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St Bride’s ChurchLondon
Fleet Street
TfL Fare Zone 1 .
 
 
    
St Bride’s in Fleet Street is one of the City of London’s hidden treasures. There has been a church here since the 6th century and before that the Romans had inhabited the site.
 
The church's associations with the printing trade and its unique tiered spire have led to it being called ‘the Printers’ church’ and also the ‘wedding cake church’.
 
St. Bridget of Kildare
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St Bride’s is named after the Irish saint, Bridgit of Kildare. St Bridgit died on 1 February 525 AD and was buried with St Patrick. This date is now celebrated as the Feast of St Bride and in keeping with St Brigit’s habit of taking a sustaining cake with her on her ministries, a cake is baked and distributed.
 
Inside the West door entrance are sculptures of St Paul and St Bride done by David McFall.
 
The Crypts
The present church is the 8th to be built on the site. Confirmation of this came when St Bride’s suffered bomb damage during World War II. Archaeologists were able to excavate the crypts and uncovered over 1,000 years of history. Much of what they found is visible today in the Crypt Chapel and Museum.
 
When excavating the crypts the archaeologists found that they had been used as a medieval charnel house. Two hundred complete skeletons were found and 7,000 individual bones, all categorized and laid out in a chequerboard pattern - evidence of a chronic land shortage even then.
 
Roman Remains
They uncovered the earliest Roman remains in London, a ditch dug when Londinium was first established and the remains of a Roman house built in the 2nd century. A skeleton of a Roman woman showed that she had been given a Christian burial.
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Saxon Remains
The next find was the remains of a Saxon church remarkably similar to St Bidgit’s foundation in Kildare, confirming this as the site of the first Christian church in Britain. The second church built in the 6th century had been sacked by the Danes.
 
12th Century Norman Church
The Norman church built in the 12th century was dual purpose. The King’s Council was held there in 1205 and King John of Magna Carta fame (see Magna Carta Memorial in this website) held a Parliament in the church in 1210. Remains were found of the 15th century Perpendicular church built by William Vyner, Warden of the Fleet Prison.
 
In medieval times the church was surrounded by the London townhouses of clergy from some of the most eminent religious Sees such as Salisbury, Peterborough and Ely.
 
Wynkyn de Worde
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Literacy went with The Church and in 1500 Wynkyn de Worde (William Caxton’s apprentice), set up the first printing press with moveable type, in a courtyard next to St Bride’s. Wynkyn de Worde died in 1535 and is buried in St Bride’s churchyard.
 
De Worde’s commercially clever ploy of bringing the press to the writers of the books and religious tracts, led to all the churches in the area putting in their own printing presses. Naturally, writers and poets chose to live near to where they could get their work published.
 
Famous Literary Figures
Famous literary figures such as John Milton, John Dryden, Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and Alexander Pope lived near St Bride’s. The famous diarist, Samuel Pepys, was born just around the corner from the church and was baptised there.
 
The Great Plague of 1665 and The Great Fire of 1666
St Bride’s parish was devastated during the Great Plague in 1665. The community lost many of its parishioners who were manual workers. The wealthy Royal Court lawyers, merchants and doctors fled but the church provided parish relief, tending to the sick and burying the dead. The parish lost 2,111 members.
 
St Bride’s fell victim to the Great Fire of London in 1666. Everything was burnt to the ground including Samuel Pepys’ childhood home.
 
Sir Christopher Wren
Sir Christopher Wren designed the new church in 1672. The new church was built on the foundations of the previous 6 buildings without disturbing them. Work progressed quickly partly because Wren built The Old Bell Tavern beside the church as a hostel for the workers and partly because the Royal Master Mason was a parishioner. By 1674 the Portland stone body of the church was completed.
 
The Wedding Cake Spire
The tower and graceful, tiered spire were not finished and work did not begin on them until 1701.They took 2 years to complete and at 226 feet (68.9 metres), the spire is the highest Wren designed.
 
It is reputed to have inspired a local pastry cook, Mr Rich, to create the first tiered wedding cake, the model for modern tiered wedding cakes.
 
