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St Mary le Bow Church
Cheapside, City of London

St Mary Le Bow Church

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Notes in italics are from London 1: The City of London  by Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner (1997)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London

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By Wren, 1670-80, with an C11 century crypt from the medieval church. ... It may be the vaults here, and not the flying buttresses on the pre-Fire steeple of 1512 at the SW, which gave the church its suffix 'de arcubus' (of the arches or bows). ... The tower stands out some distance to the N because Wren found here a Roman gravel roadway, which made an admirable new foundation. Behind it is a vestibule, and only S of that the church, built on an enlarged site 1670-5 ... Of the church only the modest outer walls of brick with stone dressings survived the war. The interior was rebuilt by Laurence King, 1956-64, reproducing Wren's design (Victorian restorations by J.L. Pedley, 1867, and Blomfield, 1879). The W side is a three-bay facade with a big pediment connected to the aisle fronts by small curved pieces. Central doorway with segmental pediment on carved brackets. Large arched central window, smaller lower arched side windows each with a circular window above, and an oval window in the pediment. As restored, they have gratingly inappropriate metal mullions. Corresponding E front (not shown). ... 
But the glory of the church is its steeple, the proudest of all Wren's steeples, and at 224 ft (68 metres) second in height only to St Bride. It was raised in 1678-80, the first true steeple made after the Fire ... The square tower is especially broad and high. ...


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The bell-stage has coupled Ionic pilasters. Above this is a balustrade with openwork angle pilasters in the form of volutes moving up to the top. Between them the spire rises, with a conical core but a splendid architectural dress. First a rotunda of free-standing Corinthian columns. If the steeple has a fault, it is their excessive slenderness; but their order follows the proper vertical sequence. On them a second balustrade, then again volutes moving up to the graceful top stage, which is of a Greek-cross type with further projections in the re-entrant angles. It carries twelve Composite colonnettes (renewed in granite by George Gwilt Jun., 1818-20), to correspond to the twelve columns below. Obelisk to finish; on it a very large copper weathervane, a dragon, made by Robert Bird in 1679 from the wooden model of Edward Pierce.


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The church itself has an almost square nave of three wide arches on piers with attached Corinthian demi-columns. ... More demi-columns support dosserets and an ornamental feature over the E window. The piers carry the transverse arches of an elliptical tunnel-vault, pierced by segment-headed clerestory windows. ... Keystones are carved with the heads of those involved with king's restorations.
The new furnishings, designed by King, are mostly of oak, some explicitly Neo-Georgian, others plainer but still traditionally detailed. Two pulpits; Bishop's throne behind the altar, with reredos made by Faithcraft Studios ... Hanging Rood designed by John Hayward, carved by Otto Irsara of Oberammergau. Good stained glass also by Hayward, 1964, but with colours and forms too hot and strong for the gilt and pastel gentilities around it. ...


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Sacrament House in the S aisle; organ case at the W end, made by Dove Bros.

Bow Bells

From the church website: "Bow bells are probably the most famous in the world and for many hundreds of years have been woven into the folklore of the City of London. In 1392 Dick Whittington heard Bow bells call him back to London to become Lord Mayor; to be born within the sound of Bow bells was the sign of a true Londoner or Cockney ... During the Second World War the BBC's World Service broadcast a recording of Bow bells, made in 1926, as a symbol of hope to the free people of Europe. ..." More about the history of Bow bells at the church website.


Additional pictures of the tower
by Mary Ann Sullivan

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