St. Mary Colechurch 105/0: Parish church of St. Mary Colechurch

Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane. Originally published by Centre for Metropolitan History, London, 1987.

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D J Keene, Vanessa Harding, 'St. Mary Colechurch 105/0: Parish church of St. Mary Colechurch', in Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane( London, 1987), British History Online [accessed 20 July 2024].

D J Keene, Vanessa Harding, 'St. Mary Colechurch 105/0: Parish church of St. Mary Colechurch', in Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane( London, 1987), British History Online, accessed July 20, 2024,

D J Keene, Vanessa Harding. "St. Mary Colechurch 105/0: Parish church of St. Mary Colechurch". Historical Gazetteer of London Before the Great Fire Cheapside; Parishes of All Hallows Honey Lane, St Martin Pomary, St Mary Le Bow, St Mary Colechurch and St Pancras Soper Lane. (London, 1987), , British History Online. Web. 20 July 2024.

In this section

The early history of the church, the advowson, and valuations

The church appears to be first recorded in the late 12th century as an element in the name of the priest, Peter, who between the late 1170s and the early 13th century initiated and organized the rebuilding of London Bridge in stone. The beginning of the work by Petrus capellanus de Colechurch is noted in the Waverley annals under the year 1176. Petrus capellanus de Collekereche witnessed a charter of shortly before 1190, and at about the same time, as Petrus sacerdos Kolecherchie procurator pontis London', conveyed a property as one of the wardens of the bridge. There was a close association between the rebuilding of the bridge and the cult of St. Thomas of Canterbury, who had been born in a house near to where the church of St. Mary Colechurch is later known to have stood, and so it is virtually certain that Peter was the priest of St. Mary Colechurch. The name of the church would thus appear to have been established by Peter's time, and may, as Ekwall suggested, incorporate the name of an earlier owner or incumbent, possibly one with the Scandinavian name, Koli, or the English name Cola. On the other hand, Peter may have derived his name from the village of Colkirk in Norfolk, recorded in Domesday Book at Colechirca and held in the 12th century by a family bearing the name de Colechurch. (fn. 1) If this was the case the church of St. Mary may have taken its name from its priest Peter rather than the other way around. A third, and perhaps the most likely, possibility is that the church took its name from a market in charcoal (Old English col) held in the vicinity. Charcoal dealers are recorded not far away in the 1160s (carbonarius: in forthcoming gazetteer entries 132/8, 24-5), and almost next door to the church c. 1200 (le Colier: 142/1 in Appendix 2 below). There would certainly have been lively local demand for charcoal by the early 13th century, when many of the craftsmen near the church were ironmongers and smiths.

The first direct reference to the church is in a charter of 1211(?)-12 concerning a property in Old Jewry (142/1, see Appendix 2), which adjoined a capital messuage (105/19) iuxta Coleskirke. At about the same time there is a reference to the land (105/18) where St. Thomas of Canterbury was born in the parish of St. Mary de Colchurche. Throughout its existence from this date onwards the church was known as St. Mary Colechurch, and by the mid 13th century the street now known as Old Jewry was regularly named as Colechurch Street. The capital messuage next to Colechurch belonged to Peter son of William son of Alulf, whose property formed a large block on the corner between Cheapside on the S. and Old Jewry on the E. If the church occupied the same corner site, as it did in the later Middle Ages it would have been enclosed by Peter son of William son of Alulf's property to the N. and W. Peter had a stone house with a cellar on a site which seems to have occupied the Cheapside frontage immediately west of the church. In 1231 'the citizens of London' were said to owe to the king 69s. 11d. from half a cellar beneath Colechurch. The debt was one of those formerly owed to the Jews by Peter Alof (i.e. Peter son of William son of Alulf), who had presumably charged it on a part of his property (cf. 142/1). The term 'citizens of London' may have denoted simply a group of unnamed individuals, but seems more likely to refer to the citizens as a corporation, who may have acquired the church and the cellar beneath as part of a possible plan to gain control of sites in the city associated with St. Thomas (see 105/18). The cellar was presumably the eastern end of the cellar within Peter's house. The church above was thus part of the structure of the house, and may since its origin have belonged to the owners of the large property on the corner of Old Jewry. One of the early owners may have founded the church as a private oratory. In the 1240s this house (105/19) belonged to Henry de Waltham, who in a list of London churches of about that time is recorded as the patron of the ecclesia de Colechurch, which was valued at £3. 6s. 8d. (5 marks). (fn. 2) De Waltham's house was later known as the Mitre Tavern, cellars and other rooms of which extended beneath the church as far as the Old Jewry frontage. Henry de Waltham made a house where knives were sold sub ecclesia de Colecherche, opposite 105/10. This house may have been part of the later Mitre tavern (19), or it may have included the shops beneath the church (20). (fn. 3)

