Cornhill Ward

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 4, the City. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1929.

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'Cornhill Ward', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 4, the City, (London, 1929) pp. 84-88. British History Online [accessed 2 March 2024]

In this section


Cornhill Ward includes the parish of St. Michael Cornhill, part of St. Peter Cornhill and small fragments of the parishes of St. Bartholomew Exchange, St. Christopher le Stocks, St. Mary Woolchurch, St. Mary Woolnoth, St. Edmund and St. Martin Outwich. The principal monuments are the churches of St. Michael and St. Peter.


(1) Parish Church of St. Michael stands on the S. side of Cornhill. The walls are probably of rubble and brick, partly rendered in cement and partly faced with Portland-stone ashlar; the dressings are of the same material and the roofs are covered with lead. The church was burnt in the Great Fire of 1666, with the exception of the tower; the latter was patched and the church re-built by Sir C. Wren in 1670–77, at a cost of £4,686 10s. 4d. The old steeple becoming unsafe, was taken down in 1715 and an entirely new one erected (Wren, architect) and completed 1721. The church was repaired in 1790 and restored by Sir G. Scott in 1860, when the window-tracery was added and the N. porch built. In 1868 it was again restored, the S. Cloister built and nearly all the original fittings removed. The vestry, which forms a structural part of the Rectory-house, was re-built in recent years.

Architectural Description—The church is in the Renaissance style on the Gothic plan and consists of a chancel and nave (75 ft. by 23½ ft.) with N. and S. aisles, not extending to the E. end, a W. tower and a vestibule to the S. of it.

The E. Elevation. The end of the sanctuary has a large round window with modern decoration to the splays. The return walls of the sanctuary have each a window of two round-headed lights with modern internal decoration. The E. wall of the N. aisle is blank, but in the corresponding position in the S. aisle is a round-headed window with modern filling making two lights. The N. Elevation is concealed by buildings, but the N. clearstorey has a range of four round windows; the wall is finished with a wooden cornice. The S. Elevation. The aisle-wall is faced with ashlar and finished with a stone cornice. In each bay is a round-headed window with moulded architrave and sill and modern filling forming two lights. The clearstorey has four round windows, as on the N. side, and a wooden cornice. The W. Elevation. The W. end of the vestibule has a window similar to those in the S. aisle. The tower has semi-octagonal buttresses at the angles and is of four stages. It was built in 1715–21 and is in the Gothic manner.

Interior—The sanctuary has a plain barrel-vault of plaster and at the W. end a coffered arch with rosettes, springing from pilasters with acanthuscornices continued along the side walls. The body of the church has N. and S. arcades of four bays with round arches, moulded archivolts and plain key-blocks; they spring from round Doric columns with egg and dart enrichment to the capitals; the responds have attached half-columns. The ceiling forms a groined plaster vault in each bay divided by guilloche-bands, with rosettes, springing from moulded corbels with modern angels below them; there are modern round openings in the middle of the three western bays. In the W. wall is a tall round arch of two orders, opening into the tower; the inner order is plain with moulded imposts and the outer order has a moulded archivolt and imposts enriched with acanthus. The N. and S. aisles have plaster groined vaults to each bay springing from moulded corbels with acanthus and egg and dart enrichment. The three W. bays in the N. aisle and all the bays in the S. aisle have a modern round opening in the middle of each bay. The W. wall of each aisle has a round arch with moulded imposts and archivolt and a plain key-block. In the E. wall of the S. aisle is a modern doorway to the vestry; the old doorway was further N. in the same wall. The S. vestibule has a plaster vault similar to one bay of the adjoining aisle. In the S. wall is a plain round-headed doorway opening into a modern passage-way or cloister. The ground-stage of the tower has a round-headed recess with moulded imposts in the N., S. and W. walls; in the N. and S. recesses are modern arches or doorways; the tower has a domed vault resting on head-corbels and with a round bell-way with an acanthus-border.

