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

Allen, Thomas


St. Magnus the Martyr.


This church, which is a rectory, situated at the north east corner of London-bridge, derives its name from St. Magnus, who suffered martyrdom under the emperor Aurelian, for his stedfast adherence to the Christian religion; it is of considerable antiquity, as Hugh Pourt founded a chantry here in .



The patronage of this church was anciently in the abbots and convents of and , who presented alternately, till the general suppression of monastic foundations, when it came to the crown. Queen Mary, by her letters patent, , granted it to the bishop of London and his successors, in whom it still remains, but subject to the archdeacon.

This church was destroyed in the great fire , but was soon after rebuilt in a handsome manner, after the designs of sir C. Wren.

This spacious and handsome building, consists of a body and side aisles, with a tower attached to the west end, the basement of which is pierced to admit a thoroughfare for foot passengers. The side aisles of the church were formerly continued to include the Tower. After the great fire which destroyed many of the houses on , in , the footway was made, and the aisles of the church were in consequence reduced to their present length. The Tower is in stories, the west front of the basement is adorned with Ionic pilasters, sustaining an entablature and pediment; in the centre is a lintelled doorway (which was formerly the western entrance to the church), between niches having semicircular heads and square pannels above them; the contains a circular window; the an arched ; the story is lofty, and has in each side an arched window, between coupled pilasters of the Corinthian order sustaining their entablature, and a parapet pierced with an arcade: at the angles are pedestals supporting urns. The story takes an octangular form, and consists of a plinth sustaining a temple composed of composite pilasters, with the same number of arched windows between them, and finished with an entablature; this story is domed over with a leaded roof, in which are circular perforations; the vortex of this dome sustains the story, consisting of a small octangular temple, formed of arches, and sustaining a leaden spire of the same form; the whole is finished with a vane and cross. The south and north sides of the basement of the tower are pierced with a lofty arch, having a convex frontispiece. The pilasters at the angles of the west front are returned at the sides and coupled with others, and the entablature is continued; a portico is in consequence formed in front of the present western doorway which is lintelled, and surrounded by an architrave: in the western front of the aisles, are blank windows formed of a lofty arch, bounded by an architrave, and surmounted with a cornice resting on consoles at the sides, and also on the key stone of the arch, which is sculptured into a cherubim; the angles are rusticated and the elevation finishes with a parapet and coping.

The north side of the church formerly presented of the handsomest specimens of sir C. Wren's architecture, it is now reduced to an ornamented wall, and deprived of the beauty resulting from uniformity, by the alteration before spoken of: before that period


it had windows in the aisle similar to those already described, as existing in blank in the west front, and a door-way arched and surmounted with a pediment beneath a circular window in the centre, above which is a festoon of flowers and fruits. The design was then broken into divisions, the central projecting a few inches beyond the sides, and in its turn made into subdivisions, the centre projecting in like manner; of these windows remain, but they are walled up to the greater proportion of their height; and by the addition of a reversed arch, the heads are converted into circular windows. The elevation finishes with a cornice and parapet. The clerestory contains oval windows. The east front is built against by a warehouse, and a portion of the south side was, until the fire in , concealed by other buildings; this part of the church having been damaged by the previous fire in , was rebuilt with brick covered with compo; it contains, in the part which is clear of adjacent buildings, arched windows, and in the clerestory are oval ones. The other portions of the church are faced with Portland stone.

The interior is approached by a spacious vestibule, extending the whole breadth of the western front, and occupying the space beneath the organ gallery. In it, are the door-cases belonging to side entrances in the old front, which as well as that before the principal entrance, are ornamented with Corinthian pilasters and pannelling; the body of the church is made into a nave and side aisles, by colonnades of the Ionic order; each of which consists of fluted columns, cabled to about a of their height, and attached half columns at the east end; the beauty of the whole is destroyed by the irregularity of the inter-columniations. The from the west is double as broad as the which precedes it, and the succeeding ones: the extreme intercolumniations at the east are still narrower. The apparent irregularity is explained by the circumstance of the alteration which took place when the church was shortened, by which means the widest space which was intended by the architect for a centre, was removed from its distinguishing situation to in which it appears to be out of all propriety. The peculiar arrangement of these colonnades does away with the often repeated but vague idea, of the architect having pierced his tower in anticipation of the change which would take place; if this was the case, we must believe that sir C. Wren acted most absurdly in not building the body of the church in a form which would have allowed the change to be effected with less violence to the harmony of the design. The columns sustain an entablature surmounted by an attic and sub-cornice, which serves as an impost to the waggon-head ceiling; arched ribs, springing from the pilasters of the attic, cross the ceiling and divide it into compartments, each of which, except the eastern, is pierced laterally with the clerestory window. The division at the eastern extremity, is filled with rows of square pannels enclosing flowers. The east wall


is decorated with pilasters sustaining an entablature, continued from the lateral colonnades, but broken between the pilasters to let in the window, which is divided by uprights and a transom, and filled with stained glass of a bright warm tint. The greater portion of the wall is occupied by a magnificent altar screen in stories; the is made by columns and pilasters of the Corinthian order with their entablature, into divisions, the central being as wide as of the others; this division contains the decalogue, and is covered with an elliptical pediment, in the tympanum is a pelican with expanded wings, feeding her young with her blood. The side intercolumniations have full length paintings of Moses and Aaron, and the remaining the creed and paternoster; these divisions are surmounted with an attic, and subcornice, on which are acroteria sustaining urns. The story is only equal in breadth to the central division, and consists of a square pannel flanked by antae. In the centre is a circle enclosing a choir of cherubs and the descending dove; below this is an open book, and the whole is finished with a pedimental cornice surmounted with acroteria supporting vases. On each side of this composition are statues of angels seated, and holding palm branches in their hands. All the spaces on the screen are filled with carvings in relief, by Gibbons, of fruit, flowers, and entwined tendrils, the beauty of which are seen to advantage by the splendid and elaborate gilding and colouring, which have been bestowed upon them. The substantial parts of the screen are coloured in imitation of verd antique and other marbles, the mouldings and dressings white and gold, the foliages white, touched and heightened with gold, forming, on the whole, a resplendent design, in which the utmost profusion of ornament is introduced without gaudiness; the ceilings of the aisles are horizontal and painted to imitate a bright sky with light clouds, the pulpit is hexagonal, each face being richly carved, the sounding board is of the same form and equally ornamented; and with the desks is fixed against a pillar on the south side of the church. The western end is crossed with a spacious gallery containing the organ, which is a large instrument in a splendid oak case, carved as well as the front of the gallery in the same taste as the remainder of the wood work. The font is a circular basin of marble, on a stone terminal pillar, the cover is a square temple with a flower-pot and bouquet tastefully carved, attached to each face. The entrance at the north side is covered with a porch, decorated with attached Corinthian columns, and an entablature and pannelling. This church has been twice in danger of destruction since the great fire, by casualties of a similar kind, the injury sustained was, as before observed, in , the damage then done has been already noticed. On the night of the , its safety was threatened by the great fire which consumed the adjacent warehouses, and it is perhaps owing to the strenuous and praiseworthy exertions of the firemen, that the structure exists at present.



The church had not long before, viz. in , undergone a thorough repair, but in consequence of the damage it sustained, divine service was suspended, and not resumed until the . In the interval the church received such tasteful and elegant decorations, that it may now compete with any church in the metropolis. This church was built in , and the steeple added in , the expence was

There are many handsome marble monuments attached to the walls recording the names of eminent citizens. That to the memory of sir James Sanderson, records the fact of his stopping a debate at the King's Arms Tavern, during the ferment which occurred after the French revolution; the monument consists of a pyramid of veined marble, with the civic regalia, and on the lower part is a square tablet with an inscription. He died, . aged .

In the ancient church was a monument to the memory of sir John Salter, who died in , who was a good benefactor to the company of Salters, and ordered that the beadles and servants of the company. should go to the said church, the week in October, times each person, and say,

How do you do, brother Salter I hope you are well?

The projecting dial and the clock of this church were erected by sir Charles Duncombe, alderman and sheriff about . The same gentleman presented the church with an organ, by Jordan.


[] It is said in the Gent.«s Mag. vol. xc. pt. ii. p. 225, on the authority of Mr. Gwilt, that this steeple was sir Christopher's original design for Bow-church.

[] Annual Reg. 1762, vol. 2.

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