling is tastefully enriched with pannels filled with expanded flowers. The altar table is a large slab of marble on gilt supports, far superior to the usual wooden tables generally found in churches. The walls of the chancel, together with the pillars, and arches of the church, are coloured in imitation of various marbles. The main columns are porphyry; the capitals and archivolts veined marble; the pilasters of the altar verd antique; the capitals and festoons of foliage, and mouldings gilt; the walls and niches Sienna marble, relieved with chaste statuary and rich porphyry; the whole forming the richest architectural display in London.

A gallery is erected across the west end of the church, which also extends the length of the aisles; the front is of oak, richly pannelled, in a bold style of decoration; in the western branch is a melodious organ by Harris; the case is enriched with statues of Fame, mitres, and crowns, highly gilt. The pulpit is hexagonal without a sounding board; it stands with the reading and clerks' desks on the south side of the central aisle. It is enriched with foliage of oak and acorns.

The font is interesting as a vestige of ancient London, having been preserved from the old church; it consists of a basin of white marble, sustained on a pedestal of black, and bearing the following arms on a shield, viz.: , a lion rampant or, a crescet for Hothersall, empaling , a chevron , between buckles , and this inscription:




The eastern entrances are both disused; the internal porches assimilate with those at the western end, and are now used to contain stoves.

of the improvements introduced at the last repair was the lighting of the church with gas, the smoke being condensed over every light to prevent its injuring the splendid decorations of the church.

The east window, which is of the dimensions of feet in length, by in width, is filled with a copy in stained glass of Ruben's

Descent from the cross;

the figures are above feet inches high; the whole composition, whether the richness and


depth of the colouring or the extent of the work is taken into consideration, reflects the highest credit on the abilities of the artist, Mr. Moss. This window was completed in .

This church was built by sir Christopher Wren in ; the expense to the nation being ; it was additionally embellished in . The spire was not completed until , as appears from the subjoined entry from the parish books:

Mem. In the year of our Lord


, the new spire of the steeple of St. Bridgett alias

St. Bride's

, London, was finished in the beautiful form it now appears in, sir C. Wren being the principal architect-Mr. William Dickenson his under surveyor-Ye


stone was layed on the


day of Oct,


, and was finished, and the wethercock was put up, on the day of

Sept. 1703

, it being




inches from the surface of the earth to the top of the cross, ye wether cocke from ye dart to ye end is





The dimensions are as follows:

Feet. In.

Length, externally, of church and tower . of body of church, internally .

Breadth . ...

Height of chancel to apex of pediment . . . of aisles . . . . of church, internally . . of tower . . . .

Length of spire, . . .

The beautiful spire has been doomed to undergo attacks from lightning; the was in the great storm of the , when it was so damaged that upwards of feet of the stone work was obliged to be taken down. Many stones were started from their places and much shivered, and others were propelled to a considerable distance. stone, of lbs. weight, was projected more than an yards, and broke into the garret of a house in St. Bride's-lane. Several fell upon the church itself, and of them broke through the roof into the north gallery. The rubbish of the fallen fragments on the upper part of the spire, is said to have been as much as several masons would have made in a week's work. On this occasion, the parishioners determined on lowering the spire feet, and the city pavior and stone mason, and Mr. Staines (afterwards sir William) was selected to alter the works of sir Christopher Wren, so little taste unfortunately was then to be found in the parish. Again, in , the spire was struck by


lightning, but less damaged than on the preceding occasion. With a view of preventing further accidents, a conductor has been applied to the steeple, which extends from the porch to the base.

The most extensive repairs which the church has undergone were in the years and , having been shut up months; Mr. Deykes was the architect employed by the parish to improve and not diminish the works of Wren: how well he executed his trust, and with what fidelity to the original works, has been already described. The alterations consisted in the decorations of the chancel, and the painting of the edifice in imitation of marble, the latter work was executed by Messrs. Southgate and Mitchell, of . The church was re-opened at the conclusion of these repairs on the . The expense was

In connexion with the church is the opening recently formed into . On the , a fire having destroyed many houses, a view of the beautiful spire was obtained, and in consequence public attention was powerfully attracted towards its beauties. A public meeting was called by advertisement at the London-tavern, on Tuesday the , for the purpose of entering into a subscription to purchase sufficient ground to keep open the view thus fortuitously obtained of this elegant piece of architecture; the expense of the undertaking was estimated at Subscriptions to a large amount were received, and the corporation, in , gave in aid of them; but it is probable the noble design would have fallen to the ground, had not a public spirited citizen, John Blades, esq. stepped forward, and with a generosity almost unparalleled, taken the expense of the undertaking on himself, relying on the generosity of the public ultimately to reimburse him. It is to be feared this gentleman has sustained a pecuniary loss from the effects of his liberality, but which is compensated by the reflection of the grand improvement which has been effected by his means, and the assurance that a noble action carries with itself its own reward. J. B. Papsworth, esq. was the architect selected to design the opening, and he has judiciously assimilated the architecture of the fronts of the houses at the sides of the opening with pilasters, and an entablature of the same order, as the upper story of the tower,

Since the opening has been completed, the parishioners determined on making a dial on the north side of the tower to be illuminated at night by gas. The dial was at so much incumbered by metal work as to be nearly useless, hut after several alterations, a perfectly transparent dial has been formed, on which the hour of the night may be distinctly seen at any time.

Among the numerous monuments in this church are the following :--



At the east end of the north aisle is a brass tablet, with an inscription to the memory of Ann Nichols, wife of John Nichols, esq. who died , aged , and of William Bowyer Nichols, her son; also of Martha Nichols, his wife, who died , aged , and of Thomas Cleiveland Nichols, and Charles Howard Nichols, her infant sons.

At the west end of the nave is a neat monument to the memory of Mr. J. Romilly, F.R.S. who died , aged .

Among the eminent persons interred in this church without inscriptions are, Wynkin de Worde, the celebrated typographer, who resided in ; sir Richard Baker, author of the

Chronicles of the kings of England,

buried ; and Samuel Richardson, the author of sir Charles Grandison, Pamela, &c. He died in , aged .


[] Britton and Pugin's Edifices of London, vol. 1, p. 120.

[] The spire of Bow has been taken down and rebuilt, without the least abatement of its height, by a scientific architect in our own days, and the same might have been done in this church if a proper person had been employed.

[] A view of the church as it appeared Jan 11,1825, is given in Hone's Every Day Book, vol. 1, col. 87-8.

[] Vide Gent. Mag vol. vcv. part 1, page 17.

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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