The architecture of St Bride's: Fittings

Pages 46-55

Survey of London Monograph 15, St Bride's Church, Fleet Street. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1944.

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Almsboxes. See Church Plate (p. 52).

Altar-table and Rails. The painted and gilt altar-table, with eight baluster legs and ball feet connected by a shaped stretcher below, was from the design of Mr H. M. Fletcher. This and the altar rails dated from the restoration of the interior of the Church in 1932–4. Before this the altar-pace was protected by an iron rail which extended the full width of the sanctuary. Mr Fletcher restored the original arrangement as shown in Clayton's plan, and in having the new rails made followed the detail of the balustrades of the staircases at the west end of the Church.

The Bells. Reference has already been made to the fact that St Bride's was one of the four City churches from which the curfew was rung in the Middle Ages, and also to the rebuilding of the bell tower early in the fifteenth century. The Great Fire of 1666 threw the bells down, and one of the first works of salvage was the collection of the bell metal. In 1668 a new bell was bought for £38. 10s. 0d. and hung in a 'bell-house' above the porch. In 1675, when the new Church was opened, this bell was hung at the west end in the middle aisle until the steeple was prepared.

In 1706 a subscription was started for a new peal of bells, but it was not until 1710 that an agreement was made with Abraham Rudhall, bell-founder, of Gloucester. The following year trial was made of the peal of ten bells, and in 1713 Rudhall was asked to recast two of them. Instead of this two bells were added, making a peal of twelve. Two of these, the 5th and 6th, were recast in 1726 by Samuel Knight of Holborn. The bells were inscribed as follows:

1. Treble. Prosperity to all our benefactors. A.R. 1719 (5.7 cwt.).
2. Prosperity to all our benefactors. A. R. 1719 (5.5 cwt.).
3. A. R. 1710 (weight not given).
4. A. R. 1710 (6.75 cwt.).
5. 1736 (7.75 cwt.).
6. Abraham Page and Philip Robinson, Common Councilmen. S. K. Fecit 1736 (9 cwt.).
7. Abra. Rudhall, bellfounder. 1710 (9 cwt.).
8. Peace and good neighbourhood. God save the Church and Queen (10.5 cwt.).
9. Prosperity to all our benefactors. A. R. 1710 (13 cwt.).
10. Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester (15 cwt.).
11. Mr John Grainger, Mr John Hathaway, Churchwardens, Mr Andrew Ragdale, Mr John Jackson. Prosperity to England (20 cwt.).
12. Tenor. A. R. 1710 (26 cwt.).

Chest. An iron chest, with raised bands, stood in the vestry.

Font. The font was of white veined marble and consisted of a moulded and enriched bowl supported by an enriched baluster stem. On the bowl was an elaborately carved cartouche with inscription and coat of arms. The inscription read:


Ex Dono Henrici Hothersall
Anno 1615


but there is little doubt that the date should have read 1675. The arms were azure a leopard rampant or (Hothersall) impaling gules between three buckles or a cheveron ermine (Dalby). The dexter coat, which had a crescent cadency mark, was the same as that carved on Hothersall Hall, Lancashire, (fn. 1) with the date 1695 and the initials t. h. for Thomas Hothersall. Thomas returned a pedigree at Dugdale's visitation, 1664–5, but was unable to establish his right to the arms. Henry Hothersall does not appear in the pedigree, which represents the Roman Catholic family in Lancashire, but his connection with the county is implied in the directions in his will (1685) (fn. 2) that the legacies to his brothers John and Thomas should be paid to them by his executors 'in the town of Preston or Blackburne, Co. Lancs as they shall desire'. In this will he describes himself as citizen and vintner of London and directs that he shall be buried in the chancel of St Bride's Church. Beside a legacy of £100 to the two brothers just mentioned he leaves to his friends Richard Alye of London, Esquire, and Francis Dade of London, merchant, 'my messuage or tavern called The Globe in parish of St Brides als. Bridgett. . . now in possession of Ralph Parker and John Parker' on trust for his wife Ann for her life and afterwards for his nephews Edward, John and Henry, sons of his brother Thomas, subject to the payment of £20 each to his nieces, daughters of another brother William. Among other relatives named in the will is his brother-in-law George Dalby. Since the arms of Dalby (fn. 3) were those impaled with Hothersall on the font, we may conclude that Henry's wife Ann was of this family. Among other things he leaves a volume of Dr Littleton's sermons to his friend Nicholas Hawkins and small legacies to the vicar of St Bride's, Dr Henry Dove, and the poor of the parish.

