The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and Parts Adjacent, vol. 3

Allen, Thomas
1827

St. Alan's, Wood-street.

St. Alan's, Wood-street.

The parochial church of St. Alban is a rectory, and takes its name from its dedication to St. Alban, the first martyr of Great Britain. It stands on the east side of Wood-street, at the south west angle of Love-lane, and is supposed to be founded in 930 by king Adlestan, or Athelstan, the Saxon, who began his reign in or about 924; and was so well built, that the original foundation continued, with proper repairs, till the year 1634, when it was pulled down, and a new church was built upon the same spot, which was destroyed 32 years after by the fire of London. This church was originally in the patronage of the abbot and convent of St. Albans, in Hertfordshire, from whom it passed into the hands of the master, &c. of the hospital of St. James's, Westminster. But it has been in the patronage of Eton college ever since the year 1477, when the provost and fellows of Eton presented Richard Hopton to this church.

The new church was erected, in a great measure upon the walls of the old one, and was made the parish church of St. Alban in Wood-street and St. Olave in Silver-street by 22 Car. II. It is situated on the east side of the street, at the northern side of Love lane; and with the exception of the rectory-house, which is attached to the south side of the building, is insulated. The plan is irregular, in consequence of the foundations of the old church having been adhered to by the architect in the construction of the new one. Although the present church is said to have been rebuilt about thirty years anterior to the great fire, and again after that calamity, it is evident from the different styles of architecture, that considerable portions of a building older than either period have been preserved, and still exist in the present edifice. The plan gives a body and side aisles, with an attached chapel on the north side, and a tower at the west end of the north aisle, a portion of what otherwise would be the south aisle being occupied by the rectory house.

The west front of the church is bounded laterally by the tower on one side, and the rectory-house on the other. The principal entrance is a poor imitation of a doorway of the fourteenth century; the arch is pointed, and bounded by a sweeping canopy, ending in a finial, and ornamented with ill-formed crockets; above the doorway is a large window, which is made in breadth into five divisions, subdivided by a transom into two heights, forming ten compartments, each of which has an arched head inclosing five sweeps; the arch of the window is pointed, and the head occupied by two sub-arches, the spandrils of which, as well as the remainder of the design, are filled with tracery in circles and trefoils. The whole composition is either an excellent copy of a window of the latter part of the fourteenth century, or, what is more probable, a remnant of the former church. The elevation is finished with a gabled parapet ornamented with upright pannels, having trefoil extremities partly destroyed by some bungling workman employed to repair the church. The tower is square, and is in four stories; on the west front and northern flank are pointed windows of two lights with arched heads, the head of the arch containing two quatrefoils; the design is not bad. In the next story are two circular windows inclosing six sweeps; the third has two small pointed openings. The upper story has also two pointed windows divided by mullions into compartments: both the latter stories are repeated on the four sides of the tower which are clear of the church. At the angles are slender buttresses, and others are attached to the centre of each face of the tower; the angular buttresses rise from the ground; the others rise from corbels formed into lions' heads, above the heads of the lower windows. The elevation is finished with a parapet pierced with oblong apertures, having three sweeps at each end, and the whole is surmounted with eight pinnacles, which terminate the buttresses; they are notched at the angles, and end in fleurs-de-lis as finials. The tower is the worst specimen of the architect's works in the pointed style. In the north wall of the church are two windows with flat pointed arches, each of which is made into three divisions by mullions diverging at their tops into arched heads, inclosing five sweeps. The square chapel, which is attached to, and occupies the residue of this side of the church, has a similar window in its three sides which are clear of the church, the north side having, in addition, a small doorway with an elliptical arch. The walls are finished with battlements. The whole of this portion of the church is in the style of architecture which prevailed in the reign of Henry VII. and is of the same class as the generality of the few existing ancient churches in the metropolis. The north wall of the church and the attached chapel may, therefore, be considered to be anterior to the fire, with the exceptions of the battlements and the door-case, which are evidently additions. The east front to the church has unequally sized buttresses at the division between the nave and aisles; in the centre division is a pointed window, made by mullions into four divisions, with a large circle and other compartments on the head, a clumsy attempt at the composition of a window in the style of the fourteenth century. The north aisle has a window of three lights as before described, and the southern an oval window, under which there was formerly an internal doorway to a small attached vestry, now removed. It will not be difficult in this portion to trace the ancient building; the irregular buttresses and the north window, with much of the walls, are no doubt ancient. The modern windows and battlements speak plainly for themselves and betray their origin. The south aisle, in consequence of a portion of its plan being taken up with the rectory house, has only two windows of the same design as the opposite side, but surmounted by weather cornices, which are wanting in all the other specimens. Below the window, nearest the west, is an elliptical arched doorway. The body of the church is lighted by a clerestory, consisting of four double windows on each side; each window is divided by a mullion into two lights, having arched heads, inclosing five sweeps and a quatrefoil in the spandrils. This arrangement of the windows in pairs is similar to St Margaret's, Westminster, and is no doubt a close copy of the older church.

The interior suffers in appearance in consequence of the irregularity of the plan. On each side of the nave are three clusters of columns sustaining low pointed arches; the detail is far inferior to that of St. Mary Aldermary.Described ante, page 427 The clustered columns are as usual attached to a square pier; but the archivolts are entirely separated from the pier by imposts formed of a continuation of the mouldings of the capitals of the columns. The first division of the north aisle is occupied by the tower, and the first and second on the south side by the rectory-house, the several walls of which engage three of the clusters of columns. From the capital of the inner column in each of the main clusters, rise three slender columns united and attached to the walls of the clerestory, and which sustain on their conjoined capitals the vaulted roof; this is composed of plaster, in imitation of stone. The arch is of a low pointed form, and has a rib running along the soffit of its crown, to which the various diagonal ribs springing from the lateral columns are united; these are again crossed by shorter ribs which divide the soffit of the roof into a variety of triangles; at the intersections are bosses carved with roses and other flowers; the aisles are simply groined with diagonal cross springers, uniting in a boss, having Gothicised modillions as imposts attached to the side walls. There is a great want of solidity and relief on the various groins of this ceiling; but upon the whole, the central division may be considered as a very fair modern specimen of pointed architecture. The chapel is now walled off from the church, and divided into a porch and vestry room. The tower is approached from the church by a large doorway in its south wall; the head-way is a low pointed arch enclosed in a square head; the spandrils enriched with quatrefoils in circles; this doorway is evidently more ancient than the present church. The first division of the clerestory from the west has no window on either bide, and the second on the south side is closed by the wall of the rectory house. At the western end of the church is a gallery, probably coeval with the building, in which is an organ erected in 1728. The altar screen occupies the wall beneath the principal eastern window; it consists of a central and lateral divisions, the latter have two pair of Corinthian columns, sustaining an entablature and elliptical pediments; the capitals of the columns, as well as some carving on the screen and other parts of the church, are executed in lime-tree. The altar is surmounted with the royal arms, the blazonry of which have been altered at the last repair to those of the late sovereign; the wall above is painted with a curtain, and the division of the groining of the roof over it with a choir of angels. The pulpit is hexagonal, with a sounding board of the same form, and with the desks, is affixed to the only unengaged pillar on the south side of the church. The black velvet hangings of the pulpit used in Lent have the date 1631. To the reading desk is affixed the almost unique specimen of the hour-glass, which was in the early ages of the reformation a constant appendage to the pulpitIn the Author's History of Lambeth, pp. 66, 67, some observations will be found on the use of hour-glasses in churches. In the present instance it has left the pulpit for the reading desk, and is of course a mere matter of ornament; it is composed of brass, and on each end is a raised run of fleurs-de-lis, and crosses patee ; and is further ornamented with angels blowing trumpets. The stand is of the same material, and is raised on a twisted column. The stand was given, together with branches for the church pulpit and desk, by Mr. Thomas Waidson, parish clerk in 1685.It is engraved in the Gentleman's Magazine, vol. xcii, part ii, p. 300. The font is situated in a pew in the north aisle; it is a handsome circular basin of white marble, sustained on a balluster, and ornamented with four cherubic heads with expanded wings, and covered with fruit and foliage in basso relievo. There is little doubt of its having been carved by the masterly hand of Gibbons, as it much resembles that at St. Margaret, Lothbury, in every thing but the style of the ornaments.