Fittings—Communion Table: of oak with twisted legs and moulded rails, late 17th-century. Font: round moulded bowl of white marble, inscribed "Donum Jacobi Paul Armri 1672," "Renov 1860," stem modern. Monuments and Floor-slabs. Monuments: against E. pier of N. arcade—(1) to John Young, 1670, oval marble cartouche with enriched frame, scrolls, acanthus-foliage and drapery, cornice and curved broken pediment at top and cartouche-of-arms below. In N. aisle— on N. wall, (2) to John Vernon, [1615], marble wall-monument, erected after Great Fire, with bust in shallow arched recess flanked by flat pilasters supporting entablatures of which the cornice is continued across the top as a curved pediment, apron below with painted cartouche of the arms of the Merchant Taylors' Company, monument restored 1666; (3) to Luke Nourse, 1673, Hugh Wells, 1673, and Edward Nourse, his son, 1689, who married Mary, daughter of Hugh Wells, marble cartouche with scrolls, palms and cherub-heads, urn at top and a painted shield-of-arms below on a console-bracket; (4) to Francis Mosse, 1657, and Henry his son, 1676, rectangular marble tablet with oval panel, flanked by scrolls; drapery and cherub-head below on apron and surmounted by a segmental pediment and a cartouche-of-arms. On W. wall of tower—(5) to Richard Holdsworth, S.T.D., 1649, black marble slab. In S. vestibule—In N.E. angle, (6) to Sir William Cowper, Bart., 1664, and Martha (Master) his wife, 1676, both "lie buried in this cloister," erected by their son Spenser, white marble wall-monument, with Ionic side-columns and pilasters supporting entablature and broken segmental pediment with cartouche-of-arms, at side, foliage scrolls; on S. wall, (7) to John Huitson, 1689, and Martha (Cooper) his wife, 1681, white marble tablet with moulded border and drapery, surmounted by broken scrolled pediment and achievement-of-arms; (8) to Sir Edward Cowper, 1685, white marble wall-monument with twisted Corinthian side-columns, and pilasters supporting an entablature with broken segmental pediment and achievement-of-arms, base in form of pedestal with shaped angles enriched with acanthus-foliage. Floor-slab: In churchyard—to Edward Folkingham, 1698, and Elizabeth his wife, 1708, with shield-of-arms. Organ: Originally built by Renatus Harris, 1684, but much altered and enlarged. Incorporated in modern organ-case, several carved cherub-heads in wood, probably late 17th-century; organ formerly at W. end of church. Paintings: On E. wall—panels with figures of Moses and Aaron, from the old reredos, late 17th-century. Panelling: In vestry—in two heights, with carved wreath and pendants above fireplace (Plate 83), late 17th or early 18th-century. Plate: includes two tankards of 1616, given by John Vernon in 1617, with shield-of-arms; two cups and cover-patens all of 1608, except one of the cups which is of 1550, all bear inscription and date 1608; paten of 1678, with names of churchwardens and date 1678; alms-dish of 1698, given by anonymous donor in 1689. Miscellanea: Under W. window, carved wooden figure of a pelican 'in her piety' (Plate 47).


(2) Parish Church of St. Peter Cornhill stands at the S. corner of Cornhill and Gracechurch Street. It is a Renaissance building following the mediæval plan and is built of red brick, partly cement-rendered, with stone dressings, the tower being of the same material. The roof is lead-covered and gabled in two pitches. A stone vault under the tower and two pointed chalk foundation-arches under the S. wall (recently discovered and now covered in) date from the 14th or 15th centuries, but the rest of the church, above ground, was destroyed in the Great Fire, 1666, and re-built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1677–87, at a cost of £5,647 8s. 2d.

Church of St Peter Cornhill

The church is notable as containing one of the two chancel-screens erected at that date, and the brick tower is of unusual and almost Italian design.

Architectural Description—The Body and Aisles of the church form a slightly irregular oblong (95 ft. by 53½ ft.) with a projecting Vestry and Tower to the W. of the Nave and S. aisle respectively and a N. porch.

The E. Elevation is pierced by two ranges of windows, five in the lower and three in the upper range. The five lower windows are round-headed and uniform in size, three lighting the Quire and two the aisles. They are divided by Ionic pilasters standing on a stylobate and supporting an entablature with an attic above; the three middle windows have cherub-head keystones. The Quire wall is carried up higher than the aisles and finished with a pediment. In the upper part are the three windows of the second range, the centre round-headed and carried up into the pediment and the side ones circular, with moulded architraves; they are divided by plain pilasters. The aisles are finished with raking pediments in the form of inverted curves. The N. Elevation (Plate 63). The first two bays are concealed by buildings, but in the third and fourth bays are round-headed windows with moulded imposts and archivolts and cherub-head keystones. They are set in square recesses with draped festoons in the spandrels. The window in the fifth bay is similar in detail to the others but circular in form, and below it is a segmental-headed doorway with moulded architrave and keystone opening into the N. porch. The porch has an outer doorway of similar form with a scrolled keystone and is flanked by an Ionic column and pilaster on each side standing on the same pedestal and supporting an entablature and a plain parapet. The porch has a segmental stone vault springing from a moulded cornice. The S. Elevation is covered by buildings for the first two bays, but in the remaining three are round-headed windows with plain architraves, archivolts and keystones and moulded imposts carried along the face of the wall; below the third window is a square-headed doorway with a moulded architrave, pulvinated frieze and cornice. The wall is finished with a main cornice and a plain parapet. The Tower stands at the west end and is four stages high with a timber dome, lantern and spire. In the S. wall of the ground-stage is a round-headed window and over it a second in the stage above. The third stage has a small round window in each face, and on each side of the bell-chamber are three round-headed louvred openings divided by Doric pilasters or piers and responds. At the angles of the tower are Doric pilasters supporting a continuous entablature, from which rises a lead-covered dome with four round lunettes supporting an octagonal lantern with a round-headed opening in each face. The lead-covered spire is crowned by a vane in the form of a key.

