London Churches: St Mary Woolnooth

Posted: August 25, 2016 in History, London, Roman History, Saxon History, UK
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St Mary Woolnooth

St Mary Woolnooth

It is thought that this has been a site of worship for over 2000 years as excavations have revealed the presence of a Roman temple and an Anglo-Saxon church.

The dedication is to St mary of the Nativity. The term Woolnooth is believed to have come from Wulnathe de Walesbrok, a 12th century benefactor.

The Anglo-Saxon church had been replaced by a Norman building, which was rebuilt in 1445. Badly damaged during the Great Fire of London in 1666, it was repaired by Sir Christopher Wren, but by 1711 it had been declared unsafe and was demolished.

High Altar

High Altar

Nicholas Hawksmoor was commissioned to build a replacement, it is the only church by this famous church builder in the city of London. He began in 1716 and it finally opened for worship in 1727. John Newton, hymn writer and anti-slavery campaigner was the priest here from 1780-1807 and William Wilberforce was also known to have worshipped here.

The Pulpit

The Pulpit

There were many changes over the following years, most notably the removal of the galleries in 1876. It has been threatened with demolition over the years as it occupies a prime site in the city. In 1897 plans were laid to demolish the church in conjunction with the building of Bank station on the underground railway, but public pressure ensured its survival. The railway company purchased the church crypt and worked to ensure that no damage was done to the church structure whilst building the station underneath it.

Today in addition to its English-speaking congregation it is also home to a German-speaking Swiss community in London as well as being the official church in London of the government of  the Canadian state of British Columbia.

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