Very many fragments of persons who had been executed for their crimes, and afterwards dissected at the barber-surgeons'-hall, in the vicinity of this church, were buried in the church-yard. The old church of St. Alban's contained several monuments to eminent persons, particularly that of sir Richard Illyngworth, baron of the exchequer; Thomas Chatworth. mayor, 1443; John Woodcock, mayor, 1405; sir John Cheke, 1557; and others. The most ancient was that of William Linchlade, mercer, 1392.

The parsonage house adjoins the church, and was rebuilt in 1804, being situated at the south-west corner of the church; it has neither yard nor garden, and must necessarily be a most unpleasant, if not unwholesome, residence.

The only monument worthy of notice is to the memory of Benjamin Harvey, esq. major of the yellow regiment of trained bands, who gave the font. He died 1684, aged 44.

The reparations of the church after the great fire by sir C. Wren, were completed in 1685. The expense was 3,165l. 0s. 8d. being one of the lowest estimates of this architect's churches, which in itself proves that a reparation alone took place after the fire, it being impossible that the present stone building could have been rebuilt for a less sum than the brick churches of the same period. This church is 66 feet in length, 59 in breadth, 33 in height, and the tower to the parapet is 85 feet 6 inches high, and to the finials of the pinnacles 92.

The parochial church of St. Alban is a rectory, and takes its name from its dedication to St. Alban, the martyr of Great . It stands on the east side of , at the south west angle of , and is supposed to be founded in by king Adlestan, or Athelstan, the Saxon, who began his reign in or about ; and was so well built, that the original foundation continued, with proper repairs, till the year , when it was pulled down, and a new church was built upon the same spot, which was destroyed years after by the fire of London. This church was originally in the patronage of the abbot and convent of St. Albans, in Hertfordshire, from whom it passed into the hands of the master, &c. of the hospital of St. James's, . But it has been in the patronage of Eton college ever since the year , when the provost and fellows of Eton presented Richard Hopton to this church.

The new church was erected, in a great measure upon the walls of the old , and was made the parish church of St. Alban in and St. Olave in by Car. II. It is situated on the east side of the street, at the northern side of ; and with the exception of the rectory-house, which is attached to the south side of the building, is insulated. The plan is irregular, in consequence of the foundations of the old church having been adhered to by the architect in the construction of the new . Although the present church is said to have been rebuilt about years anterior to the great fire, and again after that calamity, it is evident from the different styles of architecture, that considerable portions of a building older than either period have been preserved, and still exist in the present edifice. The plan gives a body and side aisles, with an attached chapel on the north side, and a tower at the west end of the north aisle, a portion of what otherwise would be the south aisle being occupied by the rectory house.

The west front of the church is bounded laterally by the tower on side, and the rectory-house on the other. The principal entrance is a poor imitation of a doorway of the century; the arch is pointed, and bounded by a sweeping canopy, ending in a finial, and ornamented with ill-formed crockets; above the doorway is a large window, which is made in breadth into divisions, subdivided by a transom into heights, forming compartments, each of which has an arched head inclosing sweeps; the arch of the window is pointed, and the head occupied by sub-arches, the spandrils of which, as well as the remainder of the design, are filled with tracery in circles and trefoils. The whole composition is either an excellent copy of a window of the latter part of the century, or, what is more probable, a remnant of the former church. The elevation is finished with a gabled parapet ornamented with upright pannels, having trefoil extremities partly destroyed by some bungling workman employed to repair the church. The tower is square, and is in stories; on the west front and northern flank are

