History of the replacement church

In 1679 surveyors who examined the church decided it must be rebuilt, and all of it was demolished in 1680 except for the tower. The churchwardens made a contract in May 1680 with John Shorthose and Edward Pearse, masons, to demolish the church and chancel and rebuild it under the supervision of Sir Christopher Wren, Surveyor of the King’s Works, preserving the battlements of 650 ft. for reuse as well as the stone, bricks, and window ironwork. They were to build the foundations, walls and pillars ready for the roof, and set in the window ironwork. The new building was cased in Portland Ashlar and the old materials used for the core of rubble and brick.xcv The new church of stone was completed in 1682, with work by the carpenters Henry Pierson and John Green and the plasterer Robert Powell. It was the only parish church by Wren to have an apse, which was joined to the main body by a quadrant bay. Fine dial, clock and portico and beautiful steeple, 116 ft. high containing 9 bells. Altar-piece, fine chancel paved with black and white marble.xcvi

The new church was paid for by the parishioners and gifts. In 1697 the churchwardens and parishioners petitioned the Middlesex justices for an additional poor-rate, which they obtained, as the parish had spent nearly £15,000 on their new church and were nearly £4,000 in debt.xcvii Gifts included £200 from Richard Shalmer, a parishioner, in 1698.xcviii

Despite this recent expenditure on their church, the parish made a proposal for a new church on the site of Grange Inn, near the additional burial ground, which was accepted by the Commissioners for Fifty New Churches in 1711 but was never carried out, possibly because of the cost of buying out the freehold and leasehold interests.xcix Soon afterwards the Vestry decided on improvements to the existing church, carried out in 1720. The tower was raised by 25 ft., and a steeple 50 ft. added over the bells, designed by James Gibbs with Townsend as mason; the steeple had 3 stages, Ionic, then (concave) Corinthian, then Composite. The interior was sumptuously fitted, the columns were fluted and the capitals gilded. A glory painted by Kent was erected over the altar, but was taken down in 1725 by order of the bishop following an allegation that the figure of St. Cecilia was a portrait of the Stuart Pretender's wife with some of her family. Carving on the altar was done by James Richards, and there was also fretwork and wainscotting, and a S. gallery.

In 1866 there was an altar-piece of carved wainscot of Tuscan order. The church seated 1,500, 350 of them free. 10 bells. Organ by Smith, rebuilt by Robson.c Repairs and redecoration by H. and P. Currey were carried out 1897-8, when the pews were lowered. The interior and furnishings were destroyed by bombing in 1941. The church was rebuilt after 1945 as a central church for the R.A.F.; architect W.A.S. Lloyd of W. Curtis Green, Sons and Lloyd; plasterwork of ceiling by Clark and Fenn. Glass by Carl Edwards. Reopened Oct Plate in 1685: 2 silver flagons, 4 silver bowls, 3 silver pattens.cii


lxxxviii  Guildhall MS. 9171/1, ff. 386-87v.

lxxxix  Guildhall MS. 9171/6, ff. 31v., 127v.

xc  Guildhall MS. 9171/6, f. 63.

xci  Guildhall MS. 9171/6, ff. 113v., 171.

xcii  Paterson, Pietas Londinensis, 67-9.

xciii  P.R.O., E 178/5482.

xciv  Pevsner, Buildings of Eng. City of Westm., ed. Bradley, (forthcoming).

 xcv  B.L., Add. Ch. 1605.

xcvi  Clarke, Lond. Chs. 176-7; Paterson, Pietas Londinensis, 67-9.

xcvii  Mdx. County Rec. Sess. Bks. 1689-1709, 176.

xcviii  P.R.O., C 93/46/28 [3rd inq].

xcix  Lond. Rec. Soc. xxiii. 149, 153, 156.

c  Mackeson's Guide (1866).

ci  Clarke, Lond. Chs. 176-7.

cii  Guildhall MS. 9537/20, p. 97. The church registers, at W.C.A., date from 1558.


See the complete text of the history of the church at VCH web site

Dove's reference for the bells:

Westminster, Greater London, St Clement Danes, Strand, WC2, 10, 21-1-23 in E. 


Map reference :  TQ309810

Photographs: © Edwin Macadam

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