St Benet Paul's Wharf - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Benet Paul's Wharf

• St Benet Paul's Wharf is the Welsh church of the City of London. Since 1555, it has also been the church of the College of Arms, and many officers are buried there. The current church was designed by Wren.

• A Church has stood on this site since the year 1111, dedicated to St Benedict. Paul's Wharf was recently excavated to reveal its Roman foundations and was then much closer to the riverside. A little to the west stood the Watergate of Baynard’s Castle, frequently mentioned in church records and part of the sad story of both Queen Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey. Both church and castle were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

• The present church by Wren was built by his master mason Thomas Strong between 1677 and 1683. It is a particularly valuable example of Wren's work, for it is one of only four churches in the city of London that escaped damage in during World War II, and remains basically as Wren built it. It resembles a Dutch country church and it is built of red and blue bricks with carved stone garlands over the windows. It also has a hipped roof on the north side. The Tower, built on the site of the original, contains the base of the old Tower to a height above ground of some twelve feet, but encased by new brick and stone. It is surmounted by a dome and cupola, topped by a ball and weathervane, and rises to a height of 115 feet to produce an elegant and attractive edifice.

• The interior of the church is practically square and it still retains its galleries. The reredos, altar and pulpit are by Grinling Gibbons. The attractive marble font and its carved wood cover are all part of the original furniture of the church. The magnificent carved door case is unique with the Stuart coat of arms given by Charles II above it. St Benet has been the Church of the College of Arms since 1555, when Phillip and Mary gave Derby House, standing at the northeast corner of the churchyard, to the officers of arms. Since that time they have had their own seats in the church.

• In 1652 Inigo Jones was buried in St Benet, with his father and mother. A copy of the inscription on the original memorial, which perished in the Great Fire, has been placed above the site of the original vault.

• The church was narrowly saved from destruction in the late 19th century, when its parish was merged with that of St Nicholas Cole Abbey. After an energetic campaign by its supporters, it was preserved and reconsecrated as the London Church of the Welsh Episcopalians. Being the City's Welsh church, services are conducted in the language of that country.

• The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950. The flags hanging in the church bear the personal arms of the thirteen members of the College of Arms with the Duke of Norfolk's Banner completing the set. On the east wall there is a seventeenth century carved and painted Coat of Arms of the College, while on the north wall can be seen the Garter Board, which bears the personal arms, of each Garter Principle King of Arms since the inception of the office in 1398.


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