468

pointed windows of lights with arched heads, the head of the arch containing quatrefoils; the design is not bad. In the next story are circular windows inclosing sweeps; the has small pointed openings. The upper story has also pointed windows divided by mullions into compartments: both the latter stories are repeated on the sides of the tower which are clear of the church. At the angles are slender buttresses, and others are attached to the centre of each face of the tower; the angular buttresses rise from the ground; the others rise from corbels formed into lions' heads, above the heads of the lower windows. The elevation is finished with a parapet pierced with oblong apertures, having sweeps at each end, and the whole is surmounted with pinnacles, which terminate the buttresses; they are notched at the angles, and end in fleurs-de-lis as finials. The tower is the worst specimen of the architect's works in the pointed style. In the north wall of the church are windows with flat pointed arches, each of which is made into divisions by mullions diverging at their tops into arched heads, inclosing sweeps. The square chapel, which is attached to, and occupies the residue of this side of the church, has a similar window in its sides which are clear of the church, the north side having, in addition, a small doorway with an elliptical arch. The walls are finished with battlements. The whole of this portion of the church is in the style of architecture which prevailed in the reign of Henry VII. and is of the same class as the generality of the few existing ancient churches in the metropolis. The north wall of the church and the attached chapel may, therefore, be considered to be anterior to the fire, with the exceptions of the battlements and the door-case, which are evidently additions. The east front to the church has unequally sized buttresses at the division between the nave and aisles; in the centre division is a pointed window, made by mullions into divisions, with a large circle and other compartments on the head, a clumsy attempt at the composition of a window in the style of the century. The north aisle has a window of lights as before described, and the southern an oval window, under which there was formerly an internal doorway to a small attached vestry, now removed. It will not be difficult in this portion to trace the ancient building; the irregular buttresses and the north window, with much of the walls, are no doubt ancient. The modern windows and battlements speak plainly for themselves and betray their origin. The south aisle, in consequence of a portion of its plan being taken up with the rectory house, has only windows of the same design as the opposite side, but surmounted by weather cornices, which are wanting in all the other specimens. Below the window, nearest the west, is an elliptical arched doorway. The body of the church is lighted by a clerestory, consisting of double windows on each side; each window is divided by a mullion into lights, having arched heads, inclosing sweeps and a quatrefoil in the

469

spandrils. This arrangement of the windows in pairs is similar to , , and is no doubt a close copy of the older church.

The interior suffers in appearance in consequence of the irregularity of the plan. On each side of the nave are clusters of columns sustaining low pointed arches; the detail is far inferior to that of St. Mary Aldermary. The clustered columns are as usual attached to a square pier; but the archivolts are entirely separated from the pier by imposts formed of a continuation of the mouldings of the capitals of the columns. The division of the north aisle is occupied by the tower, and the and on the south side by the rectory-house, the several walls of which engage of the clusters of columns. From the capital of the inner column in each of the main clusters, rise slender columns united and attached to the walls of the clerestory, and which sustain on their conjoined capitals the vaulted roof; this is composed of plaster, in imitation of stone. The arch is of a low pointed form, and has a rib running along the soffit of its crown, to which the various diagonal ribs springing from the lateral columns are united; these are again crossed by shorter ribs which divide the soffit of the roof into a variety of triangles; at the intersections are bosses carved with roses and other flowers; the aisles are simply groined with diagonal cross springers, uniting in a boss, having Gothicised modillions as imposts attached to the side walls. There is a great want of solidity and relief on the various groins of this ceiling; but upon the whole, the central division may be considered as a very fair modern specimen of pointed architecture. The chapel is now walled off from the church, and divided into a porch and vestry room. The tower is approached from the church by a large doorway in its south wall; the head-way is a low pointed arch enclosed in a square head; the spandrils enriched with quatrefoils in circles; this doorway is evidently more ancient than the present church. The division of the clerestory from the west has no window on either bide, and the on the south side is closed by the wall of the rectory house. At the western end of the church is a gallery, probably coeval with the building, in which is an organ erected in . The altar screen occupies the wall beneath the principal eastern window; it consists of a central and lateral divisions, the latter have pair of Corinthian columns, sustaining an entablature and elliptical pediments; the capitals of the columns, as well as some carving on the screen and other parts of the church, are executed in lime-tree. The altar is surmounted with the royal arms, the blazonry of which have been altered at the last repair to those of the late sovereign; the wall above is painted with a curtain, and the division of the groining of the roof over it with a choir of angels. The pulpit is hexagonal, with a sounding board of the

470

same form, and with the desks, is affixed to the only unengaged pillar on the south side of the church. The black velvet hangings of the pulpit used in Lent have the date . To the reading desk is affixed the almost unique specimen of the hour-glass, which was in the early ages of the reformation a constant appendage to the pulpit In the present instance it has left the pulpit for the reading desk, and is of course a mere matter of ornament; it is composed of brass, and on each end is a raised run of fleurs-de-lis, and crosses patee ; and is further ornamented with angels blowing trumpets. The stand is of the same material, and is raised on a twisted column. The stand was given, together with branches for the church pulpit and desk, by Mr. Thomas Waidson, parish clerk in . The font is situated in a pew in the north aisle; it is a handsome circular basin of white marble, sustained on a balluster, and ornamented with cherubic heads with expanded wings, and covered with fruit and foliage in basso relievo. There is little doubt of its having been carved by the masterly hand of Gibbons, as it much resembles that at St. Margaret, , in every thing but the style of the ornaments.

