St Matthew Friday Street - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Matthew Friday Street

• St. Matthew Friday Street was located on Friday Street, off Cheapside. Recorded since the 13th century, the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and then rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren. The rebuilt church was demolished in 1885.

• St. Matthew was the only church in the City of London dedicated to the apostle and patron saint of accountants. Friday Street was so named, according to John Stow, after the fishmongers living there, although none are recorded in the parish records. Cheapside was the principal market street of medieval London (“cheap” meaning market) and many of the lesser streets running off were called after the commodity sold there, such as Milk Street, Bread Street and Wood Street. It is more likely, therefore, that Friday Street was called from fishmongers vending, rather than living there.

• The earliest surviving reference to the church is in a document from the reign of Henry III, as “St Matthew in Fridaistret”. A document from 1381-2 refers to the church as “St. Matthew in Chepe”.

• St. Matthew’s ties with the Dissenters survived the Restoration. By the Act of Uniformity 1662, the Book of Common Prayer was made compulsory in all churches. In his diary entry on the day the Act came into effect - Sunday, August 24, 1662 - Samuel Pepys recorded a visit to his uncle’s house for dinner, and recounted: Among other things they tell me that there hath been a disturbance in a church in Friday Street; a great many young people knotting together and crying out "Porridge" often and seditiously in the church, and took the Common Prayer Book, they say, away; and, some say, did tear it; but it is a thing which appears to me very ominous. I pray God avert it. “Porridge” was a Puritan term for the Book of Common Prayer.

• Four years’ later, St. Matthew’s, along with 88 other churches, was destroyed in the Great Fire. The parish was combined with that of nearby St Peter, Westcheap, which was not rebuilt, but whose churchyard still survives today as a park off Cheapside. The Commissioners responsible for rebuilding the churches after the Fire contemplated moving the church to a more convenient location. This did not happen. Instead, the site of the church was augmented by a piece of parish land. Building commenced in 1682 and the church was complete by 1685. In addition to this amount, the combined parishes paid Wren a gratuity of £3 8s. St. Matthew Friday Street was the smallest and cheapest of the Wren churches.

• Due to the move of population from the City to the suburbs in the second half of the nineteenth century, the church became redundant and was demolished in 1885 under the Union of Benefices Act 1860. The parish was joined to St Vedast alias Foster.

• The reredos, by Edward Pearce, was acquired by the London decorating firm of White, Allom & Company, who suggested to Margaret Greville (the Honorable Mrs. Ronald Greville) (1863–1942), a noted society hostess, that it should be rebuilt in the hall at Polesden Lacey, her house at Great Bookham, near Dorking in Surrey - where it can be seen today. It has a segmental pediment on two Corinthian columns, framing two round-headed panels, which originally framed the Ten Commandments

• The section of Friday Street on which the church formerly stood was destroyed during the Second World War. The street was built over by the New Change Buildings in the 1950s, the site of St. Matthew’s being in the courtyard.

• The plan for the church was an irregular rectangle. The walls were built of rubble. The east wall – the only one visible, on Friday Street – was faced with stone. • Entrance to the St. Matthew’s was via alleyways to the north and south. The tower, in the south west corner, was the plainest of any Wren church. It was plain brick and hung one bell. The tower was not visible from the street.

• St. Matthew’s communion table is now in St. Vedast-alias-Foster, while the font and pulpit are in St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe. • A new organ was built in 1762 by George Pike England.


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