Henry Hothersall, vintner, is found as a party to deeds (1653–60) connected with property at Cottesmore, Co. Rutland, and his name occurs also in deeds (1664–79) concerning property at Brasted, Kent. (fn. 4) As mentioned in his will he was proprietor of the Globe Tavern, Fleet Street, and was evidently a prominent parishioner of St Bride's. A receipt for his pew rent for 1675 is among the Church papers. The following extracts from the Churchwardens' Accounts are of interest:

1662, Nov. 7. 'Spent at Mr Hothersall's on those that were ordered to goe to the Warden of the Fleete and to give direction concerninge repaireing of the Cage and Parish Ingine, 4s. 6d.'

1671. 'Spent in an entertainment dinner of Doctor Wren, Mr Hook and others . . . at the Globe Tavern, £2. 17s. 0d.'

1671–2, Jan. 22. 'Spent at Mr Hodersall's giveing the Doctr [i.e. Sir C. Wren] a treate, 6s. 6d.'

1675, Dec. 7. 'The Churchwardens [William Frost and Philip Bromfield], Mr Hothersall and Capt. Baggs desired to go to Sir Thomas Player and return thanks to him for his kindness to the Parish in remitting his interest on the 260li advanced by him.'

From this it will be seen that Henry Hothersall took an active interest in the Church, and it would have been natural for him to have responded to the appeal of Dr Dove, the vicar, who in September 1675 pointed out to the Church Committee that he was still without a font (vide supra, p. 31).

It seems certain that in any case the Church could not have possessed a font dated 1615, since, twenty years before the Fire, a new font had been provided, as can be seen from these extracts from the Churchwardens' Books:

1646, May 15. 'Paid for the Font and the Cover and the Collumbe [pedestal] to sett it upon, £2. 19s. 10d.'

1646–7, Feb. 3. 'Paid Mr Taylor for guilding the Font and the pillar, 15s. 0d.'

If the font were an old one, it could not therefore have been one rescued from St Bride's when the Church was destroyed. But the design of the bowl is definitely against any ascription to a date so early as 1615. Its mouldings and their enrichment and especially the freedom of modelling in the cartouche are of the time of Charles II and not of James I. There is less certainty about the baluster stem. The carving on this is low in relief and undeveloped in design. It might well be the 'column' or 'pillar' of the 1646 font, reworked perhaps to remove traces of fire damage. But the bowl can be ascribed with little doubt to the Henry Hothersall of the post-Fire period, and we can only conclude that the original '7' of 1675 has in some way lost its upper horizontal stroke.

Galleries. The galleries are included in the architectural description of the Church. On 18 January 1675 the Committee viewed the galleries at Covent Garden, St Dunstan's, etc., and after further discussion visited Sir Christopher Wren on 15 July 'to desire his advice concerning the modell of the galleryes'. On 28 September it was agreed to proceed with the north gallery first and on 11 November John Longland was commissioned to do the work. On 18 January 1682 Mr William Rounthwaite was ordered to do all the inside work within the south gallery. In this year £430. 17s. 8d. were paid for work to the gallery (and the churchyard) wall.

The construction of the west gallery may have been postponed until the project for an organ had been approved, for it was not ordered until 21 October 1691. On 19 November following we read that 'the crosse gallery should first be built according to the Draught & the other galleryes to be lowered afterwards according to the modell of the said Crosse Gallery'. On the following 14 January payment was made for the two iron pillars that support the west gallery, the charge being £5. 3s. 9d. The order for lowering the side galleries was authorised on 30 January 1693.

Organ. During the Middle Ages a pair of organs stood on the rood loft and a legacy for a new pair has already been mentioned (p. 10) in the will of John Talbott in 1524. In the inventory of Church goods of 1553 mention is made of an old pair of organs.

