12 May 2017
the last of Wren’s city churches
During my strolls through London earlier this week [11 May 2017], between Liverpool Street Station and the USPG offices in Southwark, one of the former Wren churches I visited was Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe on Queen Victoria Street, two blocks south of Saint Paul’s Cathedral and close to Blackfriars station.
Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe is the last of Wren’s city churches. It was first mentioned around 1170, so it must have been founded considerably earlier. In the 13th century, the church was a part of Baynard’s Castle, an ancient royal residence.
The advowson of Saint Andrew’s was anciently held by the FitzWalter family, probably because Robert Fitzwalter, who died in 1235, was the Constable of Baynard’s Castle.
In 1361, King Edward III moved the Royal Wardrobe, which was used to store royal belongings, including arms, clothing and other personal items, from the Tower of London to a building just north of the church. This association gave the church its unique name.
In 1417, the advowson was held by Thomas de Berkeley, Lord Berkeley. His family townhouse, Berkeley’s Inn, stood nearby at the south end of Adle Street.
William Shakespeare was a member of the parish for about 15 years while he was working at the Blackfriars Theatre nearby. Later he bought a house in the parish, in Ireland Yard.
Saint Andrew’s has a memorial to Shakespeare in the west gallery, carved in oak and limewood. There is also a matching memorial to one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, the famous lutenist, singer and composer John Dowland (1562-1626) who was buried in the churchyard of Saint Ann’s, Blackfriars. Saint Ann’s was not rebuilt after the Great Fire and its parish was afterwards merged with Saint Andrew’s.
In a rather fanciful scene, Shakespeare and Dowland are shown kneeling on a stage while cherubs hold back the final curtain. Under the window between the pair is the following inscription:
If music and sweet poetry agree,
As they must needs, the sister and the brother …
Dowland to thee is dear, whose heavenly touch
Upon the lute doth ravish human sense…
Although these lines may be appropriate in Dowland’s case, they have only a slim link with William Shakespeare. Although they come from The Passionate Pilgrim, a collection of verse published in 1599 with Shakespeare’s name on the title page, this poem was written by Richard Barnfield.
Both the church and the former royal wardrobe were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and, the location of the king’s store room is now only remembered in Wardrobe Place.
After the Great Fire, Sir Christopher Wren restored 51 churches in the city. Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, which is among the simplest of his designs, was rebuilt in 1695.
In the following century, the hymnwriter John Newton, author of Amazing Grace, had close links with Saint Andrew by the Wardrobe and its rector, William Romaine.
Changes in parochial boundaries in the 19th century also had an impact on the parish boundaries of Saint Andrew’s. In 1542, the Mercers’ Company bought from Henry VIII the property of the Hospital of Saint Thomas of Acon which included the advowson of St Mary Colechurch at the corner of Cheapside and Old Jewry. The Great Fire destroyed this church and the benefice was united with Saint Mildred Poultry.
In 1871, Saint Mildred’s was pulled down and an exchange of rights was made between the Company and the Crown which gave the Company a share in the presentation of Saint Andrew by the Wardrobe. Under a Deed signed in 1984 the Company became the joint Patrons with the Parochial Church Council of Saint Andrew’s.
The church was again destroyed by German bombs during the London blitz in World War II, and only the tower and the walls survived.
The church, which was designated a Grade I listed building in 1950, was rebuilt and rededicated in 1961.
The plain design of Wren’s last city church attracts very little attention, despite its simple grace. With its rectangular body and unembellished tower, Saint Andrew’s presents a no-nonsense image to the outside world. Its warmth is all on the inside, where a wealth of woodwork carved in traditional style adds a wonderfully restful feel.
Saint Andrew’s stands on a terrace overlooking Queen Victoria Street, its plain red-brick exterior contrasting with the stone buildings on either side. It is a complete reconstruction nestling within Wren’s walls.
The details, including the 17th century emblems on the ceiling, have been reproduced with particular care, so that it is difficult to tell that the church was out of use until 1961.
Inside, the church is aisled, with arcaded bays supported by piers rather than columns. The original interior fittings were mostly destroyed during World War II, and many of the church’s features came from other lost London churches.
The pulpit in Saint Andrew’s came from Saint Matthew’s, Friday Street, and the font and cover from All Hallows’ Church, Bread Street. The royal arms, of the House of Stuart came from Saint Olave Old Jewry, which was demolished in 1887. The weathervane on the steeple comes from Saint Michael Bassishaw, which was demolished in 1900.
A figure of Saint Andrew, dated around 1600, stands on the north side of the sanctuary. An unusual statue of Saint Anne, holding the Virgin Mary, who in turn holds the Christ Child, is probably north Italian and dates from around 1500.
The Revd Guy Treweek was priest-in-charge in 2011-2015. His wife, Rachel Treweek, is the first woman to become a diocesan bishop in the Church of England.
The present priest-in-charge, the Ven Luke Miller, is the Archdeacon of London, and a former Archdeacon of Hampstead. Archdeacon Miller studied history at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and theology at Saint Stephen’s House, Oxford. He is a member of the Society of the Holy Cross. His wife, the Revd Jacqueline Ann Miller, is a teacher and a deacon.
For many years Oswald Clark, a former Chairman of the House of Laity of the General Synod in the Church of England, was parish clerk and a churchwarden here. He died recently in his 100th year.
A number of City Livery Companies have links with Saint Andrew by the Wardrobe and some of their banners are in the church, including the Mercers, Apothecaries, Parish Clerks and Blacksmiths. Saint Andrew’s has been designated as the Ward Church of the Castle Baynard Ward.
There is a weekly celebration of the Eucharist in Saint Andrew by the Wardrobe at 12.30 pm on Thursdays. The Saint Gregorios congregation of the Indian Orthodox Church also holds regular Sunday services here. The English Chamber Choir regularly rehearses at the church and sings at special services.
The church offers this prayer for people who have no shelter on the streets of London:
God of compassion,
your love for humanity was revealed in Jesus,
whose earthly life began in the poverty of a stable
and ended in the pain and isolation of the cross:
we hold before you those who are homeless and cold
especially in this bitter weather.
Draw near and comfort them in spirit
and bless those who work to provide them
with shelter, food and friendship.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.
Next: Saint Benet Paul’s Wharf.
Postings on London City Churches:
Greyfriars Christ Church.
Saint Benet Paul’s Wharf.
Saint Lawrence Jewry.
Saint Margaret Lothbury.
Saint Mary Aldermary.
Saint Nicholas Cole Abbey.
Saint Olave Jewry (tower).
Saint Vedast Foster Lane or Saint Vedast-alias-Foster.