The house and the church were inherited by Henry de Waltham's son John, who in 1247-8 granted to the hospital of St. Thomas of Acre the land and houses which he had inherited from his father at the east end of Cheapside in the parish of St. Mary de Colechurch, together with the advowson of the church. John reserved a rent of £12 from this property and received a down-payment of £2. By this purchase the hospital completed the acquisition of the south eastern part of its precinct. Part of the de Waltham land was used for the eastern end of the hospital church, and the remainder was occupied by houses belonging to the hospital and lying between its church and the street. The hospital was in possession of the parish church in 1252, when during a vacancy in the mastership the king appointed one of his clerks to Colechurch. The brothers attempted to oust the clerk, and it was probably on account of this dispute that in 1257 the master and brothers obtained a papal bull granting them licence to enter into possession of the church, provided that they maintained a chaplain to serve it. In 1311 the bishop of London confirmed the church in the possession of the hospital for its perpetual use, citing the record of a visitation by Archbishop Pecham in 1259 (sic; Pecham did not become archbishop until 1279) in which it was declared that the master and brothers of the hospital were rectors of the church. A further papal confirmation was obtained in 1320. (fn. 4)

The hospital of St. Thomas of Acre held the rectory of the church until its dissolution in 1538. In 1428 the church was said to be worth £13. 16s. 8d. (20 marks) a year. A hospital account for 1519-20 gives £20. 7s. 6d. as the sum of the tithes received within the parish church of St. Mary, but later hospital accounts do not include sums for the tithes. Between 1538 and 1542, while the former hospital of St. Thomas of Acre was in the Crown's hands, the rectory of St. Mary Colechurch, with the tithes and offerings and the obligation to support a parochial chaplain, was leased for a term of years to Benjamin Gonson at £15. 3s. rent. In 1542 the Mercers' Company purchased the rectory along with the site of the former hospital of St. Thomas of Acre. The rectory was still held under Gonson's lease, and the company received £7 p.a. for it, £8 being allowed for the priest's stipend and 3s. for 'proxes'. Robert Downe, ironmonger, who held one of the shops in front of the Mitre (see 19) paid this rent to the company between 1542 and 1549. Thomas Leigh, mercer, who inhabited the great house within the former precinct of the hospital (142/2), paid the £7 rent for the rectory in 1549-50 when the lease terminated. Between then and 1560 the Mercers' Company received the tithes of the dwelling houses and the other offerings directly from the parishioners, and paid for the minister's stipend and occasional repairs to the church. The following totals were received: 1550-1, £22. 12s. 8d.; 1551-2, £22 3s. 1d.; 1552-3, £20. 4s. 6d.; 1553-4, £18. 10s. 5d.; 1554-5, £19. 6s. 6d.; 1555-6, £18. 16s. 9 1/2d., 1556-7, £19. 1s. 11d.; 1557-8, 19. 6s.; 1558-9, £25. 18s.; 1559- 60, £19. 15s. 3d. In a detailed valuation of 1558 the tithes and offerings totalled £24. 13s., of which the tithes on rents amounted to £23. 11s. 6d. The annual tithe rents totalled £22. 8s. 10d. in 1574 and £36. 5s. 6d. in 1602. In 1560 the Mercers' Company, which retained the rectory of the church, compounded with the minister for an annual payment of £6. 13s. 4d. instead of tithes, but this soon was regularly allowed in the company's accounts as a non-payment, and it seems that from now on the company allowed its curate the full income of the benefice. (fn. 5)

The church in the later middle ages, and the fraternity of st. Katharine

In 1244 the rector of Colechurch was reported for having erected a pentice which encroached on to the street. This was about the time that Henry de Waltham built the house where knives were sold beneath the church, and the pentice may have been associated with this structure. It is possible that the pentice eventually developed into the shops beneath the church (105/20) or that it provided some additional shelter in front of them. Some of the earliest records of activities associated with the church reveal its close links with the commercial life of the area. Thus in a case reported in 1244 a cutler was said to have placed his chattels in the church for safe keeping, and in 1301 a trading agreement was made apud Colcherch. (fn. 6) The church attracted a number of chantry endowments. By a will enrolled in 1281 Richard le Potter left rents to support two chaplains there. By his will enrolled in 1300, Nicholas le Coffrer left money for the provision of a chaplain to celebrate in the church. Provision was made for another chaplain, to celebrate for Thomas de Norwyco, in 1329, and in 1348 a chantry was established for a term of 5 years. By his will enrolled in 1349 Thomas de Cavendych, mercer or draper, who wished to be buried in the adjoining church of St. Thomas, left rents charged on properties in Watling Street and in St. Michael Cornhill parish to sustain a perpetual chantry in the church. This chantry was flourishing in 1363 and was augmented in 1372, but there is no reference either to it or to any of the earlier foundations in the chantry certificates of 1546 and 1548 and it is doubtful whether any of them outlasted the 15th century. The chantry certificates state that at that time there was a stipendiary priest who celebrated mass daily in the church, paid for out of a sum of £140 left by Mrs. Agnes (or Elizabeth) Fenne in her will of 1541. The Merchant Taylors' Company, the Ironmongers' Company, and the Skinners' Company also paid for obits or chantry priests in the church. (fn. 7)