The new Church was not immediately provided with an organ but the need must have been recognised and the annual festival of the musical Society of St Cecilia which was apparently first observed in St Bride's in November 1683 may have hastened a decision. An offer of an organ by Sir Fairmead Penistone was politely declined because of the onerous conditions attached to it, and subscriptions were invited for a new organ. Renatus Harris, the famous organ-builder who was a parishioner of St Bride's, with his workshop in Wine Office Court, Fleet Street, had helped the Church with his advice concerning the Penistone offer, and he was now commissioned to build the organ. He completed his task early in 1695, and the specification of the organ is preserved among the Church papers. There were 1485 pipes, all of metal with the exception of 24 or 26 wooden ones. The care of the organ remained in the hands of Renatus and his son John, who in 1728 gilded the pipes. On the latter's death his partner John Byfield took charge and also his son John whose name appears last in 1783. The next year William Gray and Company carried out repairs, and in 1871 Messrs J. W. Walker made certain alterations. In 1886 Messrs Gray and Davison rebuilt it under the direction of Dr E. H. Turpin, and in 1920 it was again rebuilt by the same firm.

The organ case which rose from the west gallery was well designed and of fine workmanship. The lower part below the pipes was panelled and surmounted by an entablature, enriched and furnished with an elaborately carved and pierced frieze. At the ends of the frieze were cherub corbels and in the centre one of acanthus leaves, over which the cornice projected to form circular bases for the central and side 'towers' of pipes. The 'towers' had rich canopied finials rising high above the body of pipes. The upper part of the pipes within each tower was enclosed in a deep case of pierced carving, shaped below, surmounted by a bold circular entablature, the cornice enriched with egg and tongue carving. Above the entablature each tower had an octagonal cupola with ogee roofs, carved ribs and finials, a crown in the centre and mitres at the sides. The central section was shaped above in the form of a segmental pediment, broken by the middle tower, the curved cornice resting on a pierced carved band masking the pipes. The pediment was supported by side consoles and the intermediate pipes were in two stages, the lower framed in two elliptical panels formed by pierced and carved spandrels. Over each section of the pediment was seated an angel holding a trumpet.

The entablatures of the towers were returned to the west wall and the organ was flanked by modern pipes, and panelled casing below.

Panelling and Door Cases. The walls of the aisles were panelled, three panels high with cornice, and there was some panelling round the gallery walls and on the west wall of the vestibule. The detail was the usual plain fielded panel in varying heights. The north and south entrances to the vestibule were furnished with lobbies, the internal doorcases being formed with entablature and elliptical pediment, with modillion cornice, supported by columns of the composite order. The architrave broke forward over the columns and over the doorway, the upper member being mitred round a central panel with side scrolls. Pedestals over the columns rose above the pediment and carried pineapple fruits. The tower communicated with the vestibule by glazed doors, similar to the screen, hung to a frame with a broad moulded architrave. The joiner employed on these works was a Mr Gray.

Church Plate, etc. The medieval Church of St Bride was richly provided with vestments, plate and ornaments, the gifts of incumbents and prosperous citizens, many of whom are known to us by their wills or entries in the Church records. The details of the Church treasury at the time of Edward VI are known by the inventory (fn. 5) prepared for the king's commissioners, and this has been printed in full by Mr H. B. Walter in London Churches at the Reformation (pp. 223–6). The plate was all sold, and as has already been noticed 'a faire comunyon cuppe for the mynystracon of the [Communion] in the seid churche' was bought with part of the proceeds. This cup has not survived. The present plate (fn. 1a) consists of:

Silver-gilt cup and cover, inscribed 'The guift of Roger Pindar, 1590'. They seem to have been remade since their date mark is 1682. The cup is 97/8 in. high with the bowl 45/8 in. wide. The cover has a diameter of 63/16 in. Weight 31 oz. 11 dwt.

Silver-gilt cup and cover, inscribed 'The gift of Raphe Raysinge, Goldsmith, to ye Church of St Bridgetts, London. 25° dic Decem: 1629'. The cup is without date mark, but that of the paten is 1696, evidence of its having been remade and given the original inscription. Size of cup, 9¼ in. high, 413/16 in. diameter of bowl; weight 23 oz. 4 dwt.

Silver-gilt cup and cover, inscribed 'The gift of Arthur Knight, Sanctie et Individuae Trinitati', with the date mark 1630. Height of cup 9½ in. high and 4¾ in. diameter of bowl; weight 30 oz. 5 dwt.

