The Garden Guide

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


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C. FROM THE BANK TO ALDGATE VIA CORNHILL. CORNHILL, skirting the south side of the Royal Exchange and running nearly due east, is a busy street, named from a long extinct grain-market. The shop at No. 15, long occupied by 'Birch's,' a well-known caterer, and supposed to be the oldest in London, was absorbed by a bank in 1926. Farther on, on the same side, is Change Alley, the scene of wild speculations during the South Sea Bubble excitement. No. 39 Cornhill occupies the site of the house (burned down in 1748) in which Thomas Gray (1716-71), the poet, was born. St. Michael's Alley leads past the corner of Castle Court (No. 3), at which is the George and Vulture, a tavern known to all readers of 'Pickwick,' on a site said to have been occupied by an inn for six centuries. On the other side of St. Michael's Alley stands the church of St. Michael, rebuilt by Wren in 1672 and restored by Sir G. G. Scott, in an incongruous Gothic style, in 1857-60 (open 12-3.45, except Saturday). The tower, erected by Wren in 1722, is practically a reproduction of the pre-Fire tower. The war memorial adjoining the entrance is by R. Goulden (1920). St. Peter's (open 10-4, Saturday 10-12, Wednesday 10-1.30), also to the right, was rebuilt by Wren in 1679-82. It is traditionally the earliest Christian church in London, and an old tablet in the vestry ascribes the erection of the original church on this site to 'Lucius, the first Christian king of this land, then called Britaine' (179 A.D.). The carved wooden choir-screen is one of the only two erected by Wren, and the only one in its original place. The organ is by Father Smith (1681); Mendelssohn (1840 and 1842) played on the former keyboard (now in the vestry). The old bread-shelf and the illuminated manuscript of the Vulgate made for the church in 1290 are interesting. Beneath these two churches remains of walls have been found, suggesting the existence here of a Roman fort, perhaps the earliest building in Roman London. Cornhill ends at the point whence Bishopsgate runs to the north and Gracechurch St. to the south, and here once stood the 'Standard,' from which mileages on roads south of London Bridge used to be reckoned.