The most important organisation associated with the church during the later Middle Ages was its fraternity of St. Katharine. According to the guild certificate of 1389 the fraternity originated in the twelfth year of King Edward III (1338-9), when Geoffrey Wynchecombe and Roger Compis, parishioners, seeing that the church was too small and narrow (petit et estreyt) for the parishioners made a chapel in honour of the Virgin Mary and St. Katharine which was joined to the church on the south side. Roger was evidently the Roger de Caumpes, citizen and ironmonger, dead by 1354, who occurs as a property holder in the parish (105/22) and Geoffrey was probably the father of John de Wynchcombe, citizen and armourer, who also occurs as a property holder. At the same time Geoffrey and Roger with other parishioners made a fraternity with the purpose of maintaining five candles in the chapel in honour of St. Katharine and all the saints, and a chaplain to celebrate there for the benefit of the souls of the king and queen, their progenitors and successors, and all members of the fraternity. In 1371 a property near the church (105/17) was conveyed to feoffees, apparently with the intent that it should provide an income for the support of the chaplain and the lights, although there is no hint of this in the deed itself. Both this and an earlier transaction concerning the property are cited in the certificate of 1389, when the endowment was said to bring in £6. 13s. 4d. p.a., without making any deduction for repairs. According to the certificate, the members of the fraternity paid 13d. quarterage, and the wives of the wardens and 'surveyors' of the company were to be received as sisters of the fraternity; if they survived their husbands they were to pay quarterage on their own account. Any member of the company who fell into poverty was to receive weekly alms in silver according to the current price of corn. The company was to assemble four times a year, and on the feast of St. Katharine there was to be a dinner. On the vigil of the feast day the fraternity assembled in the church and there was a procession before the mass. (fn. 8)

It thus appears that about 1340 the church was enlarged towards the S., perhaps by building out over the shops beneath. It certainly seems from the way in which the site of the church at the time of the Great Fire projected into Cheapside that it could at one time have been extended to the S.

The fraternity of St. Katharine continued to flourish until it was suppressed in 1548, and regularly attracted cash legacies from parishioners. The latest of the legacies to have been noted was that of Richard Mylles in a will dated 1544. In 1400 William Mareschall, chaplain (presumably the parish chaplain), and the parishioners obtained a royal licence to found a fraternity in the church both for themselves and for the brothers and sisters of the fraternity of St. Katharine, to found a chantry of one chaplain to celebrate at the altar of St. Katharine, and to acquire in mortmain, after inquiry, lands worth £6. 13s. 4d. p.a. for this purpose. This may have been intended as a retrospective confirmation of the acquisition already made on behalf of the fraternity. The terms of the licence suggest, too, that the guild of St. Katharine was virtually identical with the body of householders in the parish. One aim of the new body was to continue the celebration of divine service with music, which it had previously been difficult to maintain on account of poverty. An attempt was made to glorify the history of the church by the statement in the licence, which presumably reflected the parishioners' petition, that in its font both St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. Edmund of Bury had been baptized. It is easy to see why St. Thomas was cited in this context, for he had been born in the parish on a site not far from the church (105/18). Why St. Edmund was claimed for the church, however, remains uncertain. Edmund (d. 869) is not known during his life-time to have had any particular connection with London, and it would appear that by the early 15th century he was generally believed (wrongly) to have been born in Saxony. St. Edmund's remains, however, spent three years in London during the Danish invasions of the early 11th century and this may have promoted the legend of his early association with the city. His name may also have been bracketed with that of St. Thomas the Martyr, since these were two of the best-known English saints, particularly outside England. (fn. 9)

A further stage in the development of the fraternity took place around 1447, when the rector of St. Mary Colechurch, who was the master of the hospital of St. Thomas of Acre, and the parishioners obtained a royal licence to found a guild in honour of St. Katharine in the church where St. Thomas and St. Edmund had been baptized. The brothers and sisters of the guild were to elect two wardens annually, and were to be a corporate body with a common seal, capable of acquiring lands. They were enabled to maintain a chantry chaplain celebrating at the altar of St. Katharine for the benefit of the king and queen and the members of the fraternity. Shortly before this date the original endowment of the fraternity passed from the possession of successive groups of feoffees into that of the hospital of St. Thomas of Acre (see 105/17), and so it is possible that the fraternity was being reorganised at this date under the supervision of the master of the hospital. The chantry certificates of 1546 and 1548 attributed the foundation of the fraternity to the action of the rector and parishioners under the authority of the royal grant of 1447. One of those parishioners, John Tenterden, ironmonger, by his will, dated 1456 and enrolled in 1466, left two tenements in St. Mary Aldermary parish to the fraternity for the maintenance of the chantry. In the 1540s these properties brought in £9 a year, out of which £6 or £7 was paid to the chantry priest. This property had previously yielded £4 until it had fallen into ruins and been rebuilt at the charge of both the fraternity and the parishioners. The possessions of the fraternity in 1546 included a silver seal and chain, an old hanging for St. Katharine's altar, a 'cote' for her image, other hangings and vestments, and the letters patent of foundation. The records presumably also included the 'black book' of the fraternity of St. Katharine which was still in the possession of the parish in 1613. (fn. 10)