A set of silver-gilt flagon, cup and cover, two patens and bread-dish, inscribed 'Ex dono Pauli Boston nuper hujus Par: Stae Brigittae Vicarii, Anno Domini. 1671'. The date is that of Paul Boston's will, in which he left the sum of £50 to purchase the plate.

The flagon is 117/8 in. high, maximum diameter of 81/8 in. and weighs 73 oz. It bears the date mark for 1672.

The cup and cover is 97/8 in. high with diameter of 49/16 in. and weighs 32 oz. 8 dwt.

The two patens arc 93/8 in. high by 73/8 in. diameter above and 63/8 in. at the foot.

The bread-dish is on a stem, and with deep cover has the date mark for 1675 and is 13¾ in. diameter. It weighs 36 oz. 10 dwt.

A silver-gilt flagon inscribed 'Deo et suo et ecclesiae S. Brigide Casparus Needham. M. D. Coll: Lond: Socius humillime D. D., C. Q. A. D. 1676'. The date mark is 1675 and the height is similar to that presented by Paul Boston. Its weight is 74 oz.

A silver-gilt alms dish, inscribed 'The gift of John Turner, 1678'. Its diameter is 21¾ in. and its weight 100 oz. 10 dwt.

Three silver-gilt spoons (a) 75/8 in. long and weighing 2 oz. with the date mark for 1683; (b) 101/8 in. long, inscribed M. C. P. St B., with the date mark for 1701; (c) with a long handle and perforated bowl, II in. long and weighing 3 oz. 8 dwt., with the date mark for 1796.

Silver-gilt mace, 42½ in. long and measuring 6½ in. across the head, dated 1703. Under this date an entry in the Churchwardens' Accounts reads: 'Paid Mr John Jackson for a large mace, 50li. 01s. 06d.' The head is an elaborate crown with four arched bands with bead ornament carrying an orb and cross. The crown has a jewelled band between two gadroon mouldings and cresting of alternate crosses and fleurs-de-lis. The bowl below is adorned with four winged figures, nude from the waist up and foliage below, alternating with the badges of fleur-de-lis, harp, rose and thistle. It is supported by four scrolls that meet the stem above an enriched band. Within the crown is a cover embossed with the royal arms and supporters. The stem has two bosses, one at the base and the other midway, each enriched with foliage and divided centrally by a raised band of bay leaves. The shaft is inscribed:

For the use of the Parish of
St. Bridgett in the ward
of Faringdon without

Sr Francis Child Alderman
Mr Tho: Welson Common Counselmen
Capt Jere: Peirce
Mr Beñ. Tisdale Church Wardens
Mr Sam. Turner
Richard Beckford Esqr Alderman
Mr Chas Gardner Common Council
Mr Wm Cogan
Mr John Burnell
Mr Fras Lawe Church Wardens 1755
Mr Thos Williamson
John Wilkes Esqr Alderman
Mr John Nichols Depy
Mr Wm Wright Common Council
Mr Robt Herring
Mr Robt Herring Church Wardens 1796
Mr John Plaw

Churchwardens' Staff. A cane staff with long ferrule bearing a copper head with a ribbed support to a small royal crown richly embossed. On the copper band is inscribed:

The Wardens Staff of the Parish of St Bride in Flet St, London in the Ward of Farringdon Without, in the Time of Mr Willm Emmett, Churchwarden Anno Domini 1691.

Its length is 5 ft. 1½ in. and the head 10¼ in. There are three similar staves of polished wood, without inscription, but dating from the end of the seventeenth century. They have ferrules of brass and elaborate headpieces composed of a fluted capital beneath a domed cover over which is open metal work of 16 loops supporting a royal crown. They measure respectively 5 ft. 5½ in., 5 ft. 2 in. and 5 ft. 2¾ in., the heads being 13½ in., and were for the use of the staffmen on special occasions.

Almsboxes. Two brass almsboxes, with ornamental hinges and three keyholes, supported on wall brackets and inscribed:

The Gift of Mr Serjeant Turner.

Their date is about 1678. Hatton (New View of London, 1708) gives his name as John.

Candlesticks. A pair of circular-footed candlesticks of massive make, 91/8 in. high, uninscribed.

