St James’ Church, Piccadilly is one of the churches designed and built by Christopher Wren, the foundation stone being laid on 3 April 1676. It was paid for by the Earl of St Albans who owned the land and probably selected Wren personally for the job.
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After visiting St Andrew Undershaft I moved on to the nearby St Helen’s Bishopsgate. There was already a tour in progress when I arrived and as I’d already diverted from my original plan by some hours I decided to just wander around on my own taking photos.
St Andrew Undershaft was one of many churches I visited during Open House London. I only spotted it as I was heading towards Leadenhall Market (to feature in a later post) thanks to the sign they’d put out on the pavement – the church is tucked away among many of the City’s skyscrapers.
There’s been a church on this site since at least 1125, but the present church dates from 1744 and is by George Dance the Elder (he also built Mansion House, the official home of the Lord Mayor of London). The interior of the church, which really took my breath away, was remodelled by John Francis Bently (who also designed Westminster Cathedral).
St Mary le Strand is one of London’s “island churches”, standing on a traffic island by Somerset House. It’s the second church to be called St Mary le Strand, the first having been pulled down in 1549 to make way for Somerset House. Construction of the present church began in 1714, the architect being James Gibbs (architect of St Martin-in-the-Fields among many other places).
I’d taken photos of the exterior of St Clement Danes Church on a previous visit to London but I was finally able to spare the time to go inside in September. Right by the Royal Courts of Justice it is one of London’s two “island churches”, so-called because of the layout of the road around it. (The other is St Mary le Strand which will be the focus of a later post).
I’ve had the Temple Church on my to visit list for a while now and I finally got around to it on this most recent trip to London. The London headquarters of the Knights Templar, from where Temple Church took its name, it was consecrated in 1185. The Templar’s churches were always built to a circular design in remembrance of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which certainly makes it a striking building.
I popped into St Philip’s Church in Kensington purely because I was passing and saw the door was open. The building dates from around 1857, being consecrated in 1858.
St Mary Magdalene Church has been on my local must list visit for a number of years and I finally managed it in September. It is most notable for being the burial place of both Lord Byron and his daughter, the mathematician Ada Lovelace.
We received a very warm welcome from two of the volunteers who throughout our visit were very accommodating and chatted to me about the church, providing some extra details about the history of the building. The church does however have a lot of information boards about Byron, Ada and other figures connected to the church, as well as QR codes making it possible to work your way around several “trails” depending on who you want to focus on.
The building itself is on the site of an old Saxon church, the porch dating from 1320 and the tower built in stages between the 12th and 14th centuries. Much of the rest of the building dates from 1872.
The church has many claims to fame. The first of course is as the burial place of Lord Byron and in the baptistery there are many objects related to him including this quite impressive plaque and statue.
One of the other claims to fame is as the burial ground of Ada Lovelace, Byron’s only legitimate daughter, a mathematician who is credited with having written the first computer programme. Byron and her mother separated shortly after her birth and so she never knew her father. She did however remain fascinated with him though her mother steered her towards more scientific subjects rather than poetical. She died of cancer aged 36 in 1852 and was the last member of the family to be buried in the vault, at her own request. What you see of the tomb isn’t actually that impressive, as the coffin is actually beneath the church, but interesting to see nonetheless.
Another claim to fame is that St Mary Magdalene has a large collection of stained glass windows by Charles Eamer Kempe a renowned Victorian designer.
Definitely worth a visit. You can see some more photos here.