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

Allen, Thomas


St. Michael, Bassishaw Church.


There is only church in this ward, which is situated on the West side, and nearly in the centre of .

This church received its name from being dedicated to St. Michael, the Archangel, and from its situation. It is a rectory and was originally founded about the year ; at which time it was in the gift of the prior and canons of St. Bartholomew, . The register of London gives no name of a rector, before Ralph de Waltham, who died in , when the presentation belonged to Henry Bodyke, citizen; but about a century after, it fell to the dean and chapter of , who from that time, have continued patrons thereof.

The old church, which was very beautiful, was entirely destroyed by the fire of London; and the present structure was erected on its site.

This church is completely insulated; the plan is an oblong square, made into a body and aisles, with a tower and attached vestry at the west end. A great portion of the west front is occupied by the tower, which is in square stories the contains an arched window in the west front, the has, in the faces which are clear of the church, a circular as well as an arched window; the story which rises above the roof has an arched window in every face; it is finished with a parapet, and at the angles are pine-apples; above the platform are other stories of an octangular form, covered with lead the lower is plain, and is pierced with circular apertures, the upper is adorned at the angles with buttresses, and is pierced with arched apertures; the whole is crowned with a low and ill-made spire, still keeping the same form, and finished with a vane. The unoccupied part of the west front of the church has circular windows. The north and south fronts are uniform; near the west end of each is an arched entrance inclosed in a rusticated frontispiece, and each has large windows of an oblong square form, slightly arched at the top; the elevation finished with a plain parapet. The east font has a large arched window in the centre, between circular ones, and is finished with a parapet and a gable of an elliptical form, above the centre window. This church has no western entrance. The walls, including the tower, are built of brick, with rusticated angles. The whole of the brick-work, in the last repair in , was covered with a casing of stucco, pointed, to imitate stone. The architecture of the interior is very elegant. The body and aisles are separated by columns, and attached semicolumns of the Corinthian order, sustaining a splendid entablature. The columns stand on pedestals of equal height with the pews. The entablature is composed of an architrave of faces, a swelling frieze which represent a continued wreath of acanthus-leaves in bold relief, and a modilion cornice, the soffit of which


is carved with coffers and roses, and the cymatium is enriched with acanthus-leaves, displaying, upon the whole, of the finest specimens of sir Christopher Wren's architecture. The cornice serves as an impost for an elliptical coved ceiling, extending the whole length of the body of the church. The surface is divided by arched and parallel ribs, crossing each other at right angles into pannels which are splendidly enriched. That which is above the altar has cherubim at its angles The ceiling is pierced with small windows above the intercolumniations: upon the headway of each is a cherub. The ceiling of the aisles is horizontal. The east window up to the springing of the arch, and the vacant part occupied by a framed pannel, painted in imitation of marble. Against the west end of the church, and partly concealed by the organ, is a fine relief in composition, having the royal arms in the centre, between shields of the city arms, and seated boys. The altar-screen is more modern than the main building, and is painted in imitation of marble, the walls and frieze being veined, the shafts of the columns Sienna, with pannels of other marbles; it consists of attached Ionic columns, sustaining an entablature and pedimental cornice over the central division. The frieze is enriched with cherubs, in relief and festoons. In the centre division are the commandments, and above, in an irradiation, the words

Gloria Deo

. The organ-gallery is more modern than the church; it is sustained on Ionic columns, and the front consists of an entablature and attic; in it is a small organ in a mahogany case, enriched with ante. Beneath this gallery are porches covering the door-ways, which are ornamented with Corinthian pilasters. The pulpit and reading-desk are attached to pillars on opposite sides of the body of the church; they are formed of mahogany, and are more modern than the building.

This church was began in , and finished in , from the design of sir Christopher Wren, and the expence was no more than This however did not include the steeple, which was added afterwards, the lower part being a remnant of the old church: the dimensions are, length , breadth , height feet, and the tower is feet high. The building has settled very considerably since its erection, which has occasioned the additional support of iron ties, which cross the whole nave of the church, and in consequence of the settlement the columns do not appear to be well set upon their bases.

There are no monuments in this church worthy particular notice. In the old church there were several, especially to the memory of sir Thomas Gresham, knt., alderman and lord mayor, who died ; and another to the memory of sir James Yerford, knt., mercer, and sometime mayor, who died .


[] Maitland's History of London, i. p. 1147.

This object is in collection Subject Temporal Permanent URL
Component ID:
To Cite:
TARC Citation Guide    EndNote
Detailed Rights
View all images in this book
 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