Friday, 12 May 2017

Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe,
the last of Wren’s city churches

Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe is the last of Wren’s city churches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

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.

The pulpit, font and cover in Saint Andrew’s came from Saint Matthew’s, Friday Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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, font and cover came from Saint Matthew’s, Friday 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 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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 Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe.

Saint Benet Paul’s Wharf.

Saint Botolph-without-Bishopsgate.

Saint George-in-the-East.

Saint Lawrence Jewry.

Saint Margaret Lothbury.

Saint Mary Aldermary.

Saint Mary-le-Bow.

Saint Nicholas Cole Abbey.

Saint Olave Jewry (tower).

Saint Vedast Foster Lane or Saint Vedast-alias-Foster.

‘An exemplary ministry of
concern for a marginalized
section of Irish society’

This photograph is published in the ‘Church of Ireland Gazette’ today [12 May 2017, p 5} as part of the extensive coverage of the General Synod of the Church of Ireland, which met in Limerick last week [4-6 May]:

Canon Patrick Comerford, during a special presentation, highlights the social cohesion work undertaken by the Rathkeale group of parishes (Editorial, page 2).

The editorial commentary in the ‘Church of Ireland Gazette’ begins:

As always, the General Synod last week was a time for the bishops, clergy and laity of the Church of Ireland to come together to deliberate for the good of the Church. The venue – the South Court Hotel in Limerick – provided suitable accommodation for the large gathering and it was surely a welcome change for all concerned to have the opportunity of visiting Limerick and of learning about the diocese, experiencing worship its cathedral and hearing about its wider ministry. The Dean of Killaloe, the Very Revd Gary Paulsen’s leading of the daily devotions in the Synod hall was much appreciated.

In connection with the diocese’s wider ministry, it was instructive for the General Synod, in an informal session, to hear a presentation from Canon Patrick Comerford and David Breen on ‘Celebrating our Communities: tension and cohesion in Rathkeale’. During the presentation, the Synod heard of a special focus of the local parish’s ministry in the ecumenical Rathkeale Pre-Social Cohesion Group’s outreach to the travelling community, which comprises at least one- third of the population of the town. It is an exemplary ministry of concern for a marginalized section of Irish society.

The ruins of Greyfriars
are all that remain of
a mediaeval friary

The tower and some walls remain on the site of Christ Church Greyfriars, near Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

During my strolls through London on Wednesday [11 May 2017], to and from Liverpool Street Station and the USPG offices in Southwark, one of the former Wren churches I visited was Christ Church Greyfriars, within walking distance of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Christ Church Greyfriars, also known as Christ Church Newgate Street, stood in Newgate Street, opposite Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The church began as the conventual church of a Franciscan friary, and the name Greyfriars refers to the grey habits worn by the Franciscan friars.

The first church on the site was built in the 13th century, but this was soon replaced by a bigger building, begun in 1306 and consecrated in 1326. This new church was the second largest in mediaeval London, measuring 91 metres (300 ft) long and 27 metres (89 ft) wide, with at least 11 altars. It was built partly at the expense of Margaret of France, the second wife of King Edward I.

Queen Margaret was buried at the church, as was Queen Isabella, the widow of Edward II who was complicit in her husband’s murder. The heart of Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III, was also buried here.

Dick Whittington, Lord Mayor of London, more often associated with Saint Mary-le-Bow and its bells, founded a library in connection with the church in 1429.

Elizabeth Barton, the ‘Holy Maid of Kent,’ was buried on the site after she was hanged at Tyburn in 1534 for preaching against Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. But her head was put on a spike on London Bridge, the only woman ever accorded that dishonour.

The Monastery of Christ Church Greyfriars was dissolved at the Reformation in 1538 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The monastery was dissolved in 1538 at the Reformation. The building and fittings suffered heavy damage in this period, when tombs disappeared and were sold for their marble and other monuments were defaced.

In 1546, Henry VIII gave the priory and its church, along with the churches of Saint Nicholas Shambles and Saint Ewin, Newgate Market, to the City Corporation.

A new parish of Christ Church was created, incorporating those of Saint Nicholas and Saint Ewin, and part of that of Saint Sepulchre. The priory buildings later housed Christ’s Hospital, a school founded by Edward VI, and the church became the principal place of worship for the schoolchildren.

In the 1640s, Christ Church was associated with the Presbyterian polemicist Thomas Edwards, and in 1647 it became a centre of operations for attempts to disband and pay arrears to members of the New Model Army.

The mediaeval church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Sir Christopher Wren, who was commissioned to rebuild the church, oversaw the programme to rebuild Saint Paul’s Cathedral and about 50 parish churches destroyed or damaged in the fire.