Interior—The two aisle-windows in the E. wall have moulded imposts and the three lower windows in the Quire are similar with modelled plaster cartouches flanked by swags above the heads. They are divided by Corinthian pilasters with quarter pilasters at the angles of the Quire, supporting a continuous entablature with an enriched cornice. The middle window of the upper range is flanked by Doric pilasters. The windows in the N. and S. walls have moulded imposts carried along the face of the wall and projected opposite the columns to form corbels and with plaster cartouches below.

The W. wall of the body of the church corresponds in design with the E. end, the windows being represented by panels. In it are two doorways, masked by wooden door-cases and opening into the vestry and tower respectively. The body and aisles of the church are separated by an arcade of five bays on each side. The piers are composed of four plain pilasters, three with pseudoDoric capitals and all standing on high wainscoted bases, with responds to correspond. The pilasters facing the body of the church are carried up the walls and finished with Corinthian capitals, each supporting a separate entablature, the enriched cornice of which is carried completely round the church. The arches are semi-circular with an edging of bay-leaves and plain key-blocks. Above the cornice on the N. and S. is an attic divided into bays by low panelled pilasters. The ceiling of the body of the church is a plaster barrel-vault of elliptical form, the bays being indicated by bands, enriched with guilloche-ornament. Similar bands divide the ceiling longitudinally into three sections. The compartments thus formed have circular panels to the middle row and rectangular panels at the sides, the alternate bays in the centre being further enriched by large plaster roses. Each bay of the aisles is ceiled with a plaster vault con-centric with the main arcade and having a round transverse arch springing from the outer pilaster of each pier and resting against the wall on a plaster bracket and corbel. Beneath the tower is a plain pointed vault of ragstone dating from the 14th or 15th century. In the W. wall of the ground-stage is a door leading to a modern vestry and within the S.E. angle is a circular staircase.

