While Sir Christopher Wren is credited with rebuilding almost all of the City’s churches after the Great Fire, it is worth tracking down St Mary Woolnoth, built by Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1716 after Wren’s repaired church had to be demolished. To find out when churches are open, or to help by being a Church Watcher, see www.london-city-churches.org.uk/

Any comments - or a suggestion for a London secret? Please e-mail me.

City Churches 1 2

St Olaf

The skull & bones on the gateway here prompted Dickens to call it ‘St Ghastly Grim’. Samuel Pepys helped save the church from the Great Fire of 1666 and he and his wife are buried inside. The lectern is a masterpiece by Grinling Gibbons. Bombed in WWII, the bells were recast at Whitechapel Foundry.

8 Hart Street EC3
Tube: Tower Hill

St Margaret Lothbury

Destroyed in the Great Fire, this Wren church was finished in 1690. Some exceptional wood carving includes the altarpiece and pulpit, while the font may be by Grinling Gibbons. The organ of 1801, said to be the finest example of English organ building, is still in its original casing.

Lothbury EC2
Tube: Bank

St Bartholomew the Great

Reputedly haunted, London’s oldest parish church - and the most complete Norman one - dates back to 1123. The medieval baptismal font is unique and the Tudor details are familiar from several films. This is where Hugh Grant left his bride at the altar in ‘Four Weddings...’

Little Britain EC1
Tube: Barbican/Farringdon

St Bartholomew the Less

The official church of St Bart’s Hospital was rebuilt in 1825 and restored after WWII bombing but the tower and two of its bells date to the C15th. The hospital is unique in being a parish in its own right; the patients and staff are the parishioners, with attendance every Sunday once compulsory.

Giltspur Street EC3
Tube: Barbican

St Mary Aldermary

The oldest City churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary was finished in 1629. It survived the Great Fire lightly damaged, so its high Gothic interior is unique among Wren churches. The pulpit and font date to the 1680s and the reredos of 1914 behind the altar is also noteworthy.

Watling Street EC4
Tube: Mansion House

St Michael Cornhill

Standing over the remains of the Roman Basilica of the first century AD this is the oldest site of Christian worship in London. Rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672, it was remodelled by George Gilbert Scott in Victorian style 1860. Note the wood carving by William Gibb Rogers.

St Michael's Alley, Cornhill EC3
Tube: Monument

St Mary Woolnoth

Built in 1727 by Wren’s pupil Nicholas Hawksmoor, a twin-towered exterior hides a sumptuous, bright interior. This is Hawksmoor’s only church within the City and in 1900 Bank station was built underneath it, a considerable engineering feat. TS Eliot mentions the church in his poem The Waste Land.

Lombard Street EC3
Tube: Bank

St Botolph-Without-Bishopsgate

A church has stood on this site since at least 1212. The present one dates to 1725 and the font, pulpit and organ are all 18th century. It was badly damaged by IRA bombings in the 1990s. The memorial cross of 1916 in the garden is the first of WWI.

Bishopsgate EC2
Tube: Liverpool Street

St Andrew Holborn

Roman remains found in the crypt show a church may have stood here for 2,000 years. The present one was restored in 1961 after WWII bombing to the Wren design of the 1670s after the Great Fire. The church makes an appearance in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist.

5 St Andrew Street EC4
Tube: Chancery Lane/Blackfriars

St Vedast Foster

The beautiful quiet courtyard here is worth a visit on its own. The church was rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire but fire-bombed in WWII, then rebuilt to the same design with treasures salvaged from other Wren churches. The lovely Baroque spire of 1712 is said to be by Hawksmoor.

Foster Lane EC2
Tube: St Paul’s