The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
St. Mary Woolnoth.
This church is situated on the south side of , at the eastern side of . It is a church of ancient foundation, as appears by John de Norton being rector in ; but the reason for its bearing the name of our lady of Woolnoth, Stow confessed he had
Some have said the name was derived from its proximity to the ancient wool-beam which stood hard by in the Stocks market (the site of which is occupied by the Mansion-house, and its abutting streets), on a cemetery attached to St. Mary Woolchurch Haw, not rebuilt after the great fire in , on account of the parish being united to that of St. Mary Woolnoth, and that it obtained its name from being or ; but Mr. Joseph Gwilt observes,
This church was rebuilt about , and restored, or again rebuilt, in . The latter was the edifice damaged by the dreadful conflagration of , and restored in . The part of it which chiefly suffered was the front, which was rebuilt with a Tuscan order and appropriate accompaniments, the Gothic interior, &c. remaining unchanged. The present church was commenced in , and completed by , Mr. Nicholas Hawksmoor, formerly domestic clerk to sir Christopher Wren, being the architect.
The design is singular and possesses many features of originality; the detail is marked by a boldness unusual to modern buildings. The plan is a square, having a porch or corridor at the west end, and columns disposed in groups forming a smaller square in the area of the larger . The western facade consists
|of a centre considerably in advance before the line of the front; it is rusticated; the groves being cut exceedingly deep, and the angles worked into columns of the Tuscan order, whose shafts are also rusticated. In the centre is an arched door, and above it a semicircular window; the elevation is finished with a block cornice, which in like manner crowns the entire building; the flanks are pierced with arched doorways, and windows above them. The continuation of the centre to a considerable height above the church, forms a massive tower, the plan of which is a parallelogram, the shortest sides being at right angles with the main building; it commences with a pedestal pierced with square openings; to the superstructure are attached composite columns on the east and west sides, and on the north and south; the columns are surmounted by their entablature and a blocking course, above which rises square towers connected by a ballustrade of trellis work, and having arched openings in each face; their elevations are finished with ballustrades. The side divisions of the western front of the church have doorways leading to the catacombs on the basement, above which are windows in succession, the lower arched, the upper lintelled. The north front of the church which abuts on the footway of , is highly ornamented; it commences with a continued plinth, on which are lintelled openings, which are surmounted by the like number of blank windows; and above the arch are rusticated niches with arched heads, and containing Ionic columns resting on pedestals and sustaining a concaved entablature; the backs of the niches are filled with pannels; this facade has no windows; the cornice is surmounted by a parapet, having an addition on the centre, of a ballustrade, supported by trusses, serving as a screw to conceal from observation the square clerestory which rises in the centre. On this side of the church is the clock dial at the end of a beam which projects from the church. The east wall is built against, and consequently concealed from observation. The south side of the church has small windows nearly square, and surmounted by as many arched ones, having a continued impost cornice. The entire walls of the church are built with stone. The interior is approached by an entrance from the western vestibule. The magnificent columns disposed in groups at the angles of the inscribed square, have a strikingly magnificent appearance. The order is Corinthian; the columns are raised on plinths of equal height with the pewing; the shafts are fluted and cabled; the whole are surmounted by entablatures intersecting another, and received on pilasters at their entrance into the walls of the building. A break in the cornice of the eastern entablature to let in the arms of king George I. is a great blemish; the entablature of the order is also applied as a finish to the walls; about the centre rises a large square clerestory lighted by semi-circular windows, and covered with an horizontal ceiling resting on a modillion cornice, and|
| having its soffite richly pannelled; the ceiling of the lateral divisions is also horizontal and pannelled by flying cornices. At the east end is a recess covered with an elliptical arch sustained upon square piers; the soffite is enriched with caissons; in this recess is situated the altar; the screen and canopy are executed in a heavy style in carved oak; the latter is sustained on twisted Corinthian columns copied from the cartoon of |
The canopy represents drapery in the form of a tent; but it is too stiff and formal to preserve the idea.
Galleries are erected on the north and south and west sides of the church, with a due regard to propriety, not very usually observed in the internal arrangements of churches, which are not allowed to interfere with the columns; they are supported on terminal pillars, having Corinthian capitals, and the fronts retire behind the columns of the church, except in the central intercolumniations where the fronts have a sweeping projection resting on cantilevers, and enriched with elaborately sculptured cartouches. In the western gallery is a magnificent organ which was built by father Smith. The approaches to the galleries are by winding stone staircases formed by truncating the western angles of the building.
The pulpit is situated on the south side of the church, it is square in plan; the front shews a cyma in profile; the sounding board is plain, and sustained in square Corinthian pilasters; the shafts richly carved; the reading and clerk's desks are situated on the opposite side of the church; the former is elaborately carved. This church shews, perhaps, the oldest specimen of the practice of separating the reading desk from the pulpit, which in all churches properly fitted up are in group. Though great expense has been lavished on the woodwork of the church, the masterly hand of Gibbons is missed; the wood under the hand of the artist employed at this church retains its natural stubbornness. The font is a fine oval basin of veined marble sustained on a pedestal of inferior marble of the same form, it is placed against the northern pier of the recess containing the altar. The monuments are numerous. On the north side of the altar is a marble pyramidal tablet, with an inscription to the memory of the enthusiastic rector of the church, the Rev. J. Newton,
years rector of this church; lie died , aged .
On the opposite side is a mural monument to his equally enthusiastic curate, the Rev. W. A. Gunn, who died .
In the north gallery is the helmet, crest, sword, gloves, spurs, and surtout of sir Martin Bowes, lord mayor . From the walls are suspended pennons, which were renewed about years ago at the expense of the goldsmiths' company. The surtout and pennons are emblazoned with the following arms: ermine bows in pale on a chief az. a swan in her beak a dish
|and cup between leopards faces, crest a demi-lion rampant spotted, or. holding in his paws a sheaf of arrows, ar.|
The floor of the church is very considerably elevated, affording room for spacious burial vaults; on the staircase leading down to which is a leaden coffin found in digging the foundation of the present church.
The family of Vyner resided in the parish of St. Mary, Woolnoth, and were buried in the ancient church, in which there was a monument of touchstone, with the effigies in marble of sir Thomas Vyner, bart. erected by his son Robert, .
The principal streets in this ward are , and ; the latter of which obtained its name from the Lombards, or Italian merchants, who settled there; and by this name it was known, so early as the reign of Edward II. n this street are several principal lanes and courts, which are filled with the houses of bankers, merchants, and eminent traders: those on the south side, are, , Sherbourn-lane, , St. , and St. ; those on the north side, are, Pope's-head-alley, Exchange-alley, , and George-yard.
In are the Phoenix Fire-office and the Pelican Life Insurance-office, both handsome buildings, particularly the last.
In are, also, several principal streets and lanes, which are well inhabited.
Adjoining to St. Mary Woolnoth church, is the
 Britton and Pagin's Public Buildings.