St Peter upon Cornhill - The Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks

St Peter upon Cornhill

• St Peter upon Cornhill is to be found on the corner of Cornhill and Gracechurch Street in the City. • Of medieval origin, it was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666 and rebuilt to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren.

• The church was used by the Royal Tank Regiment after the Second World War.

• The church stands on the highest point of the City of London.

• A tradition grew up that the church was of very ancient origin and was the seat of an archbishop until the establishment of Canterbury Cathedral at the end of the sixth century. John Stow, writing at the end of the sixteenth century, reported "there remaineth in this church a table whereon is written, I know not by what authority, but of a late hand, that King Lucius founded the same church to be an archbishop’s see metropolitan and chief church of his kingdom, and that it so endured for four hundred years". The "table" (tablet) seen by Stow was lost, probably when the medieval church was burnt in the Great Fire, but before this a number of writers had recorded what it said. The text of the original tablet as printed by John Weever in 1631 began:

• “Be hit known to al men, that the yeerys of our Lord God an clxxix [AD 179]. Lucius the fyrst christen kyng of this lond, then callyd Brytayne, fowndyd the fyrst chyrch in London, that is to sey, the Chyrch of Sent Peter apon Cornhyl, and he fowndyd ther an Archbishoppys See, and made that Chirch the Metropolitant, and cheef Chirch of this kingdom...”

• A replacement, in the form of an inscribed brass plate, was set up after the Great Fire and survives in the church today.

• In 1444 a horsemill was given to St Peter's. The bells of St Peter are mentioned in 1552, when a bell foundry in Aldgate was asked to cast a new bell.

• The church was badly damaged in the Great Fire in 1666. The parish tried to patch it up, but between 1677 and 1684 it was rebuilt to a design by Christopher Wren. The new church was 10 feet shorter than its predecessor, the eastern end of the site having been given up to widen Gracechurch Street.

• St Peter's has been described as having ‘three personalities inextricably sewn into the City’. The eastern frontage to Gracechurch Street is a grand stone-faced composition, the north and south sides, are stuccoed, and much simpler in style. Unusually, shallow nineteenth century shops have survived towards Cornhill, squeezed between the church and the pavement. The tower is of brick, its leaded cupola topped with a small spire, which is in turn surmounted by a weather vane in the shape of St. Peter’s key.

• Charles Dickens mentions the churchyard in ‘Our Mutual Friend’.

• A theatre group called The Players of St Peter were formed at the church in 1946 and performed there until 1987. The members perform medieval mystery plays each November and they also performed at the Parish Clerks Masque in 1991 along with members of the Company. The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.


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