St Mary Abchurch - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Mary Abchurch

• The church was first mentioned in the twelfth century. The name “Abchurch” has been suggested as referring to “Up Church” as standing proud above the river, or being derived from a benefactor named Abba or Abbo. The patronage anciently belonged to the Prior and Convent of St Mary Overy, Southwark, but was transferred at the Reformation to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. After the Great Fire, the parish was joined with the adjoining parish of St Lawrence Poultney.

• The church was rebuilt, probably to a design of Robert Hook, in 1686, at a cost of just under £5,000. The church is almost square, measuring 63 feet by 60 feet; the tower rises to a height of 140 feet. Much damage was done in September 1940 when the dome was virtually destroyed by a German bomb. The restoration was carried out by Godfrey Allen.

• The dome springs from four plain brick walls and has no external thrusts and measures over forty feet across. It was not painted until 1708 when the whole church underwent repair and beautification. William Snow painted the dome's interior depicting worship in heaven, William Grey made the pulpit, and the door cases, a font cover, rails and Royal Arms are by William Emmett. The altar-piece is by Grinling Gibbons, whose original bill for what he called the 'Olter Pees' was discovered as recently as 1946 in the Guildhall Library.

• The gilded 'Pelican in her piety' makes its appearance both on the reredos and in the original copper weathervane made by Robert Bird, which was relocated to sit over the north door after being removed from the spire for health and safety reasons. Also to be seen inside are the original high box pews on three sides of the church.

• The church was without an organ until 1822, when public subscription allowed one to be built by J. C. Bishop. This however sustained serious bomb damage and a new organ was manufactured by N. P. Mander in the 1950s, using the 1717 organ casing once belonging to All Hallows Bread Street.


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