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Spires Of City Churches

February 27, 2021
by the gentle author

Spire of St Margaret Pattens designed by Christopher Wren in the medieval style

I took my camera and crossed over Middlesex St from Spitalfields to the City of London. I had been waiting for a suitable day to photograph spires of City churches and my patience was rewarded by the dramatic contrast of strong, low-angled light and deep shadow, with the bonus of showers casting glistening reflections upon the pavements.

Christopher Wren’s churches are the glory of the City and, even though their spires no longer dominate the skyline as they once did, these charismatic edifices are blessed with an enduring presence which sets them apart from the impermanence of the cheap-jack buildings surrounding them. Yet they are invisible, for the most part, to the teeming City workers who come and go in anxious preoccupation, barely raising their eyes to the wonders of Wren’s spires piercing the sky.

My heart leaps when the tightly woven maze of the City streets gives way unexpectedly to reveal one of these architectural marvels. It is an effect magnified when walking in the unrelieved shade of a narrow thoroughfare bounded on either side by high buildings and you lift your gaze to discover a tall spire ascending into the light, and tipped by a gilt weathervane gleaming in sunshine.

While these ancient structures might appear redundant to some, in fact they serve a purpose that was never more vital in this location, as abiding reminders of the existence of human aspiration beyond the material.

In the porch of St James Garlickhythe

St Margaret Pattens viewed from St Mary at Hill

The Monument with St Magnus the Martyr

St Edmund, King & Martyr, Lombard St

St Michael Paternoster Royal, College Hill

Wren’s gothic spire for St Mary Aldermary

St Augustine, Watling Street

St Brides, Fleet St

In St Brides churchyard

St Martin, Ludgate

St Sepulchre’s, Snow Hill

St Michael, Cornhill

St Mary Le Bow, Cheapside

St Alban, Wood St

St Mary at Hill, Lovat Lane

St Peter Upon Cornhill

At St James Garlickhythe

You may also like to take a look at

In City Churchyards

A View of Christ Church Spitalfields

15 Responses leave one →
  1. February 27, 2021

    Absolutely gorgeous photographs!

  2. Cherub permalink
    February 27, 2021

    St Mary le Bow Cheapside – when I worked by the Monument in the 80s I used to love going up to Cheapside for the shops at lunchtime. There was also a café along there that had been a coffee house in the time of Pepys where you could get a cheap baked potato lunch, I used to go with my sister.

  3. February 27, 2021

    Beautiful photos. Especially the puddle with magical qualities inside St.Bride’s churchyard. Should be on the front cover of your next book. London seen through the enigmatic eyes of the GA.

  4. Justine permalink
    February 27, 2021

    These are very beautiful photographs. Thank you

  5. bronwyn permalink
    February 27, 2021

    Thank you for this – I had attended an online tour of he city churches last night though NLA and it was frustratingly quick but gave a good idea of the density of them (57) in such a small space. These photographs capture the atmosphere and architecture of the places. Was there actually any need for parishioners to have so many churches or was it more to do with the power of the Church of England?

  6. Valerie permalink
    February 27, 2021

    A really lovely set of reminder images to look up – to stop
    & look up and see a past that is still present. How many (any?) still have a congregation? Thanks for winkling out these beauties from their obscuring & less salubrious bully-building settings.

  7. Bernie permalink
    February 27, 2021

    A doubtless stupid question: at the right-hand side of the image of St Augustine’s, Watling Street stands what looks like a small version of the Albert Memorial. Perhaps I am being deceived by the shared gothic elements, but am I right to see common features? Is that structure a tombstone?

  8. paul loften permalink
    February 27, 2021

    I once worked in Bread Street from 69-73 at the at the site of John Milton’s birthplace . This is my favourite part of the City. It has an air of spring and happiness. I recall sitting on a crowded green grass patch on a sunny day, near our building at lunchtime, eating my sandwiches with a lovely shorthand typist that the agency sent along . Its not only about business in the City.

  9. February 27, 2021

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thank you for that great pictorial review of so many church spires in London. They still retain their charms against the glass/steel towers that now surround them.

    I once stepped into St. Martin Ludgate on my way to Saint Paul’s. If I remember, it contained quaint bread shelves for the poor, and a few other touches that I can’t recall. But I was impressed. And then to step out and be almost in the shadow of St. Paul’s – such a contrast. Yet each has its place in London.

  10. bronwen permalink
    February 27, 2021

    Bernie, that gorgeous structure is the St Lawrence Fountain:

  11. February 27, 2021

    Who needs Venice ?

  12. Linda Granfield permalink
    February 27, 2021

    Absolutely wonderful photographs today.

    Especially the first–composition A+–and the ‘puddle mirror’. (I agree with Stephanie P.–a terrific book cover image.)
    Thank you for making your overcast London day shimmer with light and dazzle with history.

  13. February 27, 2021

    Tremendous photographs, GA, full of grace and power. I admire your choice of dark monochrome, ideal for rainy pavements, the weighty bulk of buildings, and shadowy passers-by. Wonderful work that would appeal to Bill Brandt, too.

  14. SJ Kurtz permalink
    February 27, 2021

    These are lovely, but I have come to the comments with a question someone here will know the answer to.
    Or should that be anfwer?

    On the first plaque, the first ‘s’ is old style. What is that style called?
    All the others are ‘regular’ s. Why the shift?

    One of you smarties knows the answers. Thanks.

  15. James J Clarke permalink
    February 27, 2021

    An inspirational exploration of what is to most non Londoners(and many Londenets possibly) a hidden part of the City of London. I’m already planning to leave my couch and garden once we are again free to roam and heading off to visit these marvellous churches. Maybe spend a couple of days in the capital

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