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St Helen’s Church London
Great St Helen's Street
TfL Fare Zone 1

 

Dwarfed by tall city buildings, this ancient church has unusual twin naves.
 
Benedictine Nunnery
In 1210 the Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s gave permission to William Fitzwilliam, a goldsmith, to establish a Benedictine nunnery in the grounds of the Priory Church of St Helen’s. The nunnery was built to the north of the existing church and a new church for the use of the nuns built alongside the existing church.
 
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The old church was lengthened to match the new bigger church built for the nuns. This explains the odd shape of the present building. A line of arches and a screen separated the Nuns’ choir from the old church.
 
In 1480 the four great arches which dominate the present building were built. The design of the roof dates back to this time although the timber used is more recent of course.
 
Leather-Sellers' Company
In 1538 the Nunnery was surrendered to King Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. In 1543 the convent buildings and land were sold to the Leather-sellers’ Company and the Nuns’ church became parochial. Leather-sellers Hall is on the west side of the present church.
 
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The Nuns' Choir became part of the parish church and the screen was removed between the Nuns' Choir and the main body of the church and that is how we see St Helen’s today. In 1799 the last convent buildings were demolished.
 
St Helen’s escaped the Great Fire of London in 1666 and remarkably was not damaged during the bombing of London in the Second World War. It was not so lucky in modern times when two IRA bombs exploded, one in 1992 and another in 1993. The church was badly damaged – the roof sustained much damage; the largest medieval stained glass window in the City of London was shattered and many of the ancient monuments inside the church were destroyed.
 
Inside are early Brasses & a Jacobean Pulpit
The church has now been completely restored. Inside are many treasures and historic monuments. There are some very early brasses (1465), a Jacobean pulpit (1615), a squint in the north wall of the church which allowed the Benedictine Nuns to observe the 'Mass', and a memorial window to William Shakespeare who lived in the parish in the late 1500s.
 
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Famous People's Graves
Many famous people have been buried in this church. Among them is Sir John Crosby of Crosby Hall (1475). This man was a grocer who achieved great wealth and influence. The King used him as a diplomat and an ambassador and he was also made Lord Mayor. Also buried here is Sir Thomas Gresham (1579), merchant and financier to King Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth I, and founder of the Royal Exchange.
 
There is also a memorial to Sir John Spencer (1609). He was an Elizabethan clothworker and held many civic appointments in the City of London. He was an alderman, served as Sheriff and made Lord Mayor in 1594. On many occasions he stood up against the Crown in defense of Privileges of the City. The number of monuments in the church has led to St Helen’s being called ‘The Westminster Abbey of The City’.
 
Contact & Further Information
To plan your visit to St Helens, go to:
 
Getting There
To find the best way for getting to St Helen's Church, visit TfL Journey Planner.
 
- By Underground
Liverpool Street Station     Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan & Central Lines
Aldgate Station                 Circle & Metropolitan Lines
Bank & Monument stations (interlinked)  Central Line
 
St Helen’s Church is in Great St Helen’s Street, a few minutes’ walk from each of these stations.
 
- By Mainline Railway
Liverpool Street Railway Station   (6 minutes)
Fenchurch Street Railway Station (6 minutes)
 
Google Maps - St Helen's Church