Skip to content

At St Botolph Without Aldgate

September 19, 2018
by the gentle author

I am delighted to publish this extract of a post from A London Inheritance, written by a graduate of my blog writing course. The author inherited a series of old photographs of London from his father and by tracing them, he discovers the changes in the city over a generation. Follow A LONDON INHERITANCE, A Private History of a Public City

We are now taking bookings for this autumn’s course, HOW TO WRITE A BLOG THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO READ on November 10th & 11th.  Come to Spitalfields and spend a weekend with me in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Fournier St, enjoy delicious lunches from Leila’s Cafe, eat cakes baked to historic recipes by Townhouse and learn how to write your own blog. Click here for details

If you are graduate of my course and you would like me to feature your blog, please drop me a line.

St Botolph without Aldgate

My father’s photograph of St Botolph Without Aldgate in the fifties

St Botolph without Aldgate

The same view today

When I found the location where my father took his photograph only a single building remained in an entirely changed street scene. In his picture, the distinctive tower of St Botolph Without Aldgate is easily recognisable, although the top of the spire is missing through bomb damage. But there were no other obvious clues to identify where my father took his photo, although there is a bomb site between the church and the road.

I walked around the surrounding streets trying to find the location. My search was not helped by the new buildings obscuring the view of the church. However, when I walked down Dukes Place towards the junction with Creechurch Lane and Bevis Marks, I saw one building that looked familiar.

If you look to the left of the top photo, there is a tall building. If you look at the left of the photo below, the same building is still there – a lone survivor from the pre-war buildings in these streets.

Although the ground floor is different now, the upper floors have the same architectural features in both photographs. The building today is National Microfinance Bank House but, in my father’s time, it was Creechurch House. Walking down towards St Botolph’s without Aldgate, the church becomes visible and at the rear of the church are trees, much as in my father’s original photo.

The first written records mention St Botolph Without Aldgate in the twelfth century, although a Saxon church was probably built on the site, evidenced by tenth century burials in the crypt. Originally attached to the Priory of the Holy Trinity, it was rebuilt just before the dissolution during Henry VIII’s reign and restored in 1621. St Botolph without Aldgate was declared unsafe and demolished in 1739, making way for construction of the church we see today. This church by George Dance the Elder was built between 1741 and 1744 and aligned so the entrance and the tower faced the Minories.

“Without Aldgate” references the location of the church outside the walls of the City of London. There are several other St Botolph churches at the edge of the City, St Botolph Without Bishopsgate, St Botolph Without Aldersgate, and there was a St Botolph Billingsgate, destroyed in the Great Fire.

St Botolph established a monastery in East Anglia in the seventh century and died around the 680. In the tenth century, King Edgar had the remains of saint divided and sent to locations through London. They passed through the City gates and the churches alongside the gates through which the remains passed were named after St Botolph.He is the patron saint of wayfarers, who used the City gates as they travelled to and fro. It fascinates me that the names of these churches at the edge of the City of London today refer both to the Roman wall and to events from in tenth century.

St Botolph without Aldgate

St Botolph Without Aldgate viewed from the Minories

St Botolph without Aldgate

Elevation by George Dance the Elder of St. Botolph, c.1740s © Sir John Soane’s Museum

St Botolph without Aldgate

Section by George Dance the Elder of  St. Botolph, Aldgate, c.1740s © Sir John Soane’s Museum

St Botolph without Aldgate

The interior of St Botolph without Aldgate retains the original galleries and Tuscan columns

St Botolph without Aldgate

The elaborate plasterwork was added between 1888 and 1895 by J.F. Bentley

St Botolph without Aldgate

Plasterwork by J.F. Bentley

St Botolph without Aldgate

Window commemorating the Stationers’s Company

St Botolph without Aldgate

Window commemorating the Paviour’s Company

St Botolph without Aldgate

Window commemorating the Spectacle Makers’ Company

St Botolph without Aldgate

An eighteenth century ceremonial sword rest

Photographs copyright © A London Inheritance

You may also like to read about

Beating the Bounds in the City of London

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Ian Silverton permalink
    September 19, 2018

    We had Founders day each year at this Church,wearing red Feathers in our School Blazers,in memory of Sir John Cass,who it was said made his last will using a Quill Pen,leaving his entire estate too the school,blood then marked the Pen,hence red. Thanks Sir John,great school,happy times,and it’s still going stronger by the day,I’m told.

  2. Helen Breen permalink
    September 19, 2018

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, I would say you did a fine job training this “student” in writing a blog that is interesting, well researched, and well photographed. Loved the interiors of St. Botolph without Aldgate. In the tradition of Spitalsfield Life. Kudos…

  3. Derek Cox OBE permalink
    September 19, 2018

    Harry King used to run a youth club at the church primarily for single young men newly arrived from the new nation of Bangladesh in the early 1970s.

    At this time Harry, along with Peter East of Toc H, based at the nearby Trinity Square, did a great deal of excellent youth work for this neglected and often persecuted group of young people.

    At this time the newly formed YWCA Avenues Unlimited Project then based in Bethnal Green Road appointed Ashok Basudev , the first nationally trained full time Asian youth worker, to work in the Spitalfields Ward of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Ashok was greatly helped by the hardworking and unflappable Harry King, whose important historical contribution to community relations has, in my opinion, been largely forgotten.

  4. Jill Wilson permalink
    September 20, 2018

    Great blog – you have obviously been well taught! I have had a quick whizz through your other blogs and look forward to studying them more carefully when I have had more time as it is just the sort of subject which interests me. And I have signed up to receive future blogs of course!

  5. December 3, 2020

    Wonderful to see this article and i wish i had come across it a while ago. My father and his family lived in Creechurch Lane in the late 1930’s [possibly the building in the photograph] he was a choir boy at St Botolphs and attended Sir John Cass School. My grand father had the Dukes Dinning rooms in Dukes Place and another similar nearby. I have a few photos of the area of that time. My dad told a story that his bedroom was next door to his classroom. The family were bombed out and took refuge in the cellar of the Chamber of Shipping in St May Axe – Dad started work there running errands he retired a Secretary and deputy Director General. Nearly got bombed out again in the 1980’s by the IRA just after he retired. My grandfather and grandmother took up new employment as caretakers at Crown Court in Cheapside – I remember as a child being taken up to the roof to look over the city. Grandfather was an Air raid warden and fire watcher at St Pauls. I have seen the area change so much over the years. I would love to know more about the area in the ’20’s-40’s.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS