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

Allen, Thomas


St. Benet Gracechurch.


This church is situated on the east side of , and at the south-western corner of . It is a rectory, and appears to have been all along in the dean and chapter of , subject to the arch-deacon. It is of considerable antiquity, as is evident from the notice thereof, when Ralph de Diceto was dean of , about .

This church having suffered in the great fire of , it was rebuilt, and the parish of St. Leonard, , added to it.

The plan is an oblong square, with a tower at the north-west angle. The west front is in divisions, of which is occupied by the tower, in which is a lintelled doorway, on the basement floor, covered with a cornice, sustained upon tryglyphs, and the key stone of the arch, which is sculptured with a cherub's head ; above this is a long, window, the head slightly arched, the key stone formed into a cherub's head, the whole surmounted by a cornice resting upon the key stone; and above is a circular aperture containing the dial. The next story which rises above the church, has a lintelled window in each face; and the succeeding story also contains, windows, the heads of which occupy the tympanum of pediments extending across each face, above which the elevation finishes with a parapet. A leaded spire is constructed above this story, which consists of a dome having


circular perforations on its surface, on the vortex of which is a small temple with faces, each of which is finished with a pediment, and represents a small portico: upon the centre of this temple is placed a square obelisk, which is finished with a ball and vane. The other division of the front is similar to the basement story of the tower, except that it has no entrance; the elevation is finished with a balustraded parapet. In the north side of the tower are windows, of which is long and the other circular; and in the same side of the church are other windows, with circles above to correspond. Beneath the window from the west is an entrance, now walled up. The elevation finishes with a balustraded parapet. The east end has no window. Part of the south front is concealed by houses; in the remainder are windows with circles above, in the same style as the opposite side, with an entrance beneath of the windows.

A portion of the plan of the interior, at the west end, is occupied by a vestibule formed in the lower story of the tower, and the vestry. The body of the church is without aisles or columns. The ceiling is arched and groined into compartments, corresponding in number with the windows made by ribs crossing the church, and resting on imposts, formed of escallops and shields alternately, accompanied by palm branches, and surmounted by a small cornice enriched with acanthus leaves; the soffits of the ribs are pannelled, and the pannels filled with flowers; the groins are drawn to an edge, and on the points of intersection are coupled cherubs' heads. Across the west end is a gallery ; the front consists of an entablature and attic in carved oak, the pilasters enriched with carvings of fruit and foliage, and cherubs' heads, in lime-tree; the workmanship most probably of Gibbons. In the wall above this gallery are arches, and a clock dial highly ornamented, The altar is a very splendid composition, the screen is of oak with gold enrichments, and made by Corinthian columns into divisions, the central is covered with an elliptical pediment and attic, and contains the decalogue on its pannels. In the side compartments are paintings of Moses and Aaron. On the cornice are the royal crown and supporters. All the friezes and enrichments are adorned with carved work in foliage and heads; the work, no doubt, of the eminent sculptor before-named. On each side of the screen is a square pannel, with a highly enriched border of carved work, containing the Creed and Lord's Prayer, and surmounted with shields, having the initials I H S., with a cross and nails. The wall over the screen is painted with a red curtain drawn up, and disclosing the sky with a glory in the centre. The pulpit is octagonal, of carved oak, and is situated against the south wall. The font, at the south-west corner of the building, is a circular white marble basin, adorned with cherub's heads, and standing on a pedestal enriched with scrolls.



This church was rebuilt by sir Christopher Wren after the great fire, and finished in , at the expense of It is in length about feet, breadth , and height . The tower and spire are feet in height. This is of the few remaining churches in the metropolis which is destitute of an organ: this is attributable to the predominance of Quaker influence in the parish.

There are no monuments worthy of notice.

Mr. Malcolm in his Londinium Redivivum, published , has extracted much curious matter from the church books of this parish : respecting the parish feasts' is the following:--

1549. For as much as yt hath been an old accustome in the foresaid pishe that the eldest churchewardyn, at the audyt day at his going oute, should make a banket to the pishrs of the sd pish, at his own proper costes and charges, having 6s. 8d. allowed hym out of ye box of the churche towards the charges thereof; and for bycause yt was thought very necessary that the said banker, shoulde be contynued alwayes hereafter, as well for ye honest assembly together of ye whole pish at the least ones in a yere, as for ye renewing friendship and love bytweene the said pishrs, and for the pacifying of rancore and displeasur growing bytwene any of them, at any tyme herafter, &c.ten shillings was allowed in consequence of an advance in the prices of provisions.

1549. Paid for mending six organ pipes that were broken at taking downe the high altar 8s. From this circumstance the organ must have been very near it, contrary to modern custom.

Payd for pulling downe the altar 4d.

All the church plate was sold this year for

Ye money to be made up 120l. to be layd out in the purchasing land for the advantage and maintenance of the church.

The distracted state of religion will appear in most odious colours from many of the following extracts:

1553. pd to a plasterer for washing owte and defacing of such scriptures as in the tyme of king Edward the VIth. were written aboute the chirche and walls, we being commanded so to do by ye right hon. ye Id bishopp of Winchester, Id chanr of England, 3s. and 4d.

Pd for a cross, and Mary and John, being copper gilt, Il. 11s. 2d.

The queen (Mary) made an

entry towards the tower

the above year: upon which occasion the front of the church was hung with arras towards . The expense of putting it up was and the cost

Pd for an ell of holland for two corporas clothes, and three yards of sear cloth for ye altar, and for two corporas cases, and for a crosse cloth, 1l. 3s. 5d.

Pd for a pax and holy water sprinkle, 8d.

Pd for a pyx and a white canopy with four tassels, and for a fair manuall in text hand, being of vellum and new bound, 16s. pd for ye ffoote of ye sepulchre,A ceremony in the church of Rome of making a sepulchre for the Saviour on Easter day. and for a desk for ye high aulter, 8s.

Pd for palm for Palm Sunday, 2d. Pd for wax used about the sepulchre Easter Day 7s. Pd for a sacke of coales to watch the afore said sepulchre 1s. 3d.

Pd for a lb. of candles same time 2 1/2d.

Pd to the paynters for making ye Roode, with Mary and John, 61.

Mary's ideal pregnancy cost our parish something considerable; as they

pd upon May last, to a prieste and


clerks, for singing of Te Deum and playing upon the organs, for the birth of our Prince (which was thought then to be),



--Thus we find not only the birth presupposed, but even the very sex determined.

1555. Pd for the picture of St. Benedict, 1l. 5s.

Pd for an ymage Crucifix, with Mary and John, 13s. 4d.

Pd for paynting a cloth to hang before ye Roode in Lent, 8s.

Pd for 16 fadom of cord to draw up the cloth 3d.

Pd for 12 garlands on Benedict's day Is. Pd for carrying streamers on ditto 2d. Pd for a potac«on for the clerk 1s. 4d. Pd for strewing herbs on ditto 4d. Pd to ye suffragan for hallowing y altar 1l. Pd to four ministers same day 4s. and two of his men 8d. Pd for his sleeves and his apron 2d. Pd for oyle olyve 1d. for mariole 2d two bunches of hyssop 2d. Ringing same day 4d.

1556. Pd for making the sepulchre against Easter 5s. the lights cost 15s.

1557. Pd for paynting two Passion banners 5s. Pd for six ells of buckram, at 1s. per ell, to make the sexton a surplice; for making it 8d. Alle suche goodes as doeth apertayn to Saynte Bennete, Gracechurch, writen out the xvi daye of Februarie, 1560.

1 cope, of cloth of goulde.

A cope of redde silke with frang of gould.

A cope of blewe damask. A coppe of sattine with blewe birds.

Another ould grene cope.

A vestment with lions of goulde with all that appertayneth to it.

A vestment of redd velvet wth the lily pote.

A vestment of blewe sattine of Brugges.

A vestment of white fustian with roses and flowers.

A vestment of red saye wth the lily potte and all things to it

A carpet of cloth of golde, for the table frynged.

A herse cloth, of cloth of gold frynged.

A herse clothe for children, of blewe damaske, with V wounds.

A cannapye of redde velvet.

Three corporas clothes, (with the lynnen clothes) of clothe of golde in them.

Two cannapyes, one of clothe of golde, the other of redde sattine wt birds of goulde.

A cannapye wth white nedell worke, fringed.

Deacon and sub-deacon of blewe sattine.

A churchinge clothe fringed, white damaske.

An aulter clothe, fringed, of yelowe and redde saye. ii aulter cloths of yelowe and redde buckram, fringed.

Two streamers and a flage. A crosse clothe furnished with the Trynitie. ii redd banner cloths of buckram, fringed. ii passion banner clothes paynted. ii rode clothes paynted. A Sepulchre with ii carpets.

In consequence of the sale of the church plate 19 years before, what they possessed at this period were utensils of brass and pewter.

The time was now arrived when all the preceding ornaments were to perish, and the church become once more the temple of what was, and still is, rational devotion.

1st Eliza, payd to a carpenter for pulling downe the Roode and Mary 4s. 2d.

Pd three labourers one day for pulling down the altars and John 2s. 4d.

Pd ye somner for to warn ye parson and church«ns to appear at St. Martyn's before ye Official, which enquired whether ye parson kept resident or not upon his benefice 4d.

Pd the scrivener to write a bill to certify ye arch-deacon whether there was any anabaptist, or erroneous opinions, within ye parishe 1s.

Pd for warninge for the above purpose, anabaptists, and other vicious persons 4d.

1567. Pd for two quarts of Malmsey 10d.

1584. Pd three labourers for burying the old bones in the churchyard 6s. 2d. Pd for altering oure chimes to a newe tune 4l.

1593. Pd for 10 ells for the Commandments 5s. 10d.

1597. Pd for timber and workmanship to make ye poste of correction, and paynting ditto 1l. 2s.

This and the following article were probably placed in the neighbourhood of the old market, from whence the street derives its name. There is barely room for the poste of correction and stocks at this time in Gracechurch street.

Pd for a pair of stockes set up by command of the King, 2l. 2s. 6d.

1604. Pd to a paynter ye commission from ye bishopp of Londno to view the churche where ye Kinges Armes might be set up, and sentences of Scripture.

1608. Pd for carrying snowe oute of ye streete ls. 4d.

1610. Paid an aid to ye Prince for two houses in Fenchurch-strete, 5s.

1611. Pd for repairing the church 120l. 9s.

In the year 1625 the steeple was rebuilt; and a committee viewed one of the St. Margaret's spires for a model, but which is not mentioned.

Pd masons worke for a new steeple 100l. other work 90l.

1630. Pd for paynting Queen Elizabeth's tombThis was a picture of queen Elizabeth lying on her tomb, common in many London churches. One was remaining in very indifferent preservation on the north wall of the chancel of St. Martin Outwich, when that church was rebuilt 1797, in the account of which by Mr. Wilkinson, this is called a monumental painting. More instances may be found in Strype. This royal virgin was thus perpetuated by her subjects, as Charles I. was in the following century., with ye frame of it, 81.

1642. Commences with a still further change of religion and opinions; and thus we find them selling ye popish altar cloth for 1l. 8s.; and superstitious brasses taken off the grave-stones for 9s. 6d. The cross on the steeple gave offence, and the lead was torn from it and sold for 13s. 2d.

A merry peal was rung and the ringers were paid 2s. 6d. when the bishops were voted downe by parliament.

They had pieces of brass ordinance, as they are termed, appointed to stand near the church, and Is. 6d. was paid to the porters for removing them.

The garrison's head-quarters were kept in this parish, though where is not mentioned: 7s. was paid for a lanthorne and for candles for maintaining a light in it, in darke nights, in the troublesome times, to hang before it.

The cross on the top of the steeple was next taken down, for which they paid 18s. and a workman 1s. 6d., for defacing superstitious things in the church.

1643. The total amount of the poor's rates was 24l. 11s. 10d.

1655. Received a fine for swearing, 1l. 8s.

Received a fine for drawing ale, at 2d. per quart, 13s. 4d.

We have now arrived at the period when the church of St. Benedict (so often adorned, and so often stripped of its decorations,) yielded to the purifying flames a helpless victim; and thus terminated, I hope for ever, the animosities which had reigned in it, with respect to forms of worship.

The old iron and lead cleared from the ruins of ( tons of the latter) sold for ; and the old bell metal for

The church plate and books were removed from place to place, as each were rendered dangerous by the approach of the dreadful element, and cost

. The steeple was standing, but was paid to prevent people from passing under it.

It was at this time that the parish was united to that of St. Leonard, .



Mr. Malcolm says he found but very few particulars relating to the rebuilding of St. Benet's church; or what sum itcost, or how raised, from the church books. It was completed in the year , when

this parish's part towards the altar-piece and rails round the font

was paid, being

The report of us of y vestry of St. Bennett, Gracechurch, in p'suance to a receipt from ye committee, dated Dec. 24, 1670. The parish of St. Benedict, Gracechurch, is in ye gift of ye dean and chapter of St. Paul's. John Cliffe psent incumbent. Our constant tithes, legally due before the fire, was about 56 or 58l. per ann., and a house to dwell in. Perquisites and casualtys were estimated at 10l. per annum. Besides the love of ye parrish, which hath been of considerabel valew to ye minister, if he be an able man.

Our present incumbent being a bachelor, hath a curate's place in the country, wee know nott of wt vallew.

Our neighbour parrish of St. Leonard, Eastcheap, is now by act of parlt joined to us of Gracechurch, soe yt together they make upp a very considerable annual revenew, as will appear by comparing the report of theirs with ours.

. They paid for the great bell; for the small . for the clock and for the dial .

On the east side of Fish-street Hill, near the corner of Little is the church-yard of St. Leonard, the church of which was destroyed by the great fire in .

This parish is a rectory, and of the peculiars in this city belonging to the archbishop of Canterbury, the patronage of which formerly belonged to the prior and convent of Canterbury, but at present is in the dean and chapter of that see. It appears to have been of ancient foundation, and derived its name from St. Leonard, a French saint, the additional epithet serving to distinguish it from another church in this city dedicated to the same saint.

The oldest parish books extant are dated . The vicinity of the vestry-room to the spot where the dreadful calamity of had its origin, was probably the cause of the loss of the more ancient ones.

In an

Account was taken what is upon the stone in the roome yt was the vestry ffor the parishe of St. Leonard,


, before the ffier of London

See Gent's. Mag. vol. lxxi. p. 1175.


Time out of minde this Vestry I stoode, till crooked with adge my strength I lost, And in Novr. with full consent was built anew at ye parrish cost. When Queen Elizh raigned had to England's peace 26 yeare. John Heard person at that time, Richard Pountes and Hary Baker church-wardens wère,

Anno Dom'i 1584.R. P.

The vestry-room was rebuilt, 1693, and in a very short time after converted into a shop. The rent was 40s. per year, which has since been increased to 5l. Mr. Malcolm says the stone is still in being in the cellar. The toft, or plat of ground, on which Sir Thomas Player's house stood (before the fire) on Fish street hill, was let to him April 24, 1668, for a term of 90 years, on paying a fine of 50l. and 6l. per annum.

On the east side of Fish Street Hill, is


[] Malcolm. vol. i. p. 318.

[] In the Gent.«s Mag. vol. xxvi. p. 602, the church is said to have cost 3583l.

[] Malcolm, vol. i. p. 319.

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 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