07 September 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
101, Saint Edmund the King

Saint Edmund, King and Martyr … the last remaining church in Lombard Street, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am back in Crete, having arrived on a flight from Dublin to Chania last night, and I am staying for the next 11 or 12 days in La Stella Hotel between Platanias and Tsesmes, two suburban villages on the eastern edges of Rethymnon.

Before the day begins, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme for the coming weeks is Wren churches in London, and my photographs this morning (7 September 2021) are from the Church of Saint Edmund, King and Martyr, on Lombard Street.

Inside Saint Edmund King and Martyr (Photograph: John Salmon/Georgaph/CCL)

The Church of Saint Edmund, King and Martyr, is the last remaining church in Lombard Street in the City of London.

This church, dedicated to Saint Edmund the Martyr, was once a parish church, but it is no longer is used for regular worship. It is now home to the London Centre for Spiritual Direction and the Centre for Church Planting and Church Growth.

The church is commonly known as Saint Edmund the King, and also houses the offices of the Bishop of Islington, Bishop Ric Thorpe.

Until the 1980s, most London-based banks had their head offices on Lombard Street and in the past this street was the London home for money lenders. Lombard Street, a narrow but still busy street, takes its name from the Lombardy or Italian merchants who settled in the area during the 12th century. From 1691 until 1984, Lloyd’s Coffeehouse, which eventually became Lloyd’s of London, was based nearby.

The church is dedicated to the King of East Anglia who was martyred by the Danes in 870. The first church on this site is recorded in 1292, when it is named as ‘Saint Edmund towards Garcherche’ or Grasschurch, after the hay market that gave its name to Grasschurch Street.

The church is named again half a century later as ‘Saint Edmund in Lombardestrete’ in 1348. In his Survey of London (1598), John Stow refers to it also as Saint Edmund Grass Church.

The mediaeval church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. After the fire the parish was united with the parish of Saint Nicholas Acons, where the church was also destroyed in the fire but not rebuilt.

The present church was built to designs by Sir Christopher Wren in 1670-1674. A new tower, designed in 1707 by Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736), is ornamented at the angles by flaming urns in allusion to the Great Fire.

George Godwin described the tower as ‘more Chinese than Italian,’ while James Peller Malcolm called it ‘rather handsome, but of that species of architecture which is difficult to describe so as to be understood.’

The liturgical orientation of the church is north-south instead of the normal east-west orientation.

The essayist Joseph Addison (1672-1719),author of the hymn ‘When all thy mercies, O my God’ and the son of a Dean of Lichfield, was married in this church in 1716.

A riot took outside the church in September 1868 followed a Friday morning sermon by the Revd Joseph Leycester Lyne (1837-1908), who strongly criticised the traders of Lombard Street.

Lynne, known as Father Ignatius of Jesus, was an eccentric Anglican Benedictine monk and a friend of Edward Bouverie Pusey. He had once been curate of Saint George in the East and at Saint Saviour’s mission church, and from 1866 to 1868 he preached regularly at Saint Bartholomew’s Moor Lane Church and other London churches. But, although he was ordained deacon, he was never ordained priest, and his increasingly erratic extremism and eccentricities led to his ridicule and isolation.

Saint Edmund the King was restored in 1864 and 1880, and the interior was rearranged by the architect William Butterfield (1814-1900).

The church was damaged by bombing in 1917. After World War I, ‘Woodbine Willie’, the Revd Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929), was given charge of Saint Edmund, King and Martyr. He moved to work for the Industrial Christian Fellowship and died of exhaustion in Liverpool in 1929 at the age of 45.

The church and parish now form part of the combined parish of Saint Edmund the King and Martyr, and Saint Mary Woolnoth, Lombard Street, with Saint Nicholas Acons, All Hallows’ Lombard Street, Saint Benet Gracechurch, Saint Leonard Eastcheap, Saint Dionis Backchurch and Saint Mary Woolchurch Haw. This lengthy title is usually shortened to Saint Edmund and Saint Mary Woolnoth – the names of the only two surviving churches in the parish.

The church is in the Ward of Langbourn, and has a ward noticeboard outside.

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.

The projecting clock, hanging from the church wall above Lombard Street, dates from around 1810. There is a face on each side so that the time can be seen both sides of the church along Lombard Street. The clock has a black face with the hours and minutes painted in gold. The hours are in traditional Roman numerals. The hands are also painted gold as is the bezel. A crown sits on top of the clock.

‘Woodbine Willie’, the Revd Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy (1883-1929), was priest-in-charge of Saint Edmund after World War I

Luke 6: 12-19 (NRSVA):

12 Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (7 September 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for refugees coming to Malawi from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. May they be welcomed into the country and provided with food and shelter.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Church of Saint Mary Woolnoth … part of the same parish as Saint Edmund the King (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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