St Benet Fink

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• St. Benet Fink was located on what is now Threadneedle Street. Recorded since the 13th century, the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren and finally demolished between 1841 and 1846.

• ‘St. Benet’ is short for ‘St. Benedict’. There were four churches with this dedication in London before the Great Fire of 1666. The earliest surviving reference to the church is in a document of 1216, although the discovery of a 10th century wheel-headed cross in its former churchyard suggests a Saxon foundation. In the case of St. Benet, it is certain that the Benedict referred to the 7th century Anglo-Saxon founder of Jarrow Priory. ‘Fink’ is derived from Robert Fink, or Finch, a 13th century benefactor who paid to have the church rebuilt. Finch Lane off Threadneedle Street was named after the same family, originally being named as “Fink” or “Finck” Lane.

• St. Benet Fink was one of 89 churches destroyed in the Great Fire. Rebuilding began comparatively quickly, in 1670, thanks partly to a donation of £1000 by George Holman, a Roman Catholic. In gratitude, he was given two pews and a place in the vault. Building of the church and steeple was completed in 1675.

• The parish registers record the death of the church warden, Thomas Sharrow, in 1673, from falling in a vault in Paternoster Row and lying there undiscovered for 11 days. The register entry includes the admonition “Let all who read this take heed of drink.”

• In 1838, the Royal Exchange, which had also been rebuilt after the Great Fire, burnt down. In order to improve the site of the Exchange, the Corporation of London petitioned Parliament for permission to demolish the tower of St. Benet Fink and appropriate its churchyard, as well as demolish the nearby St. Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange. More than twenty City churches were to be demolished over the next century but in 1840 the demolition was enough of a novelty to elicit protests from John Carlos, editor of The Gentlemen’s Magazine and the parish. The Bishop of London, however, supported the Corporation as there were many other churches in the immediate neighbourhood.

• The first stage of demolition was carried out in 1842. A new entrance was made in the west wall of the truncated church. This proved unsatisfactory, and the Corporation petitioned Parliament for another Act to demolish the rest of the church. This was granted and the church was knocked down in 1846.

• The parish was combined with that of St Peter le Poer and the paintings of Moses and Aaron that formed part of the altarpiece are now in the chapel of Emanuel School, Battersea. • Today, the site is occupied by No.1 Threadneedle Street, an 8 story office block completed in 1991. • The pre-Fire church was rectangular. After the Fire, the City appropriated the northwest corner of the church for widening Threadneedle Street. This left an irregular site on which to build, which Wren dealt with by rebuilding St. Benet’s to a decagonal plan. On top of the decagon sat an oval dome with a lantern, supported from within by six arches. The church had two aisles being spanned by entablatures supporting barrel vaults. The tower was attached to the west end of the decagonal body of the church. It had a square dome surmounted by a bell cage, and, uniquely for a Wren church, a ball and cross, instead of a vane. The tower, including the steeple, was 110 ft. high.

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