Early in the 16th century the fraternity of St. Katharine undertook, or intended to undertake a further enlargement of the parish church, this time at its north western corner on the W. side of the chapel of St. George. To this end the wardens, brothers, and sisters in 1511 acquired from the hospital of St. Thomas of Acre a vacant plot of land lying between the chapel of the Holy Cross within the church of St. Thomas to the W. and the chapel of St. George in the parish church and the house held by William Bene (105/21A) to the E. The plot was 8 ft. 2 in. (2.49 m.) wide and extended 18 ft. 8 in. (5.69 m.) in length from the wall of the parish church on the S. to a buttress on the E. side of the church of St. Thomas on the N. The fraternity also acquired a processional way extending from the plot to Old Jewry along the wall of the entry of Bene's house and on the N. side of the chapel of St. George. Any doorway to be built in the new work leading from the parish church into either the church of St. Thomas or the processional way, was to be opened during daylight hours at the order of the master of the hospital for his use and for that of pilgrims wishing to visit the image of St. Ignacius or that of any other saint in the parish church. (fn. 11) This saint Ignacius was probably the bishop and martyr of Antioch, but the history of his cult in London is not known.

These arrangements imply that there was some means of direct access from the chapel of the Holy Cross into the alley leading to Old Jewry and that this passage was used both in liturgical processions and by pilgrims who passed from the church of St. Thomas into that of St. Mary. The passage presumably also served as a means of access to the parish church from the street. The main entry to the church, however, was probably by means of a door on the Cheapside frontage, as at a later date. Stow reported that the church was built upon a vault above the ground 'so that men are forced to goe to ascend up thereunto by certain steppes'. (fn. 12) This seems also to have been the case in the 13th century (see above, section i.) and may have been so from a much earlier date. From a detailed description of the Mitre tavern (105/19) in 1632 it seems that the main body of the church was at first-floor level over rooms, then used as drinking rooms, on the ground floor of the tavern. The cellar of the tavern extended beneath the whole structure as far as the Old Jewry frontage. The main body of the church perhaps stood directly above the main part of the cellar, which was a long narrow structure apparently parallel to Cheapside and measuring 19 ft (5.79 m.) wide internally. To the S. of this was presumably the extension, about 10 ft. (3.05 m.) wide, built to house the chapel of St. Katharine. The chapel of St. George would appear to have occupied another, probably narrower, extension or aisle on the N. side. In overall length, the church measured about 33 ft. (10.06 m.). See Fig. 1.

Several other parts of the church are mentioned in wills, but cannot be precisely located. In 1393 a parishioner left £5 to the fabric of the vestry, which was probably being built at the time. In 1433 another parishioner left a table with alabaster images for the altar of St. John in the church. In 1520 a parishioner wished to be buried in the chapel of St. John and in the following year another wished to be buried in the chapel of Our Lady and St. John. St. George's chapel, or beneath the image of St. George, was a favourite place for burial at about this time. A parishioner who died in 1516-17 left £1 for gilding the rood loft. (fn. 13) From the surviving wills it seems that during the early part of the 16th century only the chapels of St. George and St. John, both perhaps outside the main body of the church, were habitually used for burial. This practice of burying within the church, presumably in the floor over the rooms of the Mitre below, may only have begun after 1500, for no 15th-century will has been found in which the testator expressed the wish to be buried there. Before 1500, it seems, the parishioners of St. Mary Colechurch were buried in the church of St. Thomas of Acre, in the great cemetery by St. Paul's, or, less frequently, in the friary churches, but not in their parish church or cemetery. (fn. 14) Indeed, the church may never have possessed a cemetery of its own, and the parishioners may only have been buried within the very latest parts of the church to have been built, for no will has been found expressing the wish to be buried in the chapel of St. Katharine there.

The post-reformation church

In 1570, following a complaint at the wardmoot, it was found that the church was in a ruinous condition and that its E. end, against Old Jewry, was ready to fall down. This part of the structure was the responsibility of the Mercer's Company as holder of the rectory, and in the year 1570-1 the company spent £53. 7s. 6d. on 'newe making of it with hard stone from the foundacion to the wyndow'. No further major work on the church is recorded until 1623 when, according to Strype, the church was repaired and beautified at the charge of the parishioners. The churchwardens' accounts for the year 1622-3 record considerable expenditure on joiner's work in the church, and in August 1623 the Mercers' Company contributed £10 towards the parishioners' recent great charge in repairs. (fn. 15)

Minor repairs entered in the churchwardens' accounts, and the church burial register covering the period from 1563 to 1666 provide some further details on the church structure and furnishings, especially in the early 17th century. (fn. 16) Apart from a few burials in Mercers' Chapel and other city parishes, the register shows that by the 1560s the parishioners of St. Mary Colechurch, a parish of at least 50 households, were buried either in the church itself or, after 1569, in the new burial ground provided by the city outside Moor Gate. Particular care was necessary in the alotment of space for burial within the church. Regulations drawn up in 1615 prohibited the use of ridged coffins, so that two corpses could be placed in one grave, using square, flat coffins. The register shows that burials were very often made one on top of the other, even when there was no family relationship between the deceased. Thus on 6 January 1624 the wife of Giles Bynckes was placed on top of Mr. Gibson. During the repairs of 1622-3 the floor may have been raised in order to accommodate more burials, for in May 1623 there is a reference to the first burial made since the 'ground was raised higher'. Later in the 1620s several burial places are defined by reference to the courses of tiles on the floor. Other landmarks in the church are also mentioned. On the S. side of the church, near the door, close to the pew adjoining the font was a 'great ragged stone', presumably a grave slab, mentioned in 1613, 1615, 1624, and 1626. Another stone, perhaps the one with a brass on it mentioned in 1608, was near the door from Old Jewry on the N. side. There was a small stone near the stairs leading up to the loft. Other records of burials mention the great window by Old Jewry, and the aisle by Old Jewry. Many parishioners were buried in the two entries to the church, and even by or beneath the steps leading up from the street. There are references, for example, to the burial of adults 'in the entry next the church going down the steps in the fourth place' (28 December 1617) and 'going down the steps on the north side' (10 April 1625). Many children were buried in the entries, presumably because of the limited space available there: of 39 burials made in the entries between 1601 and 1633, 29 were of children.

