Before we begin our tour, let's remember...
Back to the present: Let's set out from Bishopsgate, near Liverpool Street Station... We'll look at St Botolph's church first
Before the Great Fire of London destroyed most, there were 111 churches within the walls of the City of London - what we call 'the square mile'
Of them eighty were destroyed, fifty-one rebuilt under Wren's guidance and to his designs.
Currently forty-seven of them have survived. In all they reflect a variety of architectural history, from the lofty Norman choir of St Bartholomew the Great near Smithfield Market, by way of the unusual design of St Katherine Cree of the earlier 17th Century. wren's own more classically inclined architectural selection and Nicholas Hawksmoor's St Mary Woolnoth to the late Georgian-Gothic Revival of St Bartholomew the Lesser, and St Dunstan in the West are a few of the examples of the variety of styles extant in the Stuart era in London.
We leave Bishopsgate to walk southward to Mincing Lane, to take a look at...
Following the Great Fire Christopher Wren received instruction from a Royal Commission...
...To rebuild fifty-one of the burnt-out City churches, for which he would later be awarded a knighthood from Charles II.
His masterpiece was definitely St Paul's Cathedral. Yet within a half mile of St Paul's there are many other Wren designs. Of the fifty-one churches he had built, many have either been demolished due to bomb damage suffered in WWII, or to a general depletion of the City's population by the 19th Century.
Among those churches still extant St Stephen Walbrook can lay claim to the most perfectly laid out interior in the Western world. Seeing is believing. A feeling of peace and serenity overcomes the visitor on entry. The crypt was formerly the location of the first branch of the Samaritans - the organisation that takes calls from those desperate to cling on to life and those disappointed in life but not enough to actually go through with suicide. A portrait of founder Chad Varah can be seen beside the telephone that linked the hopeless to him in their time of distress.
Taking the road westward to where Old London Bridge met the north bank of the Thames we come across...
St Lawrence Jewry takes its name from its location on the eastern side of the City.
Home originally to the Jewish community in the Middle Ages, many moved away eastward or north to the outer suburbs in recent decades. St Lawrence was severely damaged on bombing during a night when the Luftwaffe aimed at starting a fire storm on 29th December, 1940. The church was restored to its former glory as Wren would have seen it.
Since 1174 a church stood at St Martin within Ludgate, although rebuilt several times. Destroyed in the Great Fire, it was rebuilt again early in the 18th Century with little further damage inflicted during the 'Blitz'. Stairs lead to the organ loft where instructions are left on show for organists.
St Bride's may be the oldest of London's churches, parts dating back to the 7th Century. The old Saxon walls can be seen in the crypt, laid bare as the result of a direct hit on 29th December, leaving the church severely damaged. St Bride's being located behind Fleet Street, has a historic link with journalists who worked for the newspapers until the mid-1980s when the Press in general moved away from the Street. Frequently spoken of as the journalists' church, neighbouring 'press barons' paid into the restoration fund. There are seats in the choir stalls designated for use by the editors, although the likelihood of seeing them after roughly three decades away from Fleet Street is significantly remote... I may be wrong, I hope so... .
A quick glimpse at a favourite before we go on...
These churches are free to enter (except St Paul's) and open on weekdays.
Weekend openings may vary. Donations are their lifeblood, and a small token of appreciation in the box near the door is welcome. St Bride's has a daily guided tour - you can find details online.
Walking from Liverpool Street Station via the Monument to St Bride's can be wearying. I stopped off at 'The Bell' for refreshment (as I used to occasionally when I worked at The Telegraph' - and saw a pair of veteran newspaper journalists deep in discussion more than once; Jon Akass and Keith Waterhouse have passed on to the Great Editor in the hereafter, let's hope they get on as well with him as they did their earthly bosses). Time to head out for home. I scaled Ludgate Hill, past St Paul's and headed for the Underground and a welcome sit-down on the Central Line back east to Stratford...
I hope you enjoyed this cultural diversion as much as I did in writing it. I can still taste the pint I had in 'The Bell'!
Finally Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill environs...
A route for all seasons - to take in all Wren's City churches (take your time, they've been there for centuries and they won't go away)...
© 2018 Alan R Lancaster
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on May 20, 2018:
So there we are then. The area by the Strand was a long beach by the Thames where the river once meandered and provided fishing. The 'Danes' connection was that only those Danes married to Middlesex Saxon women were entitled to live in the neighbourhood. The others lived beyond the River Lea in what was East Saxon territory and within the Danelaw. At one stage, while Aelfred still struggled against the Danes only the Danes settled in what had been the Roman city, as the Saxons considered it to be haunted, and decided to settle west of the River Fleet (now an underground sewer main under Farringdon Street and New Bridge Street, leading to the Thames). .
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 19, 2018:
I've heard about the statue. A big thing was made of it over here. NZ also sent six squadrons over to Europe during the war, so it was pretty major when it got recognized.
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on May 19, 2018:
Welcome Lawrence, there's a church Wren built that didn't replace a burnt one. St Clement Danes stands near where the Strand meets the Aldwych. A statue of Sir Arthur 'Bomber' Harris stands near the front door. It's before your time 'Down Under , but there were a lot of Kiwis and Aussies in Bomber Command.
Got a page planned about Docklands, with views of the Millennium Dome (O2) the average postcard never shows. Plus there's a picture of the Thames Ironworks, 19th C origins of West Ham United Football Club.(WHUFC)
Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on May 18, 2018:
Thanks for the tour
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on April 25, 2018:
Follow the yellow brick road, Mary. The diagram at the bottom of the page should see you well. There are lots of wren's churches I couldn't cover, but the appetite has been whetted, hasn't it. The furthest west is St Clement Danes on the Strand near the university and the turn for the Aldwych. I think the furthest north is on the Barbican near the Museum of London, so you'd get 'two for the price of one'. I don't know when you last visited St Paul's, but the area to the north of the cathedral has been remodelled. Worth a look... that leads to a small ruined church (bomb damage) across the road. Good hunting.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 24, 2018:
This is a good theme to follow when visiting London again. Thank you for sharing. We always pay homage to St. Paul's but I don't think I know the others well.