Sunday, 12 June 2011

From the archives: St Botolph Without Aldersgate

Two years ago, I went inside this church for the first time. I've combined the resulting two posts into one here.

Although I've visited Postman's Park many times, the Celebration last Wednesday was my first opportunity to visit its neighbouring church, St Botolph Without Aldersgate. The saint has four churches in the London: the others are at Aldgate, Billingsgate and Bishopsgate. All were built at at around the same time by the major city gates, for Botolph was patron saint of travellers.

This City church, like most, was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666, but its history stretches back to the eleventh century when a priory and hospital were here. St Botolph's was rebuilt in 1788 by architect Nathaniel Wright. A classical facade was added in 1831, but the exterior remains essentially simple.


By contrast, the interior is pretty stunning. It was designed by Nathaniel Evans in 1788, although later fittings and furnishings have been added.


The east end of the church includes an impressive window - not stained glass but a 'transparency' (a painting on glass). It is the only one of its kind in the city, painted by James Pearson in 1788. By contrast, the stained glass windows are all Victorian or later.


Another distinctive feature is the organ, also dating from the rebuilding and the only surviving Samuel Green organ in the City.


St Botolph's Without Aldersgate also contains some fine memorials. Two seventeenth-century examples feature impressive skulls:


Elizabeth Richardson, wife of Sir Thomas, is not only depicted visually on her memorial but also given a brief biography. Eldest daughter of Sir William Hewytt of St Martins in the Fields, she was mother of ten children (7 sons, 3 daughters). She died on 24 January 1639; her husband survived her and expressed his 'irreparable loss' in the monument. He described her character thus: 'she was a fitt patterne for all women of honor, pietie, & religion; Dead, is lamented by all that knew her". One son and one daughter were buried with her.

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