The church was extensively pewed, on both the north and the south sides. (fn. 17) There was a churchwardens' pew and a group known as 'the chiefest pews'. The burial records refer to the pews by a numbering system, from which it appears that there there were at least 24 pews in all. In 1630 2 long pews at the E. end of the chancel were to be made fitting for men's pews. (fn. 18) A list of pews and their occupants over the period 1613-30 (fn. 19) covers about 10 men's pews and 7 women's pews. Repairs to the pews were frequently paid for by the churchwardens, and parishioners were regularly buried beneath their own pews. The families or other representatives of the deceased were to meet the cost of taking down and making good the pews when burials were made beneath them. The seating accommodation in the church extended to at least one gallery. A door in the gallery was repaired in 1614-15, and in 1628-9 a carpenter was paid for making pews in the belfry, which he also made stronger. (fn. 20) The position of the belfry is not known, but it seems most likely that these pews were in a western gallery beneath it. On the S. side of the church was the maids' loft presumably occupied by unmarried women during the church services. In 1601 a burial was made 'under the maids' loft where they sit' and the loft is also mentioned in connection with a group of burials in the southeast corner of the church between 1623 and 1625. The belfry was presumably a timber-framed structure, contained within, or resting on, the stone walls of the church. About 1612 the belfry contained a peal of 4 bells. An inventory of May 1643 reveals that the 6 great lanterns which were hung in different parts of the parish during winter were at other times kept in the belfry, as was the great lantern placed at the corner of the church at the end of Old Jewry. (fn. 21)

The work carried out at the church during the 1620s was insufficient to secure the structure, for in 1635 the parishioners petitioned the Mercers' Company concerning repairs which were necessary. At a view it was found that the leads were defective near the louver in the W. part of the N. aisle, so that water ran down into the church; that the floor of part of the house on the N. side of the church (21A) had sunk since the parishioners, in order to enlarge the space for their pews, had removed a wall and replaced it with a mud wall; and that the upper part of the chancel, which was the company's responsibility, was very much out of repair. In April 1636 it was estimated that the repairs would cost £321. There was then a long debate between the parishioners and the company as to how the cost should be divided, particularly since the company owned the shops (20) and cellar (part of 19) below the church and part of the house on the N. side (21A). Eventually, in November 1637 after conference with its surveyor, Peter Mills, bricklayer, and with the mason, Edmund Kinsman, the company agreed that the E. window at the upper end of the chancel was to be taken down and rebuilt with 3 lights, that the platform of lead at the N.W. end of the church was to be 'laid flat and handsomely contrived', that the door from the next-door house (21A) on to the leads was to be blocked and the vault there taken down and 'brought down' in lead, and finally that the stairs at the E. end of the chancel were to be taken down and replaced by new timber stairs near the church door towards Cheapside. Further details were settled in March 1638. It was evidently agreed that the house to the N. of the church (21A) should continue to include rooms over the church, for a funnel of lead (presumably leading to a vault or cess pit in the cellar below the church) was to be brought from the house through the church near the W. end of the N. aisle, and pillars of wood or stone were to be placed on the N. side of the church to support the floor of the house, under which was to be placed a ceiling at an even level instead of the existing boards. The E. window was now to be 'whited within' and the glass scoured, and the stone stairs (presumably at the E. end) were to be stopped up, while the new wooden stairs were to be continued up into the belfry. The parishioners wished to make the floor of the church level throughout, for the company now gave way to their request that the higher ground at the W. end of the church be made level with the rest of the floor, so long as the parishioners obtained the consent of the tenant of the Mitre beneath (19). Following a recent proclamation, the proposed new work could not be begun until after an inspection had been made by two of the king's commissioners, of whom Inigo Jones, as surveyor of the king's works, was to be one. Accordingly, in April 1638, Jones was invited to the church, and to dine at Mercers' Hall afterwards. When the king's surveyors attended the hall they were paid £1. 9s. 3d. (fn. 22)

In April 1638 the Mercer's Company contracted for the masons' work with Edmund Kinsman and John Young. Both were leading London masons who worked together on at least one other project, and Kinsman had already worked on several city churches, including jobs under the supervision of Inigo Jones. It is noteworthy that the Mercers' Company on this occasion employed craftsmen of much greater standing than those who were employed by the parish on its part of the work (see below). The Mercers' surveyor, Peter Mills, also had a distinguished career, in which this was one of his earliest known commissions as a surveyor. Under the terms of the contract the masons were to demolish the great E. window, the battlements, the arch, and the piers on each side of the window down as far as the sill of the old window, except for the inside of the staircase on the S. side of the window. This seems to have been a circular stair, for its 'circumference' was to be made from top to bottom in Kentish ashlar. The outside of the E. wall of the N. aisle and the quoins at the S.E. corner of the church were to be taken down and faced up again in Kentish ashlar as high as the water table beneath the E. window and from there up to the window in Ketton stone. The new window, measuring 20 ft. high by 16 ft. wide (6.1 m. by 4.88 m.) was also to be in Ketton stone, and was to have a pediment ('parament'), festoons, and other ornaments on the outside, a detail which suggests that the masons were not working in the Gothic style with which they are sometimes associated. The wall above the sill of the window was to be of Ketton stone on the outside and of old stone mixed with bricks on the inside. The arch of the old window was to be set up to protect the new, above which were to be battlements with crest- and saddle-stones. Where walls were to be refaced bonding stones were to be set to tie the old and the new work together. The masons were to have £50 for the new window, 2s. 6d. a foot where the walls were to be entirely rebuilt, and 1s. 6d. a foot where the walls were to be refaced only and for the new ashlar on the staircase. The work was to be finished by Michaelmas 1638. It was further agreed with a carpenter, John Shurland, that he be paid £3 for the new stairs in the W. part of the church, and for enclosing them with boards from the gallery to the steeple. (fn. 23)

In July, during the course of the work, it was discovered that an arch on the S. side of the great chancel window was defective. After consultation between the company, its surveyor, and the mason, it was decided that the arch could be mended without demolishing it or the adjacent arch. In August representatives of the parishioners were told that it was doubtful whether the taking down of the arches on the S. side of the church would 'affect the sinking or decay of the company's houses there' (presumably 20), and one of the churchwardens said that the parishioners would make amends for any damage done to the houses. This implies that the church walls, at least against the street, were supported on a series of arches which most likely were of medieval origin, although they may by now have been obscured by later work. (fn. 24)

From this incident it is clear that the parish was undertaking extensive work on its own account, of which no detailed record has survived. In July 1638, after debate between the Mercers' Company and the parish, it was agreed between them that the parish was to see that the work specified in a view taken by Peter Mills for both parties, including glazing the E. window, was to be carried out, and that three-fifths of the cost were to be paid by the company and two-fifths by the parish. In addition the parish was to pew and beautify the church at its own charge and the company was to have its own arms, and those of the king and prince, set up in the window at its own cost. The work at the E. end of the church, covered by the contract to which the company was party, was probably largely completed in September, according to the agreement, for on 21 September the company allowed the parish to have the scaffolding used in the work for an agreed price. By 29 September the company had spent £183. 16s. on repairs to the church, including £8 to a plumber for work in the funnels to the adjacent house, £100 to the masons, £26 1s. 6d. to a smith, and £50 to the churchwardens. The parish then began its part of the rebuilding in earnest, for its first expenditure on the work occurs in a special account for September 1638 to April 1639. In this period, during which the parish spent £341. 19s. 3d. in repairs to the church, a contract was drawn up with Thomas Adams, mason, who received payments totalling £161, including £6 for a wall not in the contract. The carpenter, John Shurland received payments totalling £55. 10s., a smith received payments totalling £26, and a joiner £5 for wainscot. Over the year ending Michaelmas 1639 the company paid £190 to the parish for repairs, and made payments to masons totalling £78. 19s. 9d. (fn. 25)

By late October 1638 the company and the parish were considering how a new door might be made for the church on the Cheapside frontage. The old door was found to be 3 ft. 9in. (1.14 m.) wide within the jambs, and the company's tenants were agreeable to a new door 6 ft. (1.83 m.) wide, plus 18 in. (457 mm.) for jambs, being made just W. of the old door in part of one of the shops below the Mitre (19G). The company needed time to 'weigh and wade through every particular of the business', and in May 1639, having learned that the parish had carried out works beyond the terms of the original agreement, put off the question of the door further. Finally, in October 1639, it was agreed that work should proceed without delay on making a door 5 ft. wide by 8 ft. high (1.52 m. by 2.44 m.), with mouldings, a cornice, and an open pediment. Contrary to the parishioners' original intention, the doorway was to be in timber rather than stone, and in an afterthought the company held it 'not fit to make a great flourish on the street side'. The new entry was probably being made in September 1640, when the parish was allowed to compound with the tenant of the Mitre (19A) for a small part of a back room in which to place the steps leading to the church. It was not until 1644-5 that a carpenter made a pediment over the church door. (fn. 26) The site of the old door was let to the tenant of one of the shops beneath the church (20C).

