25th July 1898. Church Rationalization.
In 1666 there were 109 churches in the Square Mile of the City of London. After the Great Fire of that year, 89 were lost and 52 rebuilt by Christopher Wren.
The number of churches was remarked on by Dickens in the 19thc, when he described one as, ‘a grim, shabby pile with high old oaken pews, among which about a score of people lost themselves every Sunday, while the clergyman’s voice drowsily resounded through the emptiness… spires were clustered round it, as the masts of a shipping cluster on the river…in almost every yard and blind-place near, there was a church.'(1)
However merchants and traders were ceasing to ‘live over the shop’, there were too many churches and so Today the Royal Assent was given to the Union of Benefices Act 1898, deriving from the 1860 Act, for the removal of churches and parsonages, with the proviso that churches would be built in the growing suburbs.(2)
Antiquity was in their names: All Hallows on the Wall, St. Stephen’s, Walbrooke and St. Benet, Sheerhogg, St. Laurence, Pountney and St. Andrew, Undershaft, which was named after the shaft of the Great Maypole (demolished in 1547, as idolatrous).
All Hallows, Staining, Mark Lane, has only the medieval tower still extant, being saved by the Clothworkers’ Company in 1873.
Many of Wren’s churches were demolished in Victoria’s reign to improve traffic flow, as St. Benet, Gracechurch in 1867.
St Mary, Somerset went soon after, St Dionis Backchurch in 1878, St Mary Magdalene, Old Fish Street in 1887, and St Olave, Jewry in 1888.
All Hallows Lombard St of 1686 was demolished in the long incumbency of Bishop, Arthur Winnington-Ingram (1901-39).(3)
St Katherine Coleman Fenchurch Street, escaped the 1666 fire but pulled down in 1926. The tower was taken to Twickenham in 1939 which also received the font from St Benet Gracechurch.
It also received monuments from St Dionis, Backchurch, a rebuilt Wren church, where John Wesley preached in 1789, but after forgetting his notes.(4)
St. Dionis was demolished in 1878, and united with All Hallows, Lombard Street, which itself was demolished 1937.
St Benet Fink was destroyed in 1666 and rebuilt, but demolished to make way for the Royal Exchange in 1844.
The Parish united with St Peter le Poer, Broad Street, which escaping the Great Fire, was rebuilt in the 18thc, but demolished for street widening in 1907.
After the 1860 Act, 22 City churches were sold and demolished with the proceeds going to suburban churches.
After World War I, a further 19 went so by 1939 47 remained. Now there are 39.
The graveyards were exhumed with the remains interred at the City of London Cemetery, no doubt after much grief by those whose ancestors were involved.
(1) Charles Dickens: Dombey & Son, p. 855.
(2a) 61 &62 Victoria c 231 (UK). General Act passed in 61 62 years of reign of Victoria HMSO London, 1898, p.95.
(2b) In 1994, The Lord Templeman Commission, recommended that of the thirty-six Anglican churches in the City, only twelve should stay open- churches built in the Age of Reason, fashioned for Protestant, pulpit based worship and adorned with marble monuments.
(3) Nicknamed ‘Chuckles’.
(4) Wesley never again used notes.
Ref: wikipedia.org/articles on other churches as well as Images.
In 1801 John Newman was baptised at St. Benet Fink which was located in Threadneedle Street. Benet was short for Benedict [Biscop] and Robert Fink or Finch was a 13thc benefactor.
Nearby is Finch Lane, City.