The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3
This church is situated on the north side of , at the eastern corner of Swithin-lane, its west front abutting on . It is so called from its being dedicated to St. Swithin, bishop of Winchester, and chancellor to king Egbert, who died in the year . By ancient records it appears that there was a church on this spot, dedicated to the same saint, before the year ; but how long it was standing before that time is uncertain: however, the old structure was destroyed by the fire of London, and the present edifice erected in its stead.
The patronage of this church appears to have been anciently in the prior and convent of Tortington, in the diocese of Chichester, in whom it continued till the dissolution of their monastery; when coming to the crown, Henry VIII. in the year , granted the same, together with a stately mansion, on the north side thereof, where now stands, to John, earl of Oxford, who soon after disposing of the same, it passed through several hands, and was at length purchased by the company of salters, in whom the patronage still remains. The plan of the church is a square, increased in breadth by a tower and aisle attached to the north side. The southern, which is the principal front, is made in height into stories, and perpendicularly into divisions. The central division contains a large window with an arched head, the lateral divisions smaller windows of the same form, with elliptically arched doorways beneath them, the easternmost being walled up; below the central window is a hollow pedestal, containing the last fragment of the famous London stone; the elevation is finished with a bold cornice, having an elliptical pediment over the central window, the horizontal cornice of which is omitted; the tympanum is ornamented with a circular wreath of foliage between festoons in alto relievo, and over the heads of the side windows are festoons of drapery. The clock dial, sustained on a trussed beam, projects from this front. The western front of the church is similar, in regard to the windows and finish of the wall, it is without the embellishments of foliage and drapery, and it has no doorway; the western aspect of the tower which ranges with this front, has an arched window in the lower story; the tower rises from the ground in stories,
|divided by string courses; in the northern front is a doorway surmounted by an arched window in the story, and a circular window in the ; the story, which is clear of the church, has an arched window in every aspect; the parapet suddenly diminishes from the square to the octagon form, and is finished with a cornice, over which rises a lofty octangular spire covered with lead, and ending in a ball and vane. The remainder of the north front is built against. The eastern front corresponds with the western, except in regard to the tower; below the window of the aisle is an arched doorway. The church is built with Portland stone. The interior in point of arrangement greatly resembles the neighbouring church of . The main features are an octagon inscribed within a square, the latter lengthened towards the north by an attached aisle, - of which is occupied by the tower, and the residue by a gallery, in which is the organ in a mahogany case, erected by subscription in . columns of the composite order are disposed in an octagon: being attached to the principal walls of the church, and only insulated, they jointly sustain an highly enriched entablature; the frieze is convex, and relieved with a continued wreath of laurel leaves, the soffit of the architrave enriched with foliage in pannels ; the cornice serves as an impost to a domed ceiling, enriched with ribs, springing also from the cornice immediately above the columns, and uniting with an octagon division in the centre; between the ribs are circles, each alternate being pierced with a window, and the dome is also enriched with foliage; the soffit of the angles formed by the contraction of the square into the octagon form, are also enriched with foliage in relief. There is a gallery across the western end, and an additional for charity children on the east side of the organ, erected in . The altar screen is very plain; it is formed of carved oak, and ornamented with pilasters sustaining an entablature, upon which are whole length paintings of Moses and Aaron. The pulpit is affixed to the south wall, it is hexagonal, and has a ponderous sounding-board, the whole enriched with carving; a neat circular marble font, with a carved oak cover, is situated in a pew below the north gallery. Above the altar is the royal arms, which some ignorant person, in the last repair in , thought proper to alter to those of the present sovereign, by which means the only use of the arms as a memorial of the date of the erection of the building, is done away with. This church was built by sir Christopher Wren, , at an expense of The dimensions are, length from north to south feet, from east to west , height of church feet, and of tower and spire .|
The principal object worthy of notice in this ward, after the churches, is the