The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
St. Nicholas Cole Abbey.
On the south side of , at the west corner of Labour-in-vain-hill, stands the parish church of St. Nicholas, Cole-abbey; which is so denominated from being dedicated to St. Nicholas, bishop of Mera; but the reason of the additional epithet is not known; some conjecturing it to be a corruption of Golden-abbey, and others, that it is derived from Cold-abbey, or Coldhey, from its cold or bleak situation. It is known that there was a church in the same place, before the year , when, according to Stow, the steeple, and south aisle, which were not so old as the rest of the church, were rebuilt; but the last structure being consumed in the great conflagration in , the present church was built in its place, and the parish of St. Nicholas, Olave, united to it. This was the church built and completed after the fire.
The advowson of this rectory was anciently in the dean and chapter of ; but, upon the grant of that collegiate church to the abbot and canons of , the patronage devolved to that convent, in whom it continued till the dissolution of their monastery; when, coming to the crown, it remained therein till queen Elizabeth, in the year , granted the patronage thereof to Thomas Reeve, and George Evelyn, and their heirs, in soccage, who conveying it to others, it came at last to the family of the Hackers, whereof was colonel Francis Hacker, commander of the guard that conducted king Charles I. to and from his trial, and, at last, to the scaffold; for which, after the restoration, he was executed as a traitor, when the advowson reverted to the crown, in whom it still continues.
It is a plain substantial building, in plan shewing an oblong square, the east and north fronts of the elevation being the only portions entirely open to observation; they are faced with stone, and the angles rusticated. The tower is situated at the north-west angle of the church, within the square of its walls; the elevation is made into principal stories. In the lower, or basement, is a
|lintelled doorway, surmounted by a cornice, resting on consoles, on the north side, above which is a circular window. In the next story is a circular aperture, surmounted by an elliptical pediment, and intended for a clock dial, above which is an arched window, crowned with a cornice resting on consoles; the elevation finishes with an attic, in the centre of which is a pediment, and at the angles are urns; the other faces of this story are but repetitions of that already described; from within the parapet rises a conical spire, covered with lead, and pierced at intervals with series of circular openings, and ending in a pedestal of a poligonal form, sustaining a gallery fronted by iron rails, within which a square pedestal is formed, ending in a globular dome, sustaining a ball and vane. The north front of the church has windows with arched heads, surmounted by cornices resting on consoles, and the elevation is finished by a parapet. The east end has windows, and in its general appearance corresponds with the north side of the church, which has already been described. The west front has a single window with an arched head; it abuts on a narrow court, and that portion of the south side, which is not concealed, has windows and a doorway, and is built of brick. The interior is remarkably plain; the walls of the church are made by pilasters of the Corinthian order, taking their rise from wainscotted plinths the height of the pewings, and ending beneath an entablature, applied as a finish to the walls, into divisions corresponding with the number of windows: the south wall has but window in the body of the church, but the divisions correspond with the opposite side; it appears to have had a window nearer to the east, which is now walled up. A portion of the plan at the west end, equal in breadth with the church, is divided from the remainder, and forms a vestibule; the partition wall is pierced towards the church with arches, springing from bold piers capped with simple impost cornices; the inner faces having pilasters to correspond with the other portions; the arches are filled to about half their height, by screens of oak highly enriched with pilasters of the Ionic order, sustaining an entablature, surmounted by an attic, all the pilasters being richly ornamented with carving of fruit and foliage in relief: the arch towards the north sustains the tower; the others are occupied by galleries, in the central is the organ, erected in , and opened on the , and in the other is a gallery for the charity children of the ward. By this judicious arrangement the tower, which is situated within the body of the church, is prevented from breaking in upon the design, as it does at and elsewhere. The ceiling is horizontal, and rests on the cornice of the entablature before noticed; it is partitioned by flying cornices into square pannels in rows, their size and number determined by the divisions of the main building. The altar screen occupies the dado of the central eastern window, it is a plain composition of oak, enriched with some
|handsome carving, and made by Corinthian pillars into divisions, and surmounted by an entablature. The pulpit and desks, which were formerly attached to the north wall, were placed in group in the centre aisle of the area in front, and at a short distance from the altar rails, when the church was last repaired in ; the former is hexagonal, and coeval with the church.
The font is a plain basin of statuary marble, sustained on a balluster of black marble, with white capital and base; it occupies a pew near the central entrance. Against the north wall is a tablet of benefactions to the united parishes, below which is the following inscription:
It was finished after the fire in ; the amount allowed by statute amounted to ; the residue was supplied by the parish.
The dimensions are, length, ; breadth, ; height of church, , and of steeple, feet.
In the church is a neat tablet to the memory of George Nelson, esq. lord mayor , died , aged .
At the north-east corner of , on the site of the former parish church of the Holy Trinity, is the