The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 30 The City To The East Of The Bank

Bishopsgate - St Helen's

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D. BlSHOPSGATE AND THE NORTH DISTRICTS. BISHOPSGATE, beginning at the junction of Cornhill and Leadenhall St., is a busy and important thoroughfare, running north to Shoreditch. Near its south end are several banks and the Wesleyan Centenary Hall (No. 24). The Chartered Bank of India, Australia, and China (No. 38), on the right, occupies the site of Crosby Hall. On the same side is Great St. Helen's, leading to St. Helen's, one of the largest and most interesting of the City churches, sometimes called the 'Westminster Abbey of the City' from its numerous monuments. The church is dedicated to the Empress Helena, and legend asserts that the Emperor Constantine himself erected the original edifice in honour of his mother. It has been established that a church existed here in Saxon times, though the story that the body of King Edmund the Martyr was temporarily deposited in it seems baseless. About 1212 the Priory of St. Helen, for Benedictine nuns, was founded on the site now occupied by St. Helen's Place. This priory attained to great wealth and built a spacious church with two parallel naves, 122 feet long, one of which (north) was used by the nuns ('Nuns' Choir'), the other as a parish church. The present building includes a south transept, with two chapels adjoining it on the east. In the north wall of the Nuns' Choir are an arched doorway, remains of lancet windows, and a bagioscope or squint, all apparently dating from the 13th century. The two chapels were added about the middle of the 14th century, and the rest of the church was built between 1450 and 1500. The interior porch doors date from a restoration of 1631-33, said to have been carried out by Inigo Jones. Four other restorations took place between 1865 and 1911. Remains of the mediï¾µval priory are shown on application (admission 1/, five persons 2/6). The chief interest of the dark INTERIOR (open daily, except Saturday, 11.30-4) is in the monuments of City worthies. The most elaborate is that of Sir William Pickering (died 1574), on the north side of the chancel. On the south side is the tomb of Sir John Crosby (died 1475) and his wife. In the Gresham Memorial Chapel, at the east end of the Nuns' Choir, are the altar tombs of Sir Thomas Gresham (died 1579) and Sir Julius Caesar (died 1636), Master of the Rolls. The latter bears a Latin inscription to the effect that Sir Julius confirms 'by this his act and deed that, by the Divine aid, he would willingly pay the debt of Nature when it might please God to demand it.' Near these monuments is a tablet put up in 1879 to Alberico Gentili (died 1608), the Italian jurist, Regius Professor of Civil Law at Oxford, who was buried in St. Helen's. The adjacent tomb of Sir Andrew Judde (died 1558) has a quaint inscription. Near the north-west angle of the Nuns' Choir is the tomb of Alderman Thomas Robinson (died 1599), and near the south-west angle of the parochial church is the elaborate tomb of Sir John Spencer (died 1609). In the Lady Chapel, opening out of the transept, are recumbent stone effigies of Sir John de Oteswich and his wife (early 15th cent), removed in 1874, along with sixteen other monuments, from the demolished church of St. Martin Outwich (Threadneedle St.). The Shakespeare Memorial Window (4th from the west end of the Nuns' Choir; 1884) was presented by Mr. Prentice, an American, in recognition of the fact that a certain William Shakespeare (probably the dramatist) was a ratepayer in the parish in 1598. On the right beyond Great St. Helen's, is St. Helen's Place, with the Leathersellers' Hall, a modern building. The company was incorporated in the 14th century, and the old hall (removed in 1799) was the refectory of St. Helen's Priory. The church of St. Ethelburga (entrance between Nos. 70 & 74 Bishopsgate), one of the smallest and most ancient in London, escaped the Great Fire and dates in its present form from the late 14th or earlv 15th century (open 12-4, except Saturday). Henry Hudson made his Communion here in 1607, before starting on his first voyage. Behind the church is a pleasant little garden.