The main structural work carried out for the parish appears to have been accomplished by April 1639 (see above), but between then and Easter 1642 large sums were spent on decoration and fittings. In 1639-40 £321 17s. 9d. were spent, mostly on plastering, although Shurland, the carpenter, received £61, and smaller payments were made to joiners, a carver, a bricklayer and a painter. In this year, too, the old pews were dismantled. In 1640-1 £557. 4s. 8d. were spent on repairs. The main work this year probably concerned the pews and decoration, for the total included payments of £161 16s. 9d. to joiners and a carver, £75 to a carpenter, £60 to a plumber, £45. 19s. to glaziers, £40 to a mason (Robert Miles), £28 to the plasterer (Joseph Kinsman), and £20 to a bricklayer. Specific works mentioned were painting the church roof (£7. 15s.), the painted glass with the royal and other arms in the E. window (£28), writing the Lord's Prayer, the Commandments, and the Creed in (sic, perhaps 'by' was intended) the E. window, and the purchase of, or work on, a font (£11. 10s.). In 1641-2 £189. 17s. 5 1/2d. were spent on carpentry, bricklaying, joinery, plastering, paving, clearing rubbish, and on hanging the small bell and mending the other. (fn. 27)

The financial arrangements between the parish and the Mercers' Company concerning the rebuilding were complex, caused considerable friction between the parties and cannot readily be followed in the surviving records. The parish evidently met its share by means of gifts, special levies, and loans. It sometimes paid for works of which the Mercers had undertaken to meet the charge, although it presumably reimbursed itself out of the company's contributions. However, by totalling the parish's expenditure on repairs with the Mercer's payments made directly to workmen or for materials we can estimate that the total cost of rebuilding and refitting the church between 1638 and 1642 was about £1624.

The church so beautified appears to have been little altered until it was destroyed by fire in 1666. In 1643-4, following a parliamentary ordinance, the cross was taken down from the steeple. A new font-bowl and cover were purchased in 1645-6, painting and blacksmiths' work were undertaken in 1649-50, and in the following year the glass was repaired where the king's arms had been removed. At the Restoration, in 1660-1, the 'king's arms glass' was mended and the end and sides of the church were painted in readiness for the coronation. (fn. 28)

The church was not rebuilt after the Great Fire, and in 1670, under the second Rebuilding Act, the parish was united to that of St. Mildred Poultry. The city authorities agreed that the Mercers' Company could buy the site for £60. Such a moderate sum was allowed on account of the company's existing rights in the church and its promise to build a grammar school there. In the event, after a strip of ground had been cut off to widen Cheapside, three new houses were built on the Cheapside frontage and the school, formerly held in Mercer's Chapel, was built behind them. The outlines of the site of the church can be determined from post-Fire records of these houses (see 20) and the properties which adjoined them (see 18, 19, 21). (fn. 29)

Rooms over the church and other easements

During the early 17th century the occupants of both houses adjoining the church had the use of rooms or lofts over the church itself. Between 1614 and 1623 the tenant of 21A (q.v.) paid the parish 2s. rent for the use of 2 leads over the church, once described as a loft over the leads, and in 1628-9 the tenant paid 5s. for the same amenity. The tenant of the house also had the use of a funnel running down from a privy through the church to a cess-pit below. The loft over the church used by the tenant of 21A may have been removed during the rebuilding of the church between 1638 and 1642 or during the rebuilding of 21A during 1639-40. A detailed description of the Mitre tavern (19) in 1632 includes two rooms over the church, each measuring 10 ft. by 8 ft. (3.05 m. by 2.44 m.). Since these rooms were described as part of property belonging to the Mercers' Company, and the parish accounts contain no reference to any rent received for them, it is not certain that the rooms were in fact directly over the church and therefore parish property. Nor is it certain whether either of these structures over the church was identical with the two sheds at the foot of the steeple, which the vestry in 1662 ordered to be covered with lead instead of the weatherboards which then clad them. (fn. 30)

The churchwardens' accounts record two further easements or features in connection with the church. Between 1612 and 1614 a barber paid rent at the rate of 6d. a quarter for hanging his pole on the church. He may have occupied one of the shops beneath the church, but none of the tenants recorded there at that time is known to have been a barber. In 1648-9 the churchwardens spent £1. 12s. 2d. on various items in connection with fitting the chain at the church corner, also described as the great chain at the Conduit, which was fastened to Mr. Nicholas's shop. This was probably the more westerly of the two shops in the former chapel of the Mercers' Company (see 18), and the chain, which was fixed to posts, may have served to protect both pedestrians at the church door and the facades of the adjacent buildings from passing traffic. Alternatively, the chain may also have been attached to the Conduit itself and so, by providing a means of blocking the street, may have served a defensive purpose. (fn. 31)


