Lone City Church Towers: The Churches With No Bodies
Wandering around the City of London you’ll see plenty of churches. But recently my eye has been drawn to the lone City church towers, standing proud and seemingly defying physics!
Before we crack on, I couldn’t resist a terrible joke;
Why couldn’t these City churches go to the architectural disco? They had no body to go with…
I’ll get my coat.
St Alban, Wood Street
One of Christopher Wren’s Gothic towers, the former St Alban Wood Street is the iconic lone tower surrounded by post-modern architecture.
First mentioned in the 11th century, destroyed in the Great Fire only to be rebuilt and destroyed in The Blitz, the tower was converted into a private residence in the 1980s. Although I couldn’t find much information about when it was sold, the door contains two buzzers so perhaps it’s been split into two flats?
All Hallows Staining
A squat little tower, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness for All Hallows Staining by Fenchurch Street Station.
Dating from the 15th century, the tower was kept when the rest was demolished in 1870 and we have the Clothworkers Company to thank for saving it.
They got involved because at the base of the tower is a 12th century crypt for a 16th century chapel, established by William Lambe (1495-1580), a former master of the Clothworkers.
St Alphage, London Wall
Originally wedged into the Roman City Wall, the ruins of St Alphage London Wall mostly date from the 14th century.
Founded in the 1100s the church was closed by Act of Parliament in the late 1500s, renovated in the 1770s, partly demolished in 1923 and finally decimated in the Blitz.
Now it’s having a bit of love and attention with the new layout and public garden. You can read more about it here.
St Augustine Watling Street
You may try to avoid standing next to the supermodel in the family photo, but St Augustine finds itself literally in the shadow of St Paul’s dome.
The early name also hints at their proximity; St Augustine with St Faith referring to St Faith’s chapel in the crypt of St Paul’s. Wren intended the steeple to act as a counterpoint to the great dome and today the steeple is a fibreglass 1960s restoration fo the original destroyed in the Blitz.
Today it’s part of the Cathedral Choir School and you can see the 1960s school building clinging to the left hand side of the tower.
Christ Church Greyfriars
Right in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral is another Wren church that wasn’t so lucky during the Blitz.
Christchurch Greyfriars was rebuilt 1677-1691 after the Great Fire on the site of the Franciscan monastery here (they wore grey cloaks, hence the name).
After the interior was destroyed in The Second world War the steeple was restored in 1960 and then converted into a private residence in 2006; the 11-story Grade I Listed tower has 3 bedrooms and a spiral staircase.
In case you were put off by the thought of all those stairs, it also has a lift, the Telegraph reported that it had to be the “”tiniest in the world” and was imported from Spain. Apparently it can hold a maximum of two people in an intimate embrace!
Kate Renwick, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker, restored the tower and put the property on the market in 2007 for a cool £4million because “she has found another wren tower in need of restoration”. We’ll see that church later…
A 17th century church by Wren named after a 10th century Archbishop of Canterbury, St Dunstan-in-the-East was neglected in the post-WWII rebuild programme. However this turned out to be one of the best decisions ever.
The ruins were transformed into one of London’s most atmospheric green spaces, now on every single “London hidden gems” list going!
Red more and admire more pictures here.
St Martin Orgar
The newest of our City church towers, this red brick tower was built in 1851-3 by John Davies. The former church was far older; the name coming from an 11th century Deacon called Ordgarus who owned the church.
Partly destroyed in the Great Fire, its parish was combined with St Clement Eastcheap but it continued to act as a church for the French Huguenot community until it was demolished in the 1820s.
Built as a rectory for St Clement Eastcheap, it has a nice little garden right beside it that has been landscaped to within an inch of its life. It also boasts a bizarre sculpture of a particularly hench Jesus.
St. Mary Aldermanbury
I almost didn’t include St Mary Aldermanbury on this list. To be fair, it’s more a garden with rubble than a ruin, but it does have an interesting history.
Founded in the 12th century, it was destroyed in the Great Fire and then rebuilt by Wren in the 1670s only to be gutted by the Blitz. With only the walls surviving an unlikely saviour appeared; The President of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, offered to buy the church and relocate it to America.
This might seem a bit random but Westminster College had been planning a memorial to Winston Churchill because he had made a famous Cold War speech in their college in 1946;
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent”
So resurrecting a church damaged in the war where he was seen to have acted as a great leader seemed a good way to immortalise him. The church was completed in 1967, only after 7,000 stones were labelled and shipped over to the US. Today a memorial plaque today shows us what the church looks like all the way across the Atlantic!
St Mary Somerset
Nothing to do with Southern English County, the name may come from the local wharf; ‘Summer’s Hythe’.
Built in 1685-94 it was one of Wren’s last City churches. Although the building was demolished in 1871, the tower was thankfully saved and has since been restored by Kate Renwick who we met at Christchurch Greyfriars.
St. Olave Jewry
Another Christopher Wren church demolished in the 19th century, this tower has been converted into a law firm’s office.
The churchyard has been kept and is open to the public during the week and thankfully the important interior furnishings were saved and can now be found inside St Margaret Lothbury nearby.
Find London’s City Church Towers
Click on the map to find the locations of all the church towers and gardens listed above.