Pewter basins.

Two inscribed 'This Bason For The Vse of the Parish of St Brides alias Bridget, 1699'.

Three inscribed 'This Bason For The Vse of The parish of St Bridgett alyes Brides, 1705'.

One inscribed 'This Bason is for the Vse of the Parish of St Brides alis Bridget, 1722'.

Five inscribed 'St Brides, 1831. Joseph Allen D. D. Vicar. Richd Sharpe, Sam1 Sangster, Churchwardens. Sam1 Sabine Edkins, Sidesman. Edward Tickner, Robert Obbard, James Charles Farr, Overseers'.

One inscribed 'St Brides, 1851. Revd Charles Marshall M.A. Vicar. John Jewell, John Simms, Churchwardens. Benj. Smith, Sidesman. Francis Hutchinson, Thomas Whitehead, John Berry Bates, Overseers'.

Pulpit. On 3 June 1675 a resolution was entered in the Vestry Minutes to submit the prices for the joiner's work to Sir Christopher Wren's judgement, including those for the pulpit, portals and wainscot. On 29 June following, Mr Gray, the joiner, was authorised to put the work in hand. It is doubtful whether this pulpit was completed with all its carving for the opening of the Church in December, but the structural part must have been in position, since Sir Jeremiah Whichcote (fn. 2a) was presenting the pulpit cushion and cloth in November and was discussing with the Churchwardens the colour of the velvet, whether it should be crimson or purple. (fn. 6)

Among the St Bride's Papers (vol. III, fo. 233) is an 'account of the measure of the Carveing Worke done by Mr Deputy Phillips'. For the pulpit itself there were: '14 foot 10 inches of the Vawze with oak leaves & acorns, skirting boards; 27 foot ½ of the moldings about the middle pannells; 10 of small Cherubims heads; 12 Trusses and 13 Foot of leaves in the Cornice; 1 large Capital for the piller.

'For the Type (sounding board) 16 Foot of Leaves & Acorns within; 6 large Cherubims Heads; 6 pendent flowers; 6 small Piramides; 1 great Pine Apple; 32 Foot of folding leaves in the Cornice; 30 feet of Ovals and Scrolls; 46 feet of Arcuts.'

The pulpit is of oak, hexagonal in plan, with curved soffit richly carved with festoons of oak leaves and supported by hexagonal stem with moulded capital. The skirting rests on a boldly carved lower member, and both above the skirting and below the enriched cornice are carved console trusses at the angles with narrow sunk panels between, in place of the usual projections. Each face has a rectangular fielded panel surrounded by a carved frame in high relief, having cherub's heads in the centre of the top and bottom members. The stair to the pulpit is of Georgian character with carved console ends to each tread and a wrought iron balustrade of a type used by Robert Adam.

Reredos. The original reredos was removed in 1822–3, but its character has been preserved for us by various authors. E. Hatton in his New View of London (1708) describes it thus: 'The Altar-piece beautiful and magnificent. The lower part consists of 6 carved columns (painted Flake-stone colour) with Entablature and circular Pediments of the Corinthian Order, embellis'd with Lamps, Cherubims, etc. all gilt with gold. Above a circular Pediment are the queen's arms, finely carved, gilt and painted with the supporters. Under the Pediment a Text, I Cor. c. 10, v. 16. Inter-columns, the Decalogue, Paternoster and Creed. The upper Part is painted, and consists of 6 Columns (3 on each side of a handsome arched 5 Light Windows, adorned with a neat Scarlet-silk Curtain, edged with Gold Fringe) with their Enta blature finely done (white and veined) in strong Perspective. In front of which are the Pourtraictures of Moses, with the Two Tables in his Hands, and Aaron in his Priest's Habit; over the window 'tis painted Nebulous, and above the Clouds appears (from within a large Crimson Velvet Festoon painted Curtain) a Celestial Choir, or a Representation of the Church Triumphant, in the Vision and Presence of a Glory in the shape of a Dove, all finely painted, the Enrichments are gilt with Gold.'