Very many fragments of persons who had been executed for their crimes, and afterwards dissected at the barber-surgeons'-hall, in the vicinity of this church, were buried in the church-yard. The old church of St. Alban's contained several monuments to eminent persons, particularly that of sir Richard Illyngworth, baron of the exchequer; Thomas Chatworth. mayor, ; John Woodcock, mayor, ; sir John Cheke, ; and others. The most ancient was that of William Linchlade, mercer, .

The parsonage house adjoins the church, and was rebuilt in , being situated at the south-west corner of the church; it has neither yard nor garden, and must necessarily be a most unpleasant, if not unwholesome, residence.

The only monument worthy of notice is to the memory of Benjamin Harvey, esq. major of the yellow regiment of trained bands, who gave the font. He died , aged .

The reparations of the church after the great fire by sir C. Wren, were completed in . The expense was being of the lowest estimates of this architect's churches, which in itself proves that a reparation alone took place after the fire, it being impossible that the present stone building could have been rebuilt for a less sum than the brick churches of the same period. This church is feet in length, in breadth, in height, and the tower to the parapet is feet inches high, and to the finials of the pinnacles .

 
 
Footnotes:

[] Described ante, page 427

[] In the Author's History of Lambeth, pp. 66, 67, some observations will be found on the use of hour-glasses in churches.

[] It is engraved in the Gentleman's Magazine, vol. xcii, part ii, p. 300.

View all images in this book
 Title Page
 Dedication
 CHAPTER I: The site, extent, buildings, population, commerce, and a view of the progressive increase of London
 CHAPTER II: List of the parishes and churches in London, with their incumbents, &c
collapseCHAPTER III: History and Topography of Aldersgate Ward
collapseCHAPTER IV: History and Topography of Aldgate Ward
collapseCHAPTER V: History and Topography of Bassishaw Ward
collapseCHAPTER VI: History and Topography of Billingsgate Ward
collapseCHAPTER VII: History and Topography of Bishopsgate Ward, Without and Within
collapseCHAPTER VIII: History and Topography of Bread-street Ward
collapseCHAPTER IX: History and Topography of Bridge Ward Within
collapseCHAPTER X: History and Topography of Broad-street Ward
collapseCHAPTER XI: History and Topography of Candlewick Ward
collapseCHAPTER XII: History and Topography of Castle Baynard Ward
collapseCHAPTER XIII: History and Topography of Cheap Ward
collapseCHAPTER XIV: History and Topography of Coleman-street Ward
collapseCHAPTER XV: History and Topography of Cordwainer's-street Ward
collapseCHAPTER XVI: History and Topography of Cornhill Ward
collapseCHAPTER XVII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Ward Within
collapseCHAPTER XVIII: History and Topography of Cripplegate Yard Without
collapseCHAPTER XIX: History and Topography of Dowgate Yard
collapseCHAPTER XX: History and Topography of Farringdom Ward Within
collapseCHAPTER XXI: History and Topography of Farringdon Ward Without
collapseCHAPTER XXII: History and Topography of Langbourn Ward
collapseCHAPTER XXIII: History and Topography of Lime-street Ward
collapseCHAPTER XXIV: History and Topogrpahy of Portsoken Ward
collapseCHAPTER XXV: History and Topography of Queenhithe Ward
collapseCHAPTER XXVI: History and Topography of Tower Ward
collapseCHAPTER XXVII: History and Topography of Vintry Ward
collapseCHAPTER XXVIII: History and Topography of Wallbrook Ward
This object is in collection:
Edwin C. Bolles papers
Subjects
London (England)--History
Antiquities
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/44306
ID: tufts:UA069.005.DO.00068
To Cite: DCA Citation Guide
Usage: Detailed Rights