St Vedast alias Foster

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• The Parish of St Vedast alias Foster is known from the 12th century, and the church is traditionally claimed to have been established by 1170. It is dedicated to a French saint, little known in Britain, who was Bishop of Arras in northern Gaul around the turn of the 6th century. Vedast helped to restore the Christian Church in the region after decades of destruction by invading barbarians during the late Roman empire and to convert Clovis, the Frankish king. Remembered for his charity, meekness and patience, he is buried at Arras cathedral. His name in England has been corrupted from St Vedast, referred to in Arras as St Vast, by way of Vastes, Fastes, Faster and Fauster to Foster, the name of the lane at the front of the church. Only one other church in England is currently dedicated to St Vedast, in Tathwell, Lincolnshire and a third parish in Norwich now being remembered only in a street name.

• The early medieval building was replaced at the beginning of the 16th century when Henry Coot, sheriff, added a chapel dedicated to St Dunstan. The church was enlarged in 1614 and ‘beautified’ in 1643 and religious texts painted on the internal walls. During the Great Fire of 1666 the church building escaped total destruction, and was restored, although not very satisfactorily, by the parishioners. Christopher Wren was eventually called in to rebuild St Vedast, completing the work in October 1673. Additional work, including the steeple, possibly by Hawksmoor, continued until 1712.

• During the Blitz, the area around St Paul’s was largely destroyed, and on the night of 29 December 1940, St Vedast was bombed and gutted; only the walls, tower and steeple survived. Post war, City parishes were reorganised and 13 former parishes in the immediate vicinity were united with St Vedast.

• In 1962, the noted architect Stephen Dykes Bower completed the restoration of the church under Canon Mortlock and a Parochial Church Council which included the poet John Betjeman, using a range of elements from several now vanished City churches and introducing the collegiate seating plan.

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