St Bride - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Bride

• St Bride's Church has been nicknamed the wedding cake church and is a distinctive sight on London's skyline being clearly visible from a number of locations. Standing 69 metres high, it is the 2nd tallest of all Wren's churches, with only St Paul’s itself having a higher pinnacle. It was designed by Wren in 1672 although the original building was gutted during the Blitz in 1940. Due to its location in Fleet Street it has a long association with journalists and newspapers.

• St. Bride's may be one of the most ancient churches in London, with worship perhaps dating back to the 7th century. The present St Bride's is at least the seventh church to have stood on the site. Traditionally it was founded by St Bridget in the sixth century, it has been conjectured that it may have been founded by missionary Celtic monks. Whether or not St Bridget founded it personally, the remnants of the first church appear to have significant similarities to a church of the same date in Kildare Ireland.

• The Norman church, built in the 11th century, was of both religious and secular significance; in 1210 King John held a parliament there, this was replaced by a larger church in the 15th century. St Bride's association with the newspaper business began in 1500 when Wyken de Worde set up a printing press next door. Until 1695 London was the only city in Britain where printing was permitted by law.

• In the mid-seventeenth century disaster struck. In 1665 during the Great Plague 238 parishioners died in a single week and in 1666, the following year, the church was completely destroyed during the Great Fire, which burned much of the city. After the fire, the old church was replaced by an entirely new building, one of Wren’s largest and most expensive works, taking seven years to build. The famous spire was added later, in 1701-1703. It originally measured 234 feet but lost its upper eight feet to a lightning strike in 1764; this was then bought by the then owner of Park Place, Berkshire, where it is still in situ. The design utilises four octagonal stages of diminishing height capped with an obelisk which terminates in a ball and vane.

• The church was gutted by fire-bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz, on the night of 29 December 1940, dubbed the "Second Great Fire of London" due to the enormous amount of damage caused. Some 1500 fires were started, including three major conflagrations; consequently causing a firestorm. After the war St Brides was rebuilt at the expense of newspaper proprietors and journalists.

• One fortunate and unintended consequence of the bombing was the excavation of the church's original sixth-century Saxon foundations. Today the crypt, known as the Museum of Fleet Street, is open to the public and contains a number of ancient relics including Roman coins and medieval stained glass. Post-war excavations also uncovered nearly 230 lead coffins with plaques dating from the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, filled with the bones of parishioners; causes of death for most of them was found by the Museum of London.

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

• In March 2012 ‘The Inspire’ appeal was launched to raise the at least £2.5m needed to repair the crumbling stonework of the church's famous spire. • St Bride's has had a number of notable parishioners, including John Milton, John Dryden and the diarist Samuel Pepys, who was baptized in the church.

Link: www.stbrides.com


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