St Mary Magdelen Old Fish Street - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Mary Magdelen Old Fish Street

• St. Mary Magdalen Old Fish Street was a church in Castle Baynard Ward located on the corner of Old Fish Street and Old Change, near the City’s oldest retail fish market. Recorded since the 12th century, the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and then rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren.

• St. Mary Magdalen Old Fish Street was one of the 2 churches in the post-Fire City of London, dedicated to Mary Magdalen, rather than the Virgin Mary. Old Fish Street formerly ran from the Thames towards St. Paul’s Cathedral and was incorporated into Knightrider Street in 1872. The earliest surviving reference to the church is in a document of 1181, as ‘St Mary Magdalen’. Other medieval records refer to the church as ‘St. Marie Magdal in Piscaria apud sanctum Paulum’, ‘St. Marie Magdal parish at the Fishmarket’, ‘St. Marie Magdalen Eldefisshestrete’ and ‘St. Mary Magdalen at Lamberdyshel’.

• On Easter Day, 1653, John Evelyn recorded in his Diary that he and his family received Holy Communion at St. Mary Magdalen’s. This was during the Protectorate when Anglican services were banned. • After the Fire in 1666 building of the new church began in 1683, with new foundations for the north wall and tower, but incorporating some of the old walls elsewhere. The work was completed in 1687

• On the morning of Thursday, 2 December 1886, a fire broke out in a warehouse in Knightrider Street and spread to the church’s roof, causing substantial damage. Although the church was insured and repairable, the event took place during a period in which several undamaged churches in the City of London were being demolished under the Union of Benefices Act 1860. The opportunity was taken to pull down St. Mary Magdalene and combine the parish with that of St Martin Ludgate, which received some of the furnishings from the demolished church including the bread shelves

• The site previously occupied by St. Mary Magdalene’s was built over after the Second World War and is now covered by Old Change Square.

• The plan for St. Mary Magdalen was roughly rectangular, with the north wall tapering slightly towards the east. The two street frontages – to the east on Old Fish Street and to the south on Old Change – were faced with Portland stone. Underneath, the material was stone rubble. Entry to the church was through a door under the western window on the south front. The roof was balustraded. The tower was erected next to the north western wall of the church and stood 86 ft. high. This had a stone spire, consisting of an octagonal pyramid of five steps on which sat an open octagonal lantern from which emerged a concave steeple. The finial was in the form an urn, in allusion to St. Mary Magdalene’s pot of balm. The inspiration for the spire’s design was the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus .

• The organ by Samuel Green was installed in 1786. It was rebuilt in 1857 by Gray and Davison.


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