  • 1. See 105/18; Annales monastici, ed. H.R. Luard (Rolls Series, 1864-9) ii, 240; Clerkenwell Cart, no. 247; N. Moore The History of St. Bartholomew's Hospital (1918) i, 208-9; E. Ekwall, Street-Names of the City of London (1954), 96; idem, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names (4th edn., 1960), 117; idem. Early London Personal Names (Lund, 1947), 78-9; C. Parkin, An Essay Towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk ix (1808), 472-3; The Charters of Norwich Cathedral Priory i, ed. B. Dodwell (Pipe Roll Society, n.s. 40, 1974 for 1965-6), nos. 112, 116.
  • 2. GL, MS 25509, f. 52, partially printed in W.E. Lunt (ed.), The Valuation of Norwich (Oxford, 1926), 331. Lunt's dating of list (ibid., 179-80) is misleading.
  • 3. For the properties adjoining and opposite the church, see 105/10, 18, 19 and 142/1. See also C. Robinson (ed.), Memoranda Roll 14 Henry III (Pipe Roll Society, 49, 1933), 31.
  • 4. MC, Reg of Writings i, ff. 7-8v (Watney, 240); Cal Papal R 1198-1304, p. 341; Cal Papal R 1305-42, p. 203; Close R 1251-3, p. 242; Abbreviatio Placitorum (Rec Comm, 1811), 130-1, 139.
  • 5. See 105/18. PRO: E315/269, s.a. 11-12 Henry VIII; E318/16/758. MC: renter wardens' a/cs, s.a. 1542 onwards; Reg of Writings ii, ff. 11-14v. Feudal Aids iii, 385.
  • 6. London Eyre 1244, no. 52; HCP 27, m. 12.
  • 7. HR 12(94), 29(41), 58(17), 76(162, 184), 89(149), 100(117); LBG, 118; Registrum Simonis deSudbiria diocesis Londoniensis, A.D. 1362-1375, ed. R.C. Fowler and C. Jenkins (Canterbury and York Society, 34, 35, 1927-38) i, 235; PRO, LR2/241, pp. 25-6; Chant C, nos. 93, 192, 210-11.
  • 8. PRO, C47/41/199. For Geoffrey de Wynchecombe, see Cal Wills ii, 68.
  • 9. Cal Pat R 1399-1401, p. 284; Corolla Sancti Edmundi, the Garland of Saint Edmund King and Martyr ed. F. Hervey (1907), esp. 412, 420-1; D. Whitelock, 'Fact and Fiction in the legend of St. Edmund', Proc Suffolk Institute of Archaeology 31 (1968-9), 217-33; For a pair of churches at Damietta dedicated to the two saints, see Memoriale fratris Walteri de Coventria ii, ed. W. Stubbs (RS, 1873), 242-3.
  • 10. Cal Pat R 1446-52, p. 70; HR 196(34); PRO, LR2/241, pp. 25-6; Chant C, no. 93; GL, MS 66, f. 7.
  • 11. PRO, E135/20/2, ff. 2v-3.
  • 12. Stow i, 264.
  • 13. GL MSS: 9050/1, f. 1v; 9171/3, f. 329v; 9171/5, f. 32v; 9171/9, ff. 153, 186v; 9171/10, f. 178; 9171/11, f. 7. PRO: PROB11/19, ff. 15v-16; PROB11/18, ff. 210v-211.
  • 14. For the sample of wills on which this conclusion is based, see previous note and GL, MSS: 9051/1, ff. 1v, 33v-34, 182, 228v, 293v-294, 314, 328; 9171/2, f.61; 9171/3, ff. 47v, 307v, 376v, 435v-436; 9171/4, f. 213v; 9171/5, ff.32v, 76v-77, 139, 210; 9171/6, ff. 74, 169v; 9171/9, f.78.
  • 15. MC: Acts of Court iii, ff. 162r-v, 179-80, 181; renter wardens' a/cs s.a. 1570-7; Acts of Court 1619-25, f. 177. Strype's Stow i, 32.
  • 16. GL: MS 4438 (burial register; Miss Jean Imray kindly made available a selection of her notes from this register); MS 66 (churchwardens' a/cs), esp. f. 6v for the regulations of 1615.
  • 17. See n. 16.
  • 18. GL, MS 64 (vestry minutes), f. 16.
  • 19. GL, MS 64, inverted at end.
  • 20. GL, MS 66, ff. 15v, 51.
  • 21. GL, MS 66, ff. 6, 104.
  • 22. MC: Acts of Court 1631-7, ff. 182v, 184, 202, 204, 234, 248v; ibid. 1637-41, ff. 15v, 16, 35, 37-8. For Inigo Jones's participation in similar commissions concerning buildings in the city at this time, see H.M. Colvin, D.R. Ransome, J. Summerson, The History of the King's Works iii (1975), 145-7.
  • 23. MC: Acts of Court 1637-41, ff. 39v-40, 41; Henry VIII's estate, St. Mary Colechurch, repairs and alterations. H. Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840 (1978) s.nn. Kinsman, Mills, Young.
  • 24. MC, Acts of Court 1637-41, ff. 53, 56.
  • 25. MC: Acts of Court 1637-41, ff. 54r-v, 64; renter wardens' a/cs, s.a. 1637-8, 1639-40. GL, MS 66, ff. 83v-84.
  • 26. MC, Acts of Court 1637-41, ff. 67-69v, 95r-v, 99, 121v, 122, 177; GL, MS 66, s.a. 1644-5.
  • 27. GL, MS 66, ff. 89-91, 96-7, 100.
  • 28. GL, MS 66, s.a.
  • 29. Rep 75, ff. 187, 215-216v.
  • 30. See 105/19 and 21A. GL, MS 64, 10 June 1662.
  • 31. GL, MS 66, s.a.