The story is that Mr Rich was marrying his Apprentice Master’s daughter in St Bride’s. He wanted to give his fiancée a very special, personal gift. He decided to make their wedding cake a replica of the spire of the church in which they were to be married.
 
Whatever the truth of this story, there is a prone gravestone in the churchyard to a Thomas Rich and his wife.
 
Unique Church
When the church was damaged in 1940 the building was rebuilt using Wren’s actual drawings. This is indeed a unique church because it has no Georgian and Victorian renovations so common in other churches. Miraculously it still has its medieval lectern despite two disastrous fires. The other great treasures are of course in the Crypt Chapel.
 
Fleet Street
The whole printing and publishing industry that grew up in Fleet Street, because of De Worde’s press, was centred on St Bride’s. It was a natural progression for the church to become the centre of comfort and religious observance for the printers and journalists who worked in Fleet Street. The Rector of St Bride’s was appointed Chaplain to the Newspaper Workers’ Club and the church is full of reminders of the part journalists have played in world events.
 
The world’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Courant was founded in Fleet Street in 1702. Modern newspapers are no longer printed in Fleet Street but the church continues its strong associations with the media.
 
American Connections
- Virginia Dare
In the church above the font is a bust to Virginia Dare, born 18 August 1587 – the first child born in the Americas to English parents. Her maternal grandfather, John White was the leader of early colonists who settled in modern-day North Carolina. John White sought British assistance for the colonists but when he returned from England 3 years later, the colonists had disappeared. It is not known what happened to them. The bust reminds visitors that her parents were parishioners of St Bride’s.
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- Pilgrim Fathers & Edward Winslow
At the east end of the church is a magnificent free standing, canopied, oak reredos, the gift of Lord Astor of Hever. This is a memorial to the Pilgrim Fathers and Edward Winslow (1595 – 1655). Edward was born, bred, and worked in Fleet Street, and worshipped at St Bride’s. He went on to be one of the leading Pilgrim Fathers who sailed to the New World in The Mayflower in 1620. He held the post of Governor of Plymouth, Massachusetts, three times and returned to England as ‘America’s first Ambassador’.
 
- Benjamin Franklin
In 1674 the steeple was struck by lightning and damaged. The Royal Society’s then President, Benjamin Franklin, was asked to investigate whether his pointed lightening rods would safeguard the steeple from further lightning strikes. Unfortunately, Franklin who was seen as representing the dissatisfied colonists, got into a row with King George III who insisted blunt knob conductors were better. An exasperated Benjamin Franklin remarked "I cannot reverse the laws of nature." The obstinate King replied "Then you are not fit to be President!"
 
Relations with the colonists deteriorated further, leading to the War of Independence with Franklin returning to America.
 
Fleet Street had great fun with this. The contemporary newspapers of the time referred to the king as ‘good, blunt, honest King George’ and the supporters of Franklin as ‘those sharp-witted colonists’.
 
Plan Your Visit
Opening Times
As St Bride’s is a working church it is open all year for prayer and services. (Please phone in advance to check times)
Monday – Friday   08:00 – 17:00 (closes an hour later in summer.)
Saturday              Hours vary (contact office)
Sunday                10:00 – 18:30   
For further information visit  Web:  St Brides/ Visit    
 
Free Music Recitals are held lunchtimes.
 
Admission Costs
Free. Donations are always welcome.
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone  +44 (0)2074 270 133
Mail  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Getting There
To find the best way for getting to St Bride's Church, visit TfL Journey Planner.
 
- By Underground
St Paul’s Station      Circle Line
Blackfriars Station   Circle and District Lines
 
- By Mainline Rail
Thameslink services run into City Thameslink.
Other operators run services to Blackfriars.
 
- By Bus
Routes numbers 4, 11, 15, 23, and 76 stop on Fleet Street opposite the church.
We suggest that you use the Transport for London 'Journey Planner'
 
St. Brides church is located down an alleyway off Fleet Street, near Ludgate Circus.
 

Google Maps - St Bride's Church