The parish was united with Saint Leonard, Foster Lane, which was not rebuilt. The parishioners raised £1,000 to begin work. To save time and money, the foundations of the gothic church were partially reused. The new church and tower, without steeple, were completed in 1687, at a total cost of over £11,778.

The new church was smaller than the gothic structure, and measured 35 metres (114 ft) by 25 metres (81 ft), occupying only the eastern end of the site of the mediaeval church, while the west part became the churchyard.

The tower, rising from the west end of the church, had a simple round-arched main entranceway and, above, windows decorated with neo-classical pediments.

Large carved pineapples, symbols of welcome, graced the four roof corners of the main church building. The east and west walls had buttresses that were unique for a Wren church.

Inside, the church was divided into a nave and aisles by Corinthian columns, raised on tall plinths so that their bases were level with the gallery floors. The aisles had flat ceilings, while the nave had a shallow cross-vault.

The north and south walls had large round-arched windows of clear glass, which allowed for a brightly lit interior (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The north and south walls had large round-arched windows of clear glass, which allowed for a brightly lit interior.

The east end had three-light windows, a large wooden altar screen and a carved hexagonal pulpit, reached by stairs. There was elaborate carved wainscoting. A pavement of reddish brown and grey marble to the west of the altar rails was said to date from the original gothic church.

The pews were said to have been made from the timbers of a wrecked Spanish galleon. The galleries over the north and south aisles were erected as seating for the schoolchildren from Christ’s Hospital or the ‘Bluecoat School,’ who included Samuel Coleridge and Charles Lamb.

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described the steeple of Christ Church Greyfriars as one of Wren’s finest (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The steeple, which was 49 metres (160 feet) tall, was finished in 1704 at an extra cost of more than £1,963. According to the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, the steeple is one of Wren’s finest, ‘a square version of St Mary le Bow.’ It is square in plan with three diminishing storeys. The louvred belfry section gives way to a central staged encircled by an open free-standing Ionic colonnade topped by 12 urns, and above them a delicate square spire capped with a vase.

In 1760, a vestry house was built against the south side of the fa├žade and part of the south wall.

The church was an important centre in the political and cultural life of London. The Lord Mayor attended an annual service to hear the Ancient Spital Sermon on the second Wednesday after Easter, placing his ceremonial sword in a special holder. Felix Mendelssohn played Bach’s Fugue in A minor and other works on the organ in 1837. Samuel Wesley also performed at the church.

Christ’s Hospital moved out of London to Horsham in West Sussex in 1902, reducing the Sunday attendances considerably, and the school building was sold to the GPO. In the years that followed, numbers continued to decline, and by April 1937, the figures had dropped to 77.

The church was severely damaged in the Blitz on 29 December 1940. During one of the fiercest air raids of World War II, a firebomb struck the roof and tore into the nave. Much of the surrounding neighbourhood was also set alight, and eight Wren churches burned that night alone. The roof and vaulting of Christ Church collapsed into the nave. The tower and four main walls remained standing but were smoke-scarred and gravely weakened.

The parish of the former Christ Church Greyfriars was merged with nearby Saint Sepulchre-without-Newgate in 1954 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

When the parishes in London were being reorganised in 1949, it was decided not to rebuild Christ Church. The remains of the church were designated a Grade I listed building in 1950, and in 1954, the parish of Christ Church was merged with nearby Saint Sepulchre-without-Newgate.

The steeple was dismantled in 1960 and reassembled. The surviving lower part of the south wall and the entire east wall were demolished in 1962 for the widening of King Edward Street. In 1981, neo-Georgian brick offices were built against the south-west corner of the ruins, in imitation of the 1760 vestry house that once stood there.

In 1989, the former nave area became a public garden and memorial. The paths follow the lines of the former aisles, the pergolas represent the piers, the box hedging represents the pews, and the plants represent the former congregation.

In 2002, the US investment bank Merrill Lynch completed a regional headquarters complex on land to the north and west. Along with this project, the site of Christ Church underwent a major renovation and archaeological examination, King Edward Street was returned to its former course, and the site of the church has regained its pre-war footprint.

The tower once served as commercial space, but it was converted into a private residence in 2006.

The flowers and plants in the garden represent the former congregation of Christ Church Greyfriars (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Next: Saint Andrew by the Wardrobe.

Postings on London City Churches:

Greyfriars Christ Church.

Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe.

Saint Benet Paul’s Wharf.

Saint Botolph-without-Bishopsgate.

Saint George-in-the-East.

Saint Lawrence Jewry.

Saint Margaret Lothbury.

Saint Mary Aldermary.

Saint Mary-le-Bow.

Saint Nicholas Cole Abbey.

Saint Olave Jewry (tower).

Saint Vedast Foster Lane or Saint Vedast-alias-Foster.