Fittings—All the fittings, unless otherwise stated, are of late 17th-century date. Book: In W. vestry—manuscript of St. Jerome's Vulgate, c. 1270, formerly belonging to the Trinity Chantry in this church. Bread-shelves: on W. wall, in three divisions and two heights with ornamental edges to shelves and enclosed in framing with carved capping and base supported by bold cavettoshaped corbels. Communion Table: of oak (?), with moulded top supported on four square and fluted Doric columns on moulded plinth-rails and one transverse rail, possibly early 18th-century. Communion Rails: with moulded base and rail, panelled standards and balusters in form of small square Doric columns on pedestals, possibly early 18th-century. Cupboards: In vestry on N. and S. of chancel, of old panelling. Doors and Doorcases: To N. doorway, outer door with segmental head and in two leaves each of four raised panels. Casing to lobby with fluted Corinthian pilasters on either side of inner door supporting entablature with broken segmental pediment; inner and outer door similar and each in two leaves with raised lower and glazed upper panels. To S. doorway, outer door in two leaves each with three raised panels; lobby with outer door in two leaves and two single inner side-doors, all with casing similar to those to N. doorway. Doors to vestry and tower each with eight raised panels with bolectionmouldings and bolection-moulded architraves; each doorway flanked by fluted Corinthian pilasters with entablatures and segmental pediment; between heads of door and architraves, panel carved with swags and cherub-heads and, above architrave, moulded panel flanked by carved scrolls with cherub-heads. Font: of white marble with octagonal bowl of ovolo-section with moulded rim and underside carved with acanthus-leaves and, on alternate faces, winged cherub-heads; octagonal stem with moulded cap and lower part carved with acanthus-leaves on square moulded base, presented by Samuel Purchas, 1681. Font-cover: of oak, octagonal, with guilloche-ornament on edge surmounted by eight carved consoles each with cherub-head terminations and supporting circular carved vase-finial; standing on cover below consoles, carved dove. Gallery: at W. end of nave, carried in middle on two Doric columns with entablature and panelled front with moulded base and capping; front divided by panelled pilasters and sides returned against end wall in concave sweeps; frieze carved at intervals with winged cherub-heads and violins and other musical instruments above columns. Monument and Floor-slabs: Monument. In N. aisle—on W. wall, to James Buck, 1685–6, marble cartouche on background of drapery flanked by two cherub-heads with cherub-head and cartouche-of-arms above. Floor slabs. (1) to Richard Fowler, 1691, and his grand-nephews, Robert, 1691, and Thomas, 1695; (2) to Robert Rowland 1690; (3) to Walter Tredway, 1710, and Samuel Tredway, 1712; (4) to Richard Beck, 1714; (5) to Mary daughter of John Ingle, 1684. Organ and Organ-case: with lower part panelled and surmounted by carved frieze and moulded cornice with the latter in three semi-circular projections, the outer ones with cherub-heads and the middle with carved acanthusleaf corbels supporting 'towers' of pipes; heads of 'towers' with pierced carving and entablature with cornice from side towers carried up in concave sweep over intervening spaces each in two panels of gilded pipes; organ originally built by Bernard Schmidt, 1681, but much altered and renovated; old manual now preserved in vestry. Panelling: round pedestals of piers and walls of church to level of window-sills in four heights with raised panels and moulded cornices; enclosing vestries at E. ends of both aisles and also W. vestry. Plate: includes two cups, one of 1549, the other of 1626, both inscribed and dated 1625, two flagons of 1625, both inscribed and dated, two patens of 1625, one with similar inscription as on cups, a silver dish of 1681 with Royal Arms and Latin inscription recording gift in 1682, and a spoon inscribed "H.W., 1639 C.W." Poor-box: In vestibule— with double recessed angles, moulded top and bottom supported by two small brackets at sides and one in front on panelled pilaster-stem; above and against wall, small tablet surmounted by cornice and pediment. Pulpit: against second pier of N. arcade, of oak, hexagonal with enriched capping and base and enriched semi-circularheaded panels on sides with carved bolectionmouldings surmounted by winged cherub-heads and swags and festoons at sides; under-side of ogee section and carried on hexagonal pillar with moulded cap and base. Sounding-board, hexagonal with enriched cornice surmounted by carved scrolls in shape of double-ogee pediments and under-side with simple inlaid panelling; against pier and partly supporting sounding-board, raised panel with carved and pierced scrolls on either side; stairs with cut string with shaped brackets on ends, moulded rail, twisted balusters and square fluted newels; stairs possibly later than pulpit and of early 18th-century date. Reredos: across full width of chancel, in three bays with panelled dado to lower part and upper part divided into three bays corresponding to windows above, with coupled Ionic pilasters to middle bay and half pilasters to side bays supporting enriched entablature with pulvinated frieze carved with bay and oak-leaves; cornice only continued over middle bay and segmental pediment with carved bull's hide in tympanum with, in middle, oval panel with name of Jehovah surrounded by glory; between pilasters, two round-headed panels filled with modern work with enriched borders and winged cherub-heads in spandrels; side bays each in three panels, with central one with enriched border and painted respectively on N. and S. sides with the Lord's Prayer and Creed. Royal Arms (see screen). Screen (Plate 139): extending full width of church across middle of second bay—in six bays on either side of central opening with lower part panelled with raised panels in two tiers with moulded capping and upper part open and divided by slender square and fluted Doric columns on high panelled pedestals and supporting coupled semi-circular arches with pierced spandrels and central pendant of Doric cap and turned finial; above arches, richly moulded cornice ramped up to form cornice to entablature over fluted Corinthian pilasters on either side of central opening; architrave only from entablature above pilasters continued across opening in segmental arch, surmounted over middle by small pedestal and carved cartouche, on both faces, of royal arms of the Stuarts with supporters of lion and unicorn surmounting the entablatures on either side; the second bay from either end is open with posts below pedestals to flanking columns with moulded capitals and bases and twin elliptical arch with central pendant and broken segmental pediment above cornice and shaped tympanum with central panel and carved volutes; E. and W. faces of screen similar, but portion of panelling on N. side removed. Seating: modern, but churchwardens' pew at W. end of old work re-used with panelled back, pierced and carved panels and scrolled ends. In various parts of church—sixteen forms with turned legs. Staircase: to gallery, in tower, of oak with moulded string and handrail, square newels and twisted balusters. Tables: At W. end of nave—small, with turned legs, moulded top rails and plain lower rails. In vestry—large, with moulded rails and turned legs. Miscellanea: The Lucius Tablet: preserved in N. vestry, brass, in enriched oak frame, with inscription claiming the foundation of the church by Lucius in the 2nd century, 17th-century. In N. and S. vestries—old panelling, re-used as casing.