This description gives an impression of magnificence but is not precise enough to enable us to reconstruct the old design, although it seems that the lower part was structural and the upper part surrounding the window wholly painted. In Britton and Pugin's Public Buildings of London (fn. 3a) (1825) it is stated that 'during the late alterations [the restoration of 1822–3] the old altar piece ... was taken down and an entirely new arrangement made from the judicious designs of Mr Deykes, the architect. The new altar-piece...occupies the whole of the recess of the east end and consists principally of two stories of the Ionic order, crowned by an entablature and a circular pediment.' John Deykes has been described as 'the improver of Great Malvern', and this account of his work at St Bride's appears to refer to the whole architectural treatment of the east wall of the sanctuary though the mention of the Ionic order is mystifying. The curved pediment that crowned the composition just below the vault can be seen in the earlier views (see Plate 29), but was removed, as already stated, in 1932 and three urns substituted.

This was part of the work done by Mr H. M. Fletcher who also lowered the reredos to free the east window. The reredos as altered filled the recess behind the altar and consisted of three large panels between two half columns and two quarter columns, one at each side, of the Corinthian Order, carrying a richly carved entablature, which broke forward over the columns. The latter may have belonged to Wren's reredos if, as is probable, Deykes utilised them in his design. The whole stood on a panelled plinth the height of the altar table. The side panels were lettered with the Lord's Prayer and the Creed, the work of Laurence Turner, the centre one having been painted by Eric Newton with a globe surmounted by a cross towards which descended the Holy Dove against a background of clouds. This was a revival of the subject of the central painting by Willement, for the 1822–3 restoration. (fn. 7)

Screen. An entry in the Churchwardens' Accounts under date 28 December 1675 reads: 'A skreene is ordered to be made before the Steeple and North doors to the Church passages and pinns for hats placed in the men's pews.' The whole of the vestibule thus screened from the Church was below the western gallery and was paved with black and white marble squares laid diagonally within a white border. It did not occupy the whole depth of the western bay, but was set back to allow of a line of back pews between the screen and the first pair of piers with which the gallery above aligned. Towards the vestibule the screen was furnished with six panelled pilasters with moulded caps and bases. Between the central pair were double entrance doors, glazed in the upper part, shown in earlier views with square-headed lights but replaced later by arched glazing. On each side were two glazed rectangular panels, with sash-bars, filling (with the central doors) the whole width between the arcades, each panel flanked by pilasters. The screen was continued across the aisles, with a door to each.

Seating. There are a number of references in the Vestry Minutes to the seating both in the body of the Church and the galleries. In Clayton's drawings the old box pews are shown, three panels high; but they had since been reduced to two panels, while preserving their bolection mouldings. Mr Fletcher brought the choir stalls, which had been altered by Champneys, into unison with the old work. The churchwardens' pew at the west end of the nave, against the screen, had been left at its old height, with its strip of pierced carving along the front and sides.

In the Vestry Minutes of 15 July 1675, the ironwork for the pews submitted by Mr Wilson was best liked. It was agreed to provide that 'a key [for] every lock to bee made goe different, that ye Keyes of one lock may not unlock another, as neare as can be contrived, and to make soe many keys to every pewe as the pewe will hould people'.

Sword-rest. The sword-rest is a tall metal-turned shaft of elongated baluster form. Attached to the centre of the shaft are the dragon supporters of the City arms in sheet metal. A large open-work crown, with orb and cross, surmounts the staff, and below it is attached a double oval escutcheon with the arms of the City and a cherub's head, cut out of two sheets of metal.


  • 1a. In 1728 the Communion plate to the weight of 433 oz. was gilded at a cost of 2s. an oz. (Churchwardens' Accounts).
  • 2a. Sir Jeremy Whichcote, Bt. gave £110 to the Church. (Hatton's New View of London, 1708.)
  • 3a. Vol. 1, pp. 125–7.
  • 1. Figured in History of Longridge, by T. C. Smith (1888).
  • 2. P. C. C. 4 Lloyd. The will is dated 18 Sept 1685 and was proved 12 Jan. 1685–6.
  • 3. Burke's Armoury on the authority of Glover's Ordinary.
  • 4. Communicated by Mr W. H. Challen.
  • 5. P. R. O. Survey of Church Goods, E. 117, file 4, No. 90.
  • 6. St Bride's Vestry Minutes, 23 Nov. 1675.
  • 7. Britton and Pugin, Public Buildings of